The same day I was able to visit the construction site for Interfaith Peace Chapel, the group also toured the Grauwyler Park Branch Library. This libabry was designed by Joe McCall with Oglesby Greene. Joe actually gave the tour, and I had actually know him from a previous life – I used to hang out with his daughter in high school. I’ll admit that there was some uneasiness in listening to him talk and knowing that used to peel out in front of his house as a sixteen-year-old… This was the first time I’ve actually seen him in a professional setting. All went well, though, and there was no reminiscing of my missteps as a punk kid.
The building has an overall simple design with great attention to detail. This is the first time I have visited a new Dallas public library – most of my time has been spent at the central library downtown. I resisted taking pictures on the inside of the library, as I am always very wary of taking pictures of children without parents around. When I worked on an addition to the Children’s Advocacy Center of Collin County as a contractor, my eyes were opened to a lot of security issues with children that I was previously completely oblivious to. But, the interior was a great space – to keep the ceilings light and airy, a composite truss system was designed using glue lam beams with steel rod cross bracing (at first I thought they were cables and I couldn’t figure out what they did, but I was quickly corrected).
He said the design was inspired by aviation, keeping the entire building light and “airy.” The main desk at the library is in a double height space, which is reminiscent of a control tower. The library was initially to be named after Love Field, but was later decided to be named along with the adjacent park. Large floor to ceiling windows face south, which has a large overhand and is also shaded by existing trees, which open the library space up to the park. As the designer was taking pictures of the project after it was complete, he overheard a conversation between two kids discussing the building. Why had it not been tagged (it is in an area with a lot of graffiti)? The other id had said it was because people respected this place. What a great nod to good design.
One of the disappointing things was the level of maintenance. The landscaping was done well, but no attention had been given to it. Joe mentioned this several times, and you could tell that it had really bothered him. The Dallas Public Library System has taken some pretty severe budget hits over the past few years, and this was a glaring example. I drove all the way across Dallas-Ft. Worth and back yesterday and listened to the Dallas City Council meeting (this was on the 25th of August, 2010) and they are going through yet more budget issues. Many people came out to speak about the importance of the library system and what effects the changes in budget (less people, reduced hours, etc.) would have on people. I listened to Mayor Leppert speak about budget issues and priorities, both one on one and in a speech, a few months ago. Although I did agree with him, listening to that meeting was an eye opener to see how much the library system does affect the people and culture of a city. It also made me think about everything that Joe said during our tour in a different light.