Friday, July 20, 2012

Storage of Books and Library- Innovative Ideas

Storage  of books and Library Design
The main function of the library is to make space for books and visitors, who come to read and borrow books. Most of the libraries are just box-like buildings with multiple floors with books storing and reading spaces. They are integrated or partially divided to accommodate various other requirements. Architects sometime stretch this concept and create spaces different then a typical box like building. Below are few examples of library buildings that are unique.

1-The Picture Book Museum
The Picture Book Museum was designed by architect Tadao Ando in 2003 and it was designed for pre-schoolers and young kids to enjoy the picture books. The owner only had one requirement which was to show the cover of every picture book. Ando designed the walls covered with wooden cubes which displayed each picture book facing the viewers. As shown in the photo, stairs are used for accessing the top floors and as a place to sit and read the books.  If observed carefully. you can see two railings, one specifically installed at children's height.

photo credit- Ken Lee

photo credit- Ken Lee
for more info-
To my surprise, I learned that the American writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak was the inspiration for this Picture Book Library. I remember going through the installation in Sony Metreon in San Francisco "Where the Wild Things Are" with my kids multiple times. That was based on his book Where The Wild Things Are. The same way, his other book Outside, Over There influenced the initial idea of this library and its location; which is Iwaki City in Japan, surrounded with mountains and forests.
2-Musashino Art University Library
Musashino Art University Library is another example where the shelves are used to define the spaces inside. Only the first 7 rows are used to store the books but the remaining empty rows create a strong visual element. The exterior walls are also made up of wooden shelves enclosed with glass. This library is also located in Japan and designed by architect Sou Fujimoto.

Photo Credit- Ken Lee

Photo Credit- Ken Lee
for more info-
Both the buildings have used wooden shelves for not only the storing of books but also for walls.
3-Mansueto Library
But my favorite library is Mansueto on the campus of University of Chicago and designed by Chicago architect Helmut Jahn. The construction was completed last year and the library is fully in use. Helmut Jahn's innovative approach breaks all the conventions of the library designs. It is a simple glass dome with no signs of storage of books. Yes, it stores 3.5 million books and they are all stored underground and of course, students and staff members do not have to go underground to retrieve the books. There are robotic cranes that go under ground and retrieve the selected book/books in just a few minutes. Look at the photo below and the video showing the cranes in action.

Mansueto Library- Exterior Photo- Photo Credit-
For more info
I really admire Helmut Jahn for his idea and the ability to to convince the client to make it a reality. 


Monday, July 16, 2012

Designing space for Books

Love of Books
I remember growing up, we never used to step on a paper or a book because the book or this object symblolizes as  Hindu Goddess Saraswati, a keeper of the knowledge.  Godeess Saraswati is generally depicted with four arms, two front hands playing a Veena ( an Indian string instrument) and two hands carrying rosary and a book. The book represents learning, knowledge and wisdom. All Indian myth asides, books play very important role in our lives. We all have books which we have collected thought our life and we do not want to part with them. We create closet space for our clothes and shoes but keep forgetting to design or allocate the space for books.

Storing Books
After setting all the rooms and furnitures, we put up a shelf or a series of shelves and some might have a separate room dedicated for books and office work. In any case, the books have to be stored properly and should be accessible. Once in a while, while designing for homes, architects come up with few creative ideas to store and retrieve the books for their clients especially those owning tons of books and are book lovers. Check out the two unique solutions below.

Example 1- An architecture firm "Levitate" in London designed the Bookcase Staircase in a Victorian home providing loft space as a library and a secret stair case lined up with the books and the skylight above. They used the spaces between the stair treads and the walls around the stair to store the books. Look at the photo below-

BOOKS STAIRCASE- designed and photographed by Levitate

Example-2  The German architect "Kraus-Schoenberg"designed this book shelf as a main feature of the house. It is centrally located and looks like a central fire place in the middle, providing warmth for occupants on both the floors. See the photo as shown below-

Book Shelf, Centrally Located and visually connected form every room, designed by Kaus-Schoenbergt and
Photo Credit -
I want to post about the innovative design of one library in the next post, but let me leave you all with a small paragraph describing the importance of books from an author, Anne Lamott.

"For some of us, books are important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die. They are full of all the things that you don’t get in real life—wonderful, lyrical language, for instance, right off the bat. And quality of attention: we may notice amazing details during the course of a day but we rarely let ourselves stop and pay attention"