As every blog and its mother has noted already, the Wall Street Journal yesterday favored the Watha T. Daniel Shaw Library with inclusion on its list of 2010’s best public architecture. Funny thing is, architects Davis Brody Bond Aedas didn’t even want the project originally: Given the choice of four libraries that were first in the wave of new projects kicked off by Mayor Anthony Williams, the firm asked for Tenley-Friendship.
But then the estimable Max Bond, who wouldn’t live to see the building’s completion, had to shoot off his mouth.
“[He] talked about why that Shaw library was so important,” Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper told me today. “About that changing neighborhood, about the triangle, about that being the place where so many people come into the District every day on Rhode Island Avenue. He talked about the beacon that it should be, the light, and the openness, and what that says to people about their government, their city, their library.”
“And the group around the table after that team left as we were discussing who would get what building, they said well, they have to get Shaw,” Cooper remembers. “And I think they realized that dream pretty wonderfully.”
Anyway, Shaw is only one of a slew of new libraries to come online under Cooper’s leadership: Five brand-new facilities have opened this year, and three more are to come in 2011, not to mention the historic renovations. Cooper has put her stamp on each one, choosing starkly modern designs that sometimes pushed the boundaries of what neighbors were willing to accept. With that many feathers in her cap, a librarian from Minnesota has put herself on the leading edge of D.C.’s famously conservative architecture scene—not something that was part of the job description when she signed on in 2006, but an added benefit nonetheless.
So, I’m writing about this stuff this week, along with new school architecture. If you’ve got particular information or insight, do drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org.