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Thread: New or Used? DC Library

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    New or Used? DC Library

    DC is considering building a new library. This decision is causing some debate. The current library is in need not functional and has been neglected since it was built.The cost to build a new library in the same vein as Seattle or Phoenix or rehabilitate the existing library is approximately the same. One concern raised is the existing library was designed by Miles Van Der Rohe and due to this some of the community want to rehab the existing building.

    I want to hear what the cyburbia thinks. Should DC create a new, signature downtown library or does the District already have a masterpiece that needs to be rehabilitaedan architecture masterpiece? Does the fact that the architect did few public buildings and this was one of the last building build by him before his death? ( If DC builds new the old library will be leased to a private company for 99 years.) Needless to say the current library (pictured below) does not match the architecture of the District. Your thoughts?

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    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  2. #2
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I've seen this building, thanks for the history. Did not know it was a Mies Van de Rhoe.

    I would look at the proximity of this building to the transit lines. Would a new site have as good of access?

    Can you expand the current library without destroying the character of the building?

    How does the DC library system operate? For example is thhis the main library, with several satelites? Is this the only library? Is this just the downtown branch?
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  3. #3

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    I like mid century modern, and I like Mies (hides under the table for abuse to rain down). Still...you mention functional issues. Without experiencing the problems myself, I can only ask if the functional problems are caused by the building itself or by the way the library is managed? The cost issue is interesting-is the library small by today's standards?

    Does the City government and/or the funders have a history of supporting Borg ship architecture that will be worse for the Cityscape than the current austere Miessian palace? Does anyone outside the architectural press really like the new Seattle library? Would DC be getting something similar?

  4. #4
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BKM View post
    Would DC be getting something similar?
    And designed by Calatrava (starchitect du jour).

    I say, if the library truely needs help, go with a new building, but make sure to keep the old building from being demo'd or alterations destroying the originality of the design.

    A new building would minimize the distrubance to the library patrons and staff, which is very important.
    Last edited by mendelman; 27 Sep 2006 at 11:42 AM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    Since every Van de Rhoe building is exactly the same we really only need to keep one of them around.

    EDIT: When Chicago built its new library they kept the old neo-classical building as a culutral center. I go there occasinally for the noon concerts
    Reality does not conform to your ideology.
    http://neighborhoods.chicago.il.us Photographs of Life in the Neighborhoods of Chicago
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  6. #6
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    Here is a little more background:

    The proposed new library is only 2 blocks from the existing one. The issue is not expanding the library as to making it functional. The old library is not well suited all the technology that modern libraries offer. The reason the cost are the same for redoing the old building and building a brand new library is the current one is in a state of disrepair. Routine maintenance was rarely preformed and the city focus on other priorities than the library. The HVAC is horrible making it cold in the winter and hot in the summer, the building will require a complete gut to make it suitable for the amount of computers, modern fire suppression and the cost of relocating the library while the revolutions are being done.

    Supporters want a new library to show that the city has come a long way and its committed to the progress it has made. As for design, no architect has be chosen but they do want a world renowned one to make a unique building.

    If a new library is built the old one would be leased out. No changes to the outside
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  7. #7
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Seems like a no-brainer...build new and make the new design adaptable to potential changes in technology, etc. in the future (hard to predict, but not really.)
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Brocktoon View post
    The proposed new library is only 2 blocks from the existing one. The issue is not expanding the library as to making it functional. The old library is not well suited all the technology that modern libraries offer.
    If it is any consolation, the Boston Public Library McKim building was built in 1895 and still functions perfectly well. A phased renovation was undertaken from 1989 to 2002.

    An addition, the Johnson building, was added in 1972 for the general collection. The McKim building now houses the special collections.

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