Last Thursday, several of our staff members attended a panel discussion at MIT featuring David Adjaye, 2016 recipient of the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts. Titled “The Future of the Library,” the event invited five panelists to discuss the library as a place and its future in a landscape of ever-evolving information exchange.
Other panelists included Chris Bourg (Director of MIT libraries), Ginnie Cooper (retired Chief Librarian for the District of Columbia), Jeffrey T. Schnapp (professor at Harvard GSD, founder and director of MetaLAB), and Nader Tehrani (Dean of School of Architecture at The Cooper Union, Principal of NADAAA). Each presented their approach to addressing the future of the library. Adjaye and Tehrani presented a variety of projects that clearly enforced the continuation of the library as public forum; from Adjaye’s project in Gwangju, with the library as a public staircase navigating the path from the street to the river’s edge, to NADAAA’s RISD project that embraces the concept of the library as a theater and a living room for students.
As an evolving forum, the library needs to embrace the idea of socializing to facilitate knowledge in order to remain relevant to the public it serves. As social expectations and access to information continually change, how will the physical space of the library adapt to those changes? Will the library need to create spaces that disconnect from the everyday in order to re-engage with intellect? How will the designer continue to establish the library as place where databases and socializing intersect? The panelists challenged the audience to consider the future of the library and the future we want for the space where we connect with knowledge.
This challenge and the lessons from the panel extend beyond the specificity of the library and can be applied to our design process at Arrowstreet. As designers, our work reflects our research, actively engages the public, and creates an overall sense of place as we anticipate changes to the social landscape.