At a time when the economic state of the United States is at a point where it is impacting the way students and current architects are going about designing certain building types, Alan Lu, who is currently the Presidential Fellow at MIT is deeply engrained within the realm of form, fabrication and the endless pursuit of luxury through space. His studies and research is demonstrated in his Lechmere Public Library design in Boston, Massachusetts where his hybrid form of institutional and private space combines to exist as a single entity. More images and description after the break.
The library is one of the few remaining free public domains, yet with current economic conditions threatening the operations and existence of these very institutions, a new hybridity of institutional and consumer space must be developed in which the library is preserved as the last remaining guardian of print and the physical book. To accomplish this, we must reconstitute the typical programmatic makeup of the library into a scheme that folds in privatized culture and the very activities that were once thought to threaten the idea of free public space itself. It is only in this way where we exploit private programs for its inherent abilities to attract and keep the public so the institution of the library continues to exist and even prosper. Perhaps the most pertinent example of this is the current sale of Donnell Library Branch of the New York Library System to Orient-Express Hotels, a group intending to replace the current building with a multiple story luxury hotel with a new library branch in the bottom floors. If space is a marketing tool, then a model where library and private entertainment center exists in one space can be a way to promote both simultaneously for the sake of preservation and profit.
We accept that institutional and private spaces are both viable typologies in current culture and can exist as a single entity, yet instead of simply combining them into a homogenous environment, we can purposely keep them separate throughout the building to heighten the special and unique characteristics inherent in both a free space and one that is consumer driven. At points where the programs of both typologies are in fact equivalent such as the reading area / public resting area, these spaces are then allowed to seam together creating a singular space. In controlling the degrees of separation of institutional and private, we avoid a certain commercial entrapment and a mollifying situation where programs are unable to be read separately. On another level, the implementation of physical separation will be subverted through skin and envelope effects to foster opportunities of exploring new options of acquiring knowledge. For example, shoppers may be separated from the library stacks, but the skin between might reveal certain views constantly reminding them that other options of obtaining information indeed exist within this hybrid typology.