Monday, 14 September 2020

The Bus Trip 9: The Beinecke Library

Day Nine of the Bus Trip, taking in the Beinecke Library and the Benedictine Library of Mount Angel in Oregon 

The Beinecke Library is one of the wonders of library design, an architectural and conceptual masterpiece:

 Just to read the description on Wikipedia is an experience in itself: “A six-story above-ground glass-enclosed tower of book stacks is encased by a windowless façade, supported by four monolithic piers at the corners of the building. The exterior shell is structurally supported by a steel frame with pylons embedded 50 feet to bedrock at each corner pier. The façade is constructed of translucent veined marble and granite. The marble is milled to a thickness of 1.25 inches and was quarried from Danby, Vermont. On a sunny day the marble transmits filtered daylight to the interior in a subtle golden amber glow, a product of its thin profile. These panels are framed by a hexagonal grid of Vermont Woodbury granite veneer, fastened to a structural steel frame. The outside dimensions have “Platonic” mathematical proportions of 1:2:3 (height: width: length). The building has been called a "jewel box", and also a "laboratory for the humanities". There are so many quality videos on the Beinecke’s own website, so the tour is going to let you explore for a while.


This is one of them. Just as pages of the Book of Kells are turned regularly in Dublin, so in New Haven, Connecticut the pages of a relatively modern version of Scripture, the Gutenberg Bible circa 1455 are turned to keep the book in good condition and to keep readers aware:


We are now going to get back on the magic bus to visit another wonder of sixties library design, this time on the West Coast. In true sixties style you won't notice how the time goes, even quicker than an evaporating journal. And hmmmmmmm here we are, tripping through the Benedictine Library at Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon, designed by the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto:


The old library burned down in 1926. Forty years later the abbot approached Aalto and here is a film that says it better than me:

You will be relieved to learn that Mount Angel this week has been downgraded to Level 1 (‘Get Ready’) during the current Oregon wildfires. Mount Angel is in Marion County, which has seen some serious action in recent days.


Philip Harvey

Tour Guide

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