This photo from the article "THE 'WOW' FACTOR" in the Houston Chronicle took my breath away today. The new John P. McGovern Stella Link Branch Library was built with funds from many sources.
Houston officials have far less money to work with, but they've embarked on a plan to create libraries that are more people-friendly and Internet-accessible. Their new Stella Link branch, which incorporates bookstore, cafe and shopping-mall features, is the prototype.
Library officials asked Ray Bailey Architects for an edgy design. The firm responded with a striking modern building whose undulating roof dips in the middle and edges upward to the north. The entire north side is a floor-to-ceiling wall of glass that provides a wonderful view of an adjoining park, allowing natural light to stream into the building.
"We wanted it to feel like the park comes into the library," says project manager Pam Vassalo, a Ray Bailey Architects principal.
The areas for young folks sound wonderful.
The teen center exudes hipness. Computer monitors are scattered throughout (a patron can also check out a laptop from the front desk), and spongy red stools spring up and down. Other cool features: A chain-mesh circular curtain surrounds one bank of computers, and a glass-block igloo provides a private tutoring space.
The children's area is awash with color: Its artificial trees look amazingly real, and wavy yellow and orange panels suspended from the ceiling simulate clouds.
Discussing the badly needed renovation of the downtown central library, writer Clifford Pugh comments, "...compared to the new library gems in other cities, the downtown renovation seems paltry."
He asks the best question of all at the end of the article:
In a city that's built two state-of-the-art downtown stadiums in recent years, wouldn't you think we could put as much effort into first-class library facilities?