Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Shake Your Money Maker

The attached video is from a contemporary library in Sendai, Japan. Like most modern libraries, it represents a new iteration of what libraries are and can be in the digital day and age. Like previous libraries, it is a place to find and share information, but without the encumbrance of strict limitations to the printed word. Hence its name, Mediatheque. Anyways, I doubt it is much of a money maker in the short-, penciling out, term.

Many seem to reactively think that I am somehow anti-modernist or an overt traditionalist because of my affiliation with CNU, which often gets painted with the broad brush of faux-historicism. Similarly, many people wrongly associate good urbanism with doilies and trinkets of architecture gone by. To me, gingerbreading up a building like West Village is no different than shrubbing up something loosely called a plaza outside of the Wyly Performing Arts Center, as you descend down the ramps before crossing the River Styx. The Prince wants to disorient. Since when is disorientation and instilling discomfort considered good urbanism? Never. Off with his head!

On the other hand, here is Toyo Ito's Mediatheque. I'm hesitant to include the name of the architect for fear of falling into the cult of personality trap that plagues contemporary architecture today, where architects are no longer problem solvers, but brands whose style can be purchased off the shelf. Want something crumpled? Gehry! Want something the Borg might build? Rem! Want something white? Richard Meyer! Something wavy regardless of its context? Zaha!

I like this building, as I like most modern works that can be humble. Don't get me wrong, there is a time and place to stand out, but just go with the assumption that your project, whatever it is, is not it. If everything tries to stand out, nothing does, and all that is left is cacophony. The average pedestrian might as well be wandering through a nursery listening to the crying babies calling out for attention. It is chaos and the infants rule the roost.

You'll notice several "tubes" or light columns running floor to floor in the image below. These allow natural light to filter into each floor from the inside. The spiraling tubes around these light columns supports all the IT/wiring that goes into a media and tech center. Perhaps what I like best about the building is that it is modern yet traditional. It fits its place, looking very much like it belongs in Japan as well as its particular site within Sendai, on a grid of streets, it itself fills out its square site.

It doesn't try to be something it's not. Something past or something future, something borrowed or something blue. It is of there here, its context, the block, the street, the city, the country, the culture, and the now, a modern library for the digital age.

Now, more importantly you may know that this area has been rocked with basically non-stop seismic activity for a week now. With that in mind and knowing the area is in "ring of fire," watch this building shake, almost as if it knew what to do in the event of an emergency (hint, hint):

Pretty impressive. Of course, being a library with some sense of tradition, it still has books on its shelves. I'd hate to be the one that has to pick all of these up and rearrange them. But, they have more important things to mind: