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Friday, February 22, 2013

The Always Ugly Beacon Hill Branch Library: Part III

Posted by on Fri, Feb 22, 2013 at 1:53 PM

You will not a find a position that's kind to this building...


And what's exactly wrong with Beacon Hill Branch Library? The exact same thing that's wrong with the City Hall. Both are cut from the same bad intention: phony multiculturalism. It's architecture trying to heal. Architecture as a hospital for social ills. Read Fredrick Jameson's The Political Unconscious; read his reading of Claude Levi-Strauss' memoir Tristes Tropiques. A chapter in this book describes a tribe, the Caduveo, in Brazil that wore elaborate facial paintings that weren't found, to the same excessive degree, in other neighboring tribes. The reason for the elaborate decorations, concludes Levi-Strauss, and Jameson, is because the Caduveo have, unlike the other tribes, great and unresolvable social inequalities that result from its rigid hierarchical class structure. So they resort to elaborate face painting to compensate for the lack of social mechanisms that could address class tensions. The Beacon Hill Library and the City Hall—which as designed by Peter Bohlin, the man who designed the region's Xanadu (Bill Gates's high-tech castle)—are the same as this face painting. And the ugliness of the intention is expressed by the ugliness and messiness of these buildings.


Comments (26) RSS

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I love it! Goes beautifully with these skies, this rain, those lines.
Posted by gloomy gus on February 22, 2013 at 1:58 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 2
Je suis triste que tu as ces concepts contre toute le monde.
Posted by Will in Seattle on February 22, 2013 at 1:59 PM · Report this
Stranger, give this man some work to do. Please! Something to occupy his time.
Posted by Citizen R on February 22, 2013 at 2:03 PM · Report this
Space Sausage 5
thank you for elaborating and sharing your point. nearly all government, publicly funded buildings in the last ~15 years feature this in your face, lavish, even opulent (modern opulent, if there is such a thing. post-modern modern i guess) most trendy architecture possible. Look at any government building in your city- compare it to any private building, and the opulence is remarkable.

Are we trying to make up for social ills? Look at the downtown library- a huge part of it's function is bathroom and hygiene stations for the needy, crammed into small, well lit spaces.

So what you are saying here is not about the building itself, but the fact that we have an architectural indulgence in our public buildings that is not extended to other parts of society. I think that's the same as it is everywhere, rich country or por, past or present. Architecture and monuments always take precedence to the unsolvable problems of social class.
Posted by Space Sausage on February 22, 2013 at 2:06 PM · Report this
BostonFontSnob 6
Please stop
Posted by BostonFontSnob on February 22, 2013 at 2:09 PM · Report this
I like City Hall. (maybe because I got gay-married there?)
Posted by drawn on February 22, 2013 at 2:11 PM · Report this

Maybe it goes deeper than that.

What are libraries any more?

Newer ones don't store books...why bother? You can go on a computer and read, or order a book from the central warehouse and have it delivered.

Why use all this space storing books that will only be used once a year by one person. Space that is on valuable high rent land!

What the library has become is a self serve enclosed information kiosk. It has meeting rooms. It has atriums where people can talk out loud. It has play areas where kids can scream. Yet, in order to justify it's existence it has to "symbolize" a Library. In order for people to pay for such a fun place, it has to have Purpose.

Aren't we all Libraries. Aren't we doing all this Old Stuff to justify our existence in the face of the 20th century people, but what we really are going is 21st century activities?

We work at Microsoft and Boeing, to make money, so we can come home and use Facebook and YouTube.

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on February 22, 2013 at 2:15 PM · Report this
Sean Kinney 9
@8 - great points. Let's do this in public. In libraries. At least we can be alone, together.

[Some people still read books].
Posted by Sean Kinney http:// on February 22, 2013 at 2:20 PM · Report this
Rotten666 10
@8 Seriously, when was the last time you where in a library? Cause is you think your local branch is nothing more than an information kiosk, you need to drop in for a while and see what's going on. If I remember correctly, Kent has a excellent branch.
Posted by Rotten666 on February 22, 2013 at 2:29 PM · Report this
fletc3her 11
I think the building looks fine. It's no EMP I guess.
Posted by fletc3her on February 22, 2013 at 2:35 PM · Report this
beatgrl 12
The more photos you post of this building the more I like it.
Posted by beatgrl on February 22, 2013 at 2:42 PM · Report this
samktg 13
Charles, would you mind describing exactly what physical characteristics of this building combine to create the meaning you are assigning it? All I see is a structural composition of line, plane, color, and texture capturing a popular PNW architectural aesthetic. You are arguing, at least in part, that this aesthetic is ugly because of the ideas it embodies, which I think is fair (art/architecture/design is not a neutral container free of meaning or context), but if you could provide some visual analysis elucidating this connection, you might be able to make a more convincing argument.
Posted by samktg on February 22, 2013 at 2:44 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 14
Charles, get your ass on a DRB and maybe you can stop the madness!
Posted by Max Solomon on February 22, 2013 at 2:53 PM · Report this
pfffter 15
@13 But that would require him to actually think instead of vomit out philosophical references.
Posted by pfffter on February 22, 2013 at 2:54 PM · Report this
This building is Gorgeous. There is no accounting for good taste, and you sir, have bad, really bad, really really bad no good taste.
Posted by Man_in_the_mirror on February 22, 2013 at 3:04 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 17
I like City Hall. Although, like the downtown library, it's not very practical. Does anyone actually walk up those endless stairs in front, or do they all use the side entrances?

The downtown library is a bigger shame to me though. It reminds me of NYU's ginormous library; the ginormous library that, even just ten years ago, was running out of space in the stacks because almost all of the actual real estate was taken up by the building's ginormous atrium.
Posted by keshmeshi on February 22, 2013 at 3:13 PM · Report this

The last time I was in a library was when I was taking tutoring lessons in Spanish. I met my tutor in the Kent Central Library and we did our lessons on the main table area. We spoke in conversational voices and no one said anything about it.

Also I normally go weekly to the Covington branch ( a fantastic and beautiful library with a "Great Room" for reading and studying -- but which does not ban talk -- to read scientific journals. But I haven't been there for a while.

By information kiosk, I mean a place to go and interactively search for information and also t participate in information activities like tutoring. It does have books. But I think more people space would be more useful than just stacks since, again, you can request those online.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on February 22, 2013 at 3:51 PM · Report this
Rotten666 21
@20 Oh, in that case yeah, I mostly agree with you.
Posted by Rotten666 on February 22, 2013 at 3:56 PM · Report this
Rotten666 22
I just get a knee jerk reaction when I thinking someone is veering into the "I have the internet so what good are libraries" argument.
Posted by Rotten666 on February 22, 2013 at 4:01 PM · Report this
very bad homo 23
I think you should move.
Posted by very bad homo on February 22, 2013 at 4:11 PM · Report this
Funny troll, that Charles.
Posted by floater on February 22, 2013 at 4:16 PM · Report this
mike in oly 26
Overhead powerlines are a blight upon the all landscapes. There is no beauty here with their ugly intrusion. There must be a better way.....
Posted by mike in oly on February 22, 2013 at 7:28 PM · Report this
@5 great points.

when i look at the library, i sometimes envision that they had planted taller, leafier trees which would eventually envelope the main floor. i see it in the future as a sea of green leaves, undulating in the wind, while the vaulted glass portion rises out of it like a wave. at least that engages my eye more. however, nothing can save that awful boat/bird/blimp/whimsical paperweight of a sculpture.
Posted by Oh no on February 22, 2013 at 11:49 PM · Report this
Agreed. Please stop. Write about THE INSIDE OF THE LIBRARY!!
You sound like a dipstick. A dipstick with FirstWorldProblems.
Posted by Up all night on February 23, 2013 at 12:49 AM · Report this
All it needs is to be painted a better color and it would look fine.
Posted by I have always been... east coaster on February 23, 2013 at 6:58 PM · Report this
KingofQueenAnne 30
Lord, another one of these posts? Building's fine. It serves the community well. If it's a slow news week, find something more creative to share than this.

But I guess being deliberately contrarian gives Mudede a stiffy.
Posted by KingofQueenAnne on February 24, 2013 at 12:17 AM · Report this

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