Gordon Bunshaft Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Source: Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Architectural History Foundation.                      
Date: October 30, 2016 Category: Classic

“The program was simple. Space was needed for about 800,000 books, exhibition areas, staff offices, and a reading room. The program could have been satisfied by a one-story building above ground to be used for exhibitions, reading rooms, and offices, with the books stored underground, but the architect thought of the library as a treasure house of rare books whose presence ought to be emphasized. This led to the idea of housing about 160,000 volumes on six levels within the 35 X 60-foot glass shaft in the center of the building, resting the weight of most of the books on the slab at the building’s base rather than on intermediate floors, and providing a central element to help support the roof. The column of books is surrounded by a ground floor and a mezzanine with display cases. A lower level houses offices, a scholars’ reading room, and the control desk for mechanical systems. Readers and some offices face a sunken open-air courtyard in the traditional arrangement of a cloister scriptorium.

The solution is logical in that the building’ s purpose is immediately evident: translucent marble walls fulfill the need for protected storage, blocking the direct ultraviolet light that injures books. The book shaft, set aglow by small incandescent lights on the ceiling edge of the glass wall, proclaims the books’ importance and precious character. A common tendency to look at what is more brightly lit focuses attention on the books, but bright display cases around the mezzanine also draw the eye, as do the veins in the marble walls.”

1 Comment

  • Peanut September 15, 2013

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