Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"a freewheeling tour through centuries of architectural history"

The new West Hollywood Library, set to open to the public Saturday on a curving stretch of San Vicente Boulevard across from the Pacific Design Center, is a building that offers a freewheeling tour through centuries of architectural history. Explicitly or implicitly, it points back to the work of Charles Moore, Pierre Koenig, Frank Gehry and even Michelangelo.

The library includes long expanses of floor-to-ceiling glass, in the great California midcentury tradition, as well as bands of marble and generous helpings of architectural ornament. Along with computer terminals and shelves full of actual books, it incorporates a pair of parking garages, rooftop tennis courts, murals by the street artists Shepard Fairey and Kenny Scharf and new chambers for the West Hollywood City Council.

Whatever you want to call its style (the first local stirrings of a postmodern revival, maybe?), it sounds altogether too busy and too stuffed with architectural influences to succeed. And yet it does succeed — beautifully.

Designed by Steve Johnson and James Favaro of the Culver City firm Johnson Favaro, the library is one of the seven or eight most impressive pieces of public architecture to open in Southern California in a decade.

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