Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Clapham's New Library Opens

In these austere times it is pleasing to report some positive news: a new modern library building has just opened on Clapham High Street. I went along today to use the fax machine (they don't have one yet) and take some snaps - please forgive my arty hipstamatics. I reported before about the building itself while under construction - the flats above have helped to fund the new public library facilities. The building itself seems to have taken ages to construct - almost as long as the much higher Shard, if my memory serves correctly. Last June they were expecting to be completed in September last year.

The flats tower above the library and the high street.

Builders are still busy completing the streetscaping at ground level - the paving does not appear at this stage to match the superlative standards of the Venn Street development.

A huge mural above the librarians' station maps out the interior space - two spirals curve out from the entrance and the desk - one upwards and the other downwards - around a central atrium rising the full height of the library space. A spiral staircase and a lift link all the levels. Books and other media line the curving spirals; reading areas, computer stations and meeting rooms lead off the spiral. The atrium houses a play space for children. It's like a mini Clapham version of Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum in New York
the ramp spiralling upwards
A view across the central atrium, with oculi allowing glimpses of the book stacks on the spiralling ramp
The spiral staircase

It all looks new and shiny, and the books have the feel of just having been arranged on their new shelves. Loads of users are already using the spaces - the reading and computer rooms look like they will be very popular.

Overall, the space feels modern and generous. I have some niggles with the finish, which lets the standard down - the exposed concrete ceilings look like they've been demanded by an accountant late in construction rather than originally envisaged by the architect. The librarians' space will probably need to be redesigned - it's way too small and encourages spiralling gaggles of users to besiege the poor duty librarian from all angles - while I was there fights were erupting amongst library clients (over where the queue was) and the librarians themselves appeared stressed.

Noise levels are quite high - the central atrium and hard surfaces throughout create an echoing acoustic, and the children's play area generates a large amount of noise to echo.