Building for Books
Architectural Record has a recurring section called "Building Types Study". The February 2008 issue’s section is dedicated to library design and one of the three libraries discussed is NYPL’s Mulberry Street Branch. The Record commends the architectural firm Roger Marvel Architects for allowing diffused light to penetrate “into both subterranean levels via the central stair”, which it calls “an important psychological feat.”
NYPL’s holdings on the architecture of libraries is fairly broad and historically focused; however Shannon Mattern’s The New Downtown Library seems to consider some of the more pressing concerns (public space, digital technologies, and modern librarianship) of the 21st century. For a more visual take on recent library projects consider Biblioteche: architetture 1995-2005, which offers a brief history lesson on libraries and then considers in some depth around 40 new libraries (renovations & reuse are included) from around the world. Very few are in the United States, which is hardly surprising given the dearth of imaginative thinking and design that goes into public works here (but that’s another post…).
That being said, Biblioteche came out too early to mention the slight redemption that is the OMA-designed Seattle Public Library, which has received accolades from just about every architectural critic (e.g, the late Herbert Muschamp) and librarian (Library Journal chimes in). Luckily, there is now a monograph devoted to the Seattle Public Library (recently brought out by the Barcelona & New York based publisher Actar); and while we don’t have it yet, consider it ordered.