The New Library
Libraries are no longer just repositories of knowledge; they’ve become busy social centers. New municipal and neighborhood libraries have expanded their footprints to include large spaces for meetings, usually equipped with a furniture storage room and a catering kitchen. They typically are programmed all day long with community meetings and events. And there are comfortable lounges where people relax and meet, often with light food offered in a coffee house atmosphere. Academic libraries, too, have evolved by moving away from the old aesthetic of scholastic quietude toward a vibrant learning center arrangement in which students gather, chat, and work together in lively groups. The college library today is the place on campus for hanging out and congregating with friends in an atmosphere of informal study.
The Bilbao effect is being felt today by art museums large and small. Visitors have come to expect extras –that is, more than just art on the walls. The revenue stream that comes from the extras is essential for financial stability. Directors are carving out significant space beyond galleries for events. Catering kitchens are part of that, and the ripple effect is felt all the way to the loading dock, where mixing old masters with sushi is frowned upon.
Education has become a significant department with dedicated staff and its own spaces for working with children, and yes, adults, too. Museum shops are now profit centers, and to retain visitors for longer than a brief stay, some form of refreshment is needed, so even small museums are running cafes with the expectation that the menu will be curated. All these extras take up space, so museum footprints are expanding –just one of the reasons for the recent boom in museum construction.
Theater Tabula Rasa
As with the movies, advances in technology have made it possible for theater producers today to mount almost any kind of production they are able to imagine, the only physical limits being size and configuration of the theater they’re working in. When designing a new theater, the architect can always consider removing the proscenium, providing a boundless stage, and putting seats on elevators, if the budget allows it. Even when renovating an old theater, however, opening the space up to the extent possible to get more production space and greater flexibility is often requested. That’s not necessarily the case for academic theaters, however, because busy students do better filling up smaller, well-defined prosceniums that don’t require all that much scenery.