Monday, January 22, 2007

more than just a library...


















The building on the corner of 8th and Guadelupe is much more than a library. It not only functions as a means for education, but serves as a hub that connects a variety of lifestyles that may or may not be related to learning within the building.



Library as home…

Perched on the edge of a planter, a man in sweats holds a rose and a small bag of his life possessions. Much like one would spend an afternoon on a porch swing of their own house, he spends an afternoon observing others and sharing his opinions with strangers. He has chosen to sit on the planter at the place where the sidewalk is the narrowest, and as a result he has a very commanding perch. People who pass him cannot ignore him. In this way, he has taken control and ownership over the environment, just like a homeowner would be the controlling person on the property. He shouts to an approaching friend how great church was last night and they discuss plans to eat dinner at the salvation restaurant later. These two men treat the library like their own home. They know every detail of the place. They chat about how someone moved their favorite table on the second floor to another area, but that apparently it should be replaced in a few days. They know the locations of the police officers in and around the building, and the names of the countless men who sleep around the library. The friend, about to leave, asks the man how long he will be there. The man reassures the friend that he will be there the whole afternoon, no worries. He’ll be home.




Library as obligation…

A young woman complete with ipod and messenger bag in tow, rides up to the library in a hurry. She pauses to take her keys out, pulls her bike into the rack at the front of the library, and locks it up. After taking a few gulps from a water bottle, she briskly enters the building. A short while later, she exits the building, unlocks her bike, and quickly pedals away.


Library as pleasure…

A patient looking woman directs her two children to the front of the library. All three carry large canvas totes filled with books. The small boy excitedly asks her if he can put his stack of books in the return slot. He says it’s his favorite part. She says yes and helps him reach the slot, and in turn, each canvas bag gets ridded of its contents. The three enter the library. Half an hour later, the three loudly exit the building, consumed in conversation. All carry canvas totes filled with books. The girl informs her mom which book she wants to read first, while the boy stops to pick up a leaf on the ground, dropping a few books in the process. He gets a little upset at his mistake, then plops himself down on the concrete to put the spilled books back in the bag. The mother and daughter wait, and then all three slowly meander back to their parked car. Mother walks on the sidewalk while children opt for the dangerous route, balancing themselves as they walk along the edge of the curb. They pile into the mini-van, all smiles, and drive away to continue their day.



Each of these actors traveled a different path to reach their destination. The homeless man, like the majority of the homeless men around the building, walked there, possibly just coming from taking a nap at the nearby park. The young woman arrived on bike, like many of the single people who used the library for a shorter amount of time. The family, like most groups of people, arrived in a vehicle, using the adjacent parking lot to park the car. The library provides shelter, resources and entertainment to serve a range of personalities. It is not exclusive against any kind of person. The library employs its architecture, resources and users to weave different intentions, modes of transportation, and types of people all together to create a unique urban fabric.






6 comments:

eray said...

I found two things especially interesting in this urban object. First, it is a much more monumental object than most people chose to observe. The library is a full-fledged building and therefore we expect it to serve a purpose and for people to utilize it in a given way. However, Natalia treated the building like a simple object and observed its use objectively without the premonition that it would be used exclusively for reading books (for example, she keenly noticed that the man was using it as his home which clearly is not the main purpose of the library.) Although most people looked at more small scale objects and their inadvertant effects on the urban actors, Natalia shows that even a well-intentioned planned out public library can be used for purposes contrary to its initial program. We can never foresee just how a building will be accepted and utilized by the public.

The second thing I found interesting is that this is one of the few narratives that involves a range of ages. Natalia looks at how both the young and the old can appreciate this urban object. I used to love going to the library when I was little and especially that killer book slot. Those were simpler days and Natalia's narrative captures a child's innocent fascination with something so simple as a book drop. Perhaps you could further examine this smaller element of the library as an object within an object???

everett said...

It's interesting that you chose to define your actors by the purpose the object fulfilled with respect to them. I don't think it really would have mattered had the library been something else--you defined it's very "purpose" as "obligation," which has negative overtones. I really like the library for the other reasons you described. As I write this I am reading what Eray said, and we're on the same wavelength...

charlienettles said...

I really agree with Eray's first paragraph. Natalia used an object that is of great importance to the city of Austin, but it is not really a fascinating object or place because there are libraries everywhere. I mean UT has twenty or thirty libraries and I'm sure Austin has many more than that. They are something we all grew up with and as we are older they are mostly associated with school and not very thrilling to any of us, just like the second girl Natalia talks about. As for the boy, we have all been there very excited to go to the library and put the books in the slot or pick out our favorite "Goosebumps" book or something. What not many of us have experienced is the Library as home. It is a very interesting idea of a "home" as a public space and deserves some more investigating.

cmk488 said...

I agree very much with your decision to group people under the way they use the library. It would be interesting to make a correlation between where people live and how they use the library (maybe not with the homeless men). Would the mini van group be from a different part of town than the biker group than the walker group?

Matthew Aguilar said...

I think the library is a pretty interesting place to choose. I like the idea of seperating the real life function of a library and reducing its meaning to just an occupiable space or intersection for interaction. The next part of this project should be really interesting to do because in this case I feel it will be one of those cases in which less is more and stepping back and allowing more interaction might involve more of a subractive mind set. It should be really interesting to see what you come up with.

JayeetaG said...

I agree, dividing up the library in its purposes and employing a diverse age and type range of users is ingenious. Maybe if we treated all buildings as observational objects, as in this narrative, we could better grasp what it it is that the building does for us and thus design better!