Library Architecture

23 June 2002

Tom Wolfe’s joke-title anti-modern ar­chi­tec­ture polemic, From Bauhaus to Our House, con­tains the fol­low­ing ar­rest­ing image:

On the right, Yale University’s orig­i­nal neo-Gothic Art Gallery, built in 1928. On the left, Louis Kahn’s min­i­mal­ist addition, built just 25 years later. (The sus­pi­ciously ornamental-looking hor­i­zon­tal lines are per­mit­ted because they “express” the struc­ture within: in this case, the lo­ca­tion of the floors inside.)

Compare: these three seams in the side of Hargrave-Andrew Library:

(L: Phase III; R: Phase II)

(L: Phase II; R: Phase I)

(L: Phase I; R: Phase IV)

All four phases together:

To my eye, Louis Kahn’s ad­di­tion to the gallery had a certain gleeful fuck-it-all style. Do the ad­di­tions to the Hargrave-Andrew have equiv­a­lent com­pen­sat­ing merit? I don’t see it.