Behold the architectural splendor of the Houston Public Library building that opened in 1976:
Contrast with the Houston Public Library building that opened in 1926:
Maybe this isn’t a fair comparison. There are slightly more interesting views of the new library. However, both photos represent what comes to mind when I think of each building.
See also Houston Public Library, 1926.
In 1926, Houston completed construction of a new public library. This building has been restored and reopened to the public this month. My wife and I visited the library yesterday and I took a few photos.
When you visit the library, now known as the Julia Ideson building, the staff recommend you begin your tour on the third floor to see the ceiling.
Then on the second floor you’ll see something like this.
The reading room opens next week and so I could only photograph it from outside.
The children’s library also opens next week and so I could only photograph it through the door.
Finally, here is a meeting room.
My photos of the building’s murals and tapestries turned out poorly and so I’ll spare you from seeing those. (I’ve hardly ever used a camera. Someday I’d like to learn how to take decent photos.) You can find more photos of the library, current and historical, on the website for The Julia Ideson Library Preservation Partners.
In 1976 a new library opened next to the 1926 building. The contrast between the buildings is stark. No historical society will ever lobby to preserve or restore the new Houston library building. It’s just a typical, bland, modern box. The old library feels like a library. The new library feels like an office building. The old library makes you want to stay and lose yourself in a good book. The new library makes you complete your transaction and leave.
How would you design a quiet study room? If you know a little about acoustics you might think to avoid hard floors, hard surfaces, parallel walls, and large open spaces. The reading room of the Life Science Library at the University of Texas does the opposite. And yet it is wonderfully quiet.
The room is basically a big box, maybe 100 ft long. The slightest noise reverberates throughout the room. But because the room is so live, the people inside are very quiet.
This weekend I stumbled across the book Houston Deco at the library. The book is filled with photos of Art Deco and Art Moderne architecture in Houston and the surrounding area. I had no idea how much Art Deco architecture there was in Houston until I read the book. Some of the photos were of buildings I’ve seen or even been inside without paying much attention to the architecture. More photos are available at the Houston Deco website.