Friday, January 28, 2011

New Columbia University Science Library

New Science and Engineering Library at Columbia University

The other day, on the way back from a meeting, I decided to visit the new Science and Engineering Library of the Columbia University Library System. The building, which had been under construction for some time, just opened. On the first floor (one floor above the entrance level to the street), is a fine and bustling cafe. It seems to fill a niche in this part of the neighborhood, as it's always packed with "sippers, readers, and studiers." Then again, it is the first week of operation, so it's also in its so-called honeymoon period. Up on the 4th floor, I met one of my librarian colleagues, Amanda, who gave me a brief tour of the newly completed library complex. I say complex, because it serves as more than just a library. The photo above is on an upper level of the library. Surprisingly or not, the Science and Engineering Library has comparatively few books. The sciences have far fewer books and physical journals (most are online or in digital format) than say the Humanities, so this makes sense.

Above we see a view of the Burke Library's Brown Tower (on Broadway, looking north). This was taken from one of the computer/reading room areas on level 4 of the new Science Library.

One more floor up (I think it's called "level 5"), we find a lovely reading and study room. Now, the other evening, we had an event at my library, the Burke, just across the street. And as I was waiting with my colleagues, I noticed that the design of the lights in Burke shared an uncanny resemblance to the ones in the new Science Library. OR, more precisely, those in the Science Library resembled those in Burke. When I mentioned it to my Butler Library colleagues, they said something to the effect of: "shhhhh! the architect would never admit it, but we think you might be right!" The image below is from Columbia University's website, and shows the Burke Library Reading Room--a far older architectural gem.

This sort of design "borrowing" is common. On the campus of the University of Chicago, we find the relatively new Booth Business School's design to be a borrowing and conflation of the masterful architectural designs of the buildings on the three other corners from it, including the magnificent Rockefeller and the Frank Lloyd Wright Robie House.

Back in the Science Library building, we find some lengthy escalators (above), and a top view of the busy cafe (below).

Signs for your direction, against a marbly wall. It's a very interesting architecture inside, while outside, you can see it looks like a 12-storey toaster for baguettes! That's no knock, mind you, since it is an interesting looking building. But I must admit, it seems like only half the floors are accounted for here. So it is anyone's guess what the top 6 floors are for. State secrets, anyone? Whatever your pleasure--science or coffee--stop by and check it out. I think you'll like it.

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