Student(s): Brandon Doherty
Instructor(s): Justin Diles
Course: ARCH 4410: Architectural Design V
Term: Autumn 2015

My design for a new Public Library in London reimagines the large public reading hall as a hall filled with towers. This new hall type challenges the classical reading-room-plus-stacks hall type, a model that is exemplified by Boullee’s unrealized 1785 proposal for a French National Library and Henri Labrouste’s realized Bibliothèque St. Geneviève in Paris. Both designs glorify a centralized reading hall that collect and display both books and people within an idealized, universal and homogenous space for learning. Importantly, each of these projects is best understood through a single vanishing point linear perspective view that easily captures the entire scene of the room. While developing my design through initial research, I discovered that the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University offers a provocative, contrasting model for the hall by placing a single glowing tower at its center. This tower disrupts the single viewpoint, breaking the hall into a series of possible positions with relation to the tower, which here can never be entered. My project builds on the disruptive character of the Beinecke Library Hall by imagining the library as a single, giant hall filled with large inhabitable towers.


My project organizes the program of the library into two main tower types, the information tower and the activity tower. These two types to create a mini-city of towers organized in a circuit-board like grid within a single great hall space. On the exterior of the building the towers press up against a perforated metal wrapper. This wrapper is interrupted by the circular activity towers that announce the building to the city and respond the perimeter conditions of the site. On the interior of the building’s great hall, the towers do not make a picturesque composition or create figural volumes between towers. Instead the towers simply repeat. This repetition is amplified by reflections rendered in polished ceiling and floor surfaces, creating a sensation of endless vertical stacks linked by delicate horizontal connector bridges. Countless possible vertical vantage points for looking into the hall are provided by the project’s inhabitable towers. These views emphasize the endlessness of the towers and their contents and are animated by people moving from tower to tower across the hall on bridges. The sensation created by observing or moving across the endlessness of the hall is strongly contrasted by the more intimate and varied experiences provided within the towers themselves.



As mentioned above, the entire program of the library is organized by two tower types. Information towers are dense, square and seemingly infinite stacks of media. Signage tickers fixed to the exterior of these towers flash what topic or media type a particular tower level might contain. Despite their impersonal exteriors, each information tower hides intimate study and reading spaces within. These hidden spaces are designed for individual contemplation and consumption of media. In contrast to the information towers, activity towers are circular, figural towers that are dedicated to interactive and sociable learning. Large communal reading and working tables can be found in the activity towers. The activity towers also expand the range of the typical library program to include spaces for exhibitions, lectures and group learning.  Media is also stored in the activity towers, but here it is curated, displayed and organized for casual browsing rather than for research. Activity towers have smooth, gently undulating exterior shells, making them more recognizable as distinct objects within the great hall space.