Some of my favorite rooms and buildings are libraries. There is just something about the combination of books, buildings, and light, that inspire architects and readers to make better spaces. In this post, I’m going to grapple with an idea about the synergy that happens when the owner and architect want to do something special.
As an architect, lover of books, and author, I just love this image of a man in the stacks of the Cincinnati library.
Four stories of books in a single room! The lighting in the photo is evocative of what it may have been like to be in this room. The image is also reminiscent of some of the images of Roman ruins by the 18th century Italian engraver Giovanni Battista Piranesi.
The Cincinnati library image also reminds me of some of the 17th and 18th century paintings of the homes and galleries of collectors like the the painting below by an Italian painter, Pannini.
What all these images have in common, is a sense of awe as well as a sensibility about space, light, and the human relationship with both objects, knowledge and the search for and categorization of knowledge.
I bring this up not to show of any depth of knowledge about these periods of time (because, really, I don’t have any), but to introduce the idea that when we build, whether it is a civic building, or a new house, or even a new bathroom, there are bigger ideas available to us than simply function and making it look good. A decent architect can take your problem and solve it, making sure the solution is functional and fits the budget. A good architect can go beyond that, and tap into ideas about space and light, the relationship between man and nature, and allude to history in a way that will enrich your life without making the building any less functional or more expensive. Not every client wants to be bothered. Not every architect is interested. But when the right client and the right architect join forces, amazing things can be produced.