Tuesday, February 16, 2010

An eye towards architecture: Peter B. Lewis Library

Opened in Fall 2008, the Peter B. Lewis Library was designed to be a library of the future. Designed by Frank Gehry and largely devoid of books, the building was intended to foster work and study and to focus on digital resources. So, how does it measure up?

When the Lewis Library first opened, I was thrilled. The library was delightfully close to all of my classes and could be used as a study space in between lectures. The deliciously bright colors a welcome departure from some of the University's other buildings which have more predictable color schemes.

The library itself has managed to acquire a comfortable feeling. The rooms are carpeted and squishy, colorful chairs and couches are abundant... actually, I take that back. Colorful, but not always too squishy. (I have a secret plan to grow gold locks and test out chairs and couches across the University.)

The rooms in the library make for particularly nice study spaces. The Treehouse and third and fourth floors are noteworthy. They're all thrillingly well-lit... by the sun... which especially lights up the fourth floor throughout the day, ocassionally blinding a student or at least melting a laptop.

I must say, I don't really have many complaints against this building, which has served me well until now. The north entrance is interesting because who doesn't want to walk up and down (or down and up) stairs unnecessarily when exiting and entering the building.

My only real concern is how the building will stand the test of time. As the weather warms, snow and ice falling onto the glass roofs strikes fear into the hearts of all those who can hear, especially those below. And for those who aren't aware, Gehry doesn't have the best track record on roof quality.

In brief: Love — Curvy ceilings, well-lit rooms, garish color choice, and the modern take on a library. Hate — That one time they couldn't figure out how to turn off the fire alarm (shout out to those who stood in the cold) and those unfinished cement columns with wood imprints not smoothed over. Verdict — Great place to study and excellent for group work. And barring any cave-ins, an exemplar of the direction in which libraries are headed.


Anonymous said...

So the marks of formwork on concrete are not necessarily a defect. Lots of architects have used this technique. Check out the beautiful patterns on the pillars in Marcel Breuer's HUD building in D.C.: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thane/443497759/

Anonymous said...

I can attest that the roof is already leaking. I was in the tree house part of the library the other day and had to move because water was dripping onto my books.

Daily Princetonian Web Staff said...

@ Anonymous (1)

Not smoothing out the wood markings can have a rather elegant effect, as in your example. But does the effect in the Lewis Library really work with the other features of the building?

Anonymous said...

what an ugly, confusing building

Anonymous said...

Lewis is also very cold. One would think they could figure out how to regulate the temperature a bit better or they should have provided better insulation.

However, I'd trade the sun, windows, and a sweatshirt for warmth and darkness any day.

Anonymous said...

You are right, the effect is not necessarily congruent with the overall aesthetic of the building. I haven't seen that detail - I wish we had a picture

Anonymous said...

The Lewis library really seems like a replica of the Stata Center at MIT, way to go Princeton!