The Bean Library | Bleader

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Bean Library

Posted By on 05.12.08 at 05:38 PM

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A new chapter in the U. of C.'s long, mixed history with starchitects is about to begin: I bring you the Pillbug Robot Library.

Um, I mean the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library. At bottom right is the "high-density, automated shelving system." Chicagoist "digs" it; Blair Kamin fears it will look self-indulgent. Then again, Kamin hates on Walter Netsch's Brutalist Regenstein Library, which is my favorite building on campus--an imposing, grim bunker of books that doesn't make nice and keeps the riffraff out, the Berlin Wall of university libraries. You want repose? The dim cubicles tucked deep into the concrete on the upper levels are brimming with repose. You could die in there and no one would find you for weeks. A greenhouse? You are afraid of repose. Maybe they could build some cubicles down in the shelving system.

Also worth noting--the underground A Level of the Reg is one of the most social places on campus, despite having all the charm of a DMV. How the building fits into the school aesthetically is one question; how it fits into the culture is another. U. of C. students are odd and may not take to your fancy glass domes. I suspect it will be another nice place to read on a campus filled with such places, provided they find chairs that are more comfortable than the ones in the rendering look, and in the grand scheme of Helmut Jahn it's obviously better than the ridiculous Thompson Center but not as awesome as his gorgeous IIT dorms. And it looks better than the Days Inn-chic new dorm at 61st and Ellis.

But if they're going to spend that much money on a reading room and giant robot librarian, I hope they can find some to spruce up Harper Library, a truly elegant and reasonably well-lit space that, up close, looks shopworn.

NB: Re Kamin's nicknames, I believe the Chicago Maroon was the first to use Barbie to describe Max Palevsky ("Barbie's Dream Dorm").

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