Russell King: Designing ‘the Bird’: An Architect’s Tale

Russell King: Designing ‘the Bird’: An Architect’s Tale


I am pleased to welcome you to this program,
one of many in the season in the upcoming season we
have a very exciting program this afternoon and I’m going to in a minute introduce Jonathan
Massey who will introduce our speaker but I wanted
take a minute because I know not everyone here is
acquainted with Library Associates and it won’t be a long commercial message but there
is a brochure in the back that tells a little bit about it
but I want to tell you a little bit about the benefits of membership
and I’ll be very quick. Here are some of the benefits for you to become
a member of Library Associates. Invitations to library
associates lectures and events, free event parking one block from Bird Library, invitations
to member receptions after lectures, access to library
facilities and collections, borrowing privileges at the right
level, if you’re a patron level, or higher, every issue of the Courant which is our Special
Collections newsletter, an invitation to our holiday reception,
discount on our Spring luncheon tickets, and last but
not least opportunities to volunteer both on the campus and in the community. And for
that you can get away from very little expense become a member
and help to support among other things the Library,
the Special Collections, and we have this historic we’re historic, we go back to Chancellor
Tolley and its founding so we have historic legacy but I
the important thing about Library Associates to me is that
there are people still that believe in the book and the printed word and want to honor
it, not revere it necessarily but honor it and keep it going
and so your contribution will help us, help the Library, and do
something good for future generations, so thank you and with that I want to introduce
Jonathan Massey who is Chair of the Bachelor of Architecture
program at the esteemed School of Architecture at Syracuse
University, who will introduce our speaker today. Thank you. Thank you Jonathan. There’s always a danger with these nested
introductions that by the time we actually give you Russell
King you’ll be looking at your watch and ready to go, so I’ll try to keep things
sort and sweet. There are not many architecture firms operating
in the United States today that can trace their history
back to 1868 as you can well imagine, and it’s really a remarkable testament to the
quality and the organization and the kind of esprit de corps
of the King family that they have maintained that practice
and built it in ways that have responded to the opportunities and challenges of each new
generation and each new era. And I think of King & King in the same terms
as we think of Crouse Hinds – or Carrier Corporation, or
Syracuse University itself. As part of the legacy of expertise that has been build up
at different moments in the history of Central New York.
And I was I attended a lecture last years by the sociologist Saskia Sassen who is an
expert at Columbia University on globalization and especially on how cities
and regions are transforming in response to the new again
opportunities and challenges of changing times and she talked a little bit about the way
centers of manufacturing and industrial production like
Syracuse built up huge investments in fixed capital, the
factories and canals and highways and railroads and all of the facilities that it took to
become a center of manufacturing production. And that it’s
all too often that we think those you know those industries are
dwindling and we need to get in on a new global economy which is somehow located elsewhere.
Her key argument was in fact we’re Syracuse
and other cities like it are already participating in the global
economy we just need to figure out how and especially to figure out what sets of skills
and expertise are built up were built up in the manufacturing
economy that now have relevance somewhere else. I
thought that this was an especially lucid analysis because just a few days before on
a flight up from New York I had been seated next to a young engineer
from Dubai who was coming to Syracuse to get trained
on how to operate the switching equipment that his company used in oil fields in the
Persian Gulf and he said yes, all of our equipment is made
by Crouse Hinds. He comes from Syracuse and that and we
send people regularly to Central New York to get trained for our booming oil economy
in the Persian Gulf and so I thought that was a perfect kind
of confluence of anecdote and analysis that suggested that
in fact Syracuse that reminded me of all the different sets of knowledge, experience, capability
and expertise that are vested in this city and
its region. And that our participating in broader circuits of
capital and innovation. And Syracuse has not often been at the top
of the list of architectural innovation but our very strongest
legacy here is the firm of King @ King, which like those other larger institutions like
the University itself has really built up an expertise that today
is concentrated on medical and healthcare facilities, hospitals,
and other other healthcare buildings in educational facilities, K-12 but also in higher education
and in fact we could say that King & King and Syracuse
University have kind of shaped each other reciprocally
over the you don’t often get to say this but over the centuries, over the many decades,
nearly well let’s say more than 150 years of we’re coming
up on 150 years of collaboration when we look at the list of
buildings that King & King has contributed to the campus we could start with Tolley Hall
and Crouse College, but it goes right out through the
latest building projects and includes especially a lot of post-
World War Two work like bird library probably the most prominent of those post war commissions,
but including also HB Crouse Hall, the biological
research building, the physics building, the Belfer audio
archive, the Heroy Geology library, and link hall just to mention the projects that Russell
King our speak tonight was directly affiliate with. King & King has also been a firm that is helped
other architects build here in Syracuse, such as their work
with ….on the first Newhouse and so we its almost impossible I think for us to picture
Syracuse University without the work of King & King
shaping our vision because the campus that we know today
is so largely a product of their work. And likewise I’m sure that reciprocally that
the commissions from and the support of and educational inputs
of the university into this family history this architectural
dynasty are not insignificant either and it’s the chance to do projects at Syracuse that
helped them become you know a state wide experts and prominent
designers of buildings in education and healthcare. So that’s sort of I guess what
comes to mind when I think about is illustrious firm, Russell
King as you may know graduated from Syracuse University in 1952 and after a stint in the
Navy has worked here in his family’s firm since I
guess 1956 or 7 and has played such a great role in shaping the
campus and probably the building of his that means the most to us this evening is the one
we’re standing in, Bird Library the intellectual
hub of the campus for sure and now according to the food
service people I talked to the coffee hub as well. So thank you very much and I introduce
Russell King. Better than I could do it. Thank you very much for that introduction
it was great, it traced a lot of the interesting history that we
have with the University we’re very proud of our work here.
If I had a lot more courage than I do I’d probably do this whole presentation from the
podium using PowerPoint but because of my advancing age
and little knowledge of PowerPoint itself I’m going to do it
like the old days except that I give bow to the computer to keep my crib notes.
So with that I’ll begin. Time of the talk today is Designing the Bird:
And Architects Tale, and we had a lot of fun trying to decide
how to title this thing because I don’t know it was eight or nine months ago or maybe
almost a year that Harvey Kaiser asked me to do this and I said
I would but I didn’t really know what I was going to do and
Mary Beth asked me what are we going to title this and I gave her a few titles that I wanted
to keep it cryptic enough so that I can talk about whatever
I decide to when I get there. And uh, she finally
suggested this and I think it fits very well. An Architects Tale well if you look up tale
in the dictionary you might find it could be a story or could be
a story. And I hope this is a story my memory of what happened during the process of giving
this great building together.
Before I go further I’d like to acknowledge a couple of people, Mary Beth Hinton over
here who was so great at helping to point me in the right
direction to find the materials that I needed because my
memory is failing. And Kathleen White of course for making the arrangements here today. Mary
O’Brien and the Archives, who after the Dean told
me that there was a model I wanted to look at it and I said by
gosh we made it. And would we like to use it so here it is.
And John Green’s The Tolley Years, and also the preceding part of the history of the University.
Probably the least reliable and also should acknowledge
Jen Wells who is not here who was here earlier part of
the King & King staff who helped me with all of this and Lisa Maynard who is here
and probably the least reliable of all of the things that I used to put this together
are my memories. So if I make the mistake and I may, you’ll
forgive me in advance. Besides which, we’ve got quite a few of
our friends and relatives here so if there’s any kind of an uprising I think we have a
pretty good chance of that.
To start to think about this it was a long time ago, and I mentioned my memory. It was
51 years ago as a matter of fact, 1957 when I first took part
in what was to become the Bird Library. I was 28 years old,
but as I thought further about the Library I thought you know King & King has a unique
history which was mentioned and it’s sort of parallel
to the University’s arc the firm that was to become King & King
was founded in 1868 by Archimedes Russell. Syracuse University was founded in 1870 so
we beat you. But also another interesting fact was that
Archimedes Russell designed three out of the first four
buildings on the campus and King & King is very proud of that heritage, and the beat
goes on. And I’d like to acknowledge some of the
people that are here, Sara I always our a new business
development, Lisa Maynard, is one of her great helpers, and you can even hopefully the fifth
generation here, Alex King sitting next to his dad that’s
the kid with the hair. He’s a junior in the school of architecture
and someday he may be part of this whole thing. Pete King is one of the partners, next to
Alex, Jim King also and if those two guys look alike iws because
they’re twins. Bob Secor not to be forgotten, is was a partner in the firm along with me
for many years. He and I both retired, carry the title of
“consulting partner”, now what does that mean. Anybody ask you
anything recently? Me too.
But it’s a great title but it’s in lieu of responsibility and salary.
Bob headed our design team for almost thirty years and had a lot to do with some of the
buildings that you see up here and including this one.
Going back to history, Archimedes Russell was born in Massachusetts in 1840 he lived
until 1916 when he died. He came here in 18 probably about
1865 or 6 following the Civil War and was apprenticed to
Horatio White. He was also 28 years old when he opened his own firm in 1868. He designed
a couple of buildings that are notable at Cornell, McGraw
Hall and Sibley Hall which were built in the early 1870s but
most notably for this tale, he designed three out of the first four buildings including
the Holden Observatory, which is a little building that
was moved a few years ago and the first library the Von Ranke
Library and also the Crouse College for Women which I mentioned earlier.
I think the Von Ranke Library that Jonathan mentioned earlier. I would think the Von Ranke
Library which is now the Tolley building, probably
named after the donor but that isn’t the case. It was named
after the collection that was brought from Germany to be housed in that building and
it was said that part of the requirements for obtaining that
collection that there is a whole story that goes behind that
as some of you know, that the building had to be as fire-proof as possible including
iron pipe book cases and an iron stairway. And that’s what was
said about that building. Archimedes also taught at the school of architecture
between 1873 and 1881 and it was a volunteer position at that time. And he one of our partners
now, Kirk Narburgh is also teaching in the school of
architecture, in fact he was here a few minutes ago and I said Kirk can’t you cut class
and come down and listen to this thing and he said I dare
not do that. So Thanks
And the school of architecture at that time was one of only three in the country. Most
architects at that time apprenticed to some other architect and
that’s how they learned their profession. So where did the
King & King come in? That was my grandfather was the first King
and he came he was from Lafayette and the story was that
he used to walk in once a week and he worked for Archimedes Russell as an apprentice and
after 6 months I think Archimedes said now how long
have you been here and he said 6 months and he said
well don’t you think we ought to start paying you. And he thought that was a good idea,
but in those days he shoveled the coal into the furnace
and he took out the ashes and he swept the floors and
sharpened pencils. But that’s how the business profession was learned in those days.
My grandfather made a partner in 1906 as a result of his being what we would today call
the project architect on the Onondaga county courthouse
which is down in downtown Syracuse. It’s about 100
years old. So that and there just putting a new domed
roof on it Andy knows all about it. My dad who is also a Syracuse grad came into
the firm in 1924 following graduation, made a partner in
1930 and one of the stories he told me and I’ll never forget it, it’s embedded in
my mind, is that in 1933 in the depths of the depression and I hope
we aren’t heading for something like that now, that gross
receipts in the office were 300 dollars. 300 dollars.
Well that might be 3,000 today but still it wasn’t much money. And the only people in
the firm were my dad and my grandfather and they just sat around
playing cards and answer the phone. But that was following 1933 a prohibition
had ended and that’s when the hotel Syracuse decided to
reconstitute their bar, the Rainbow Lounge, and that was the commission that brought in
the 300 bucks. So that’s kind of the interesting history
of the firm, very brief. Let’s fast forward to the Tolley years,
which is where this library Chancellor Tolley was the driver for this building.
He came to the University in 1942, he was the youngest college president I believe in
the country and when he retired in 1969 he was the longest
tenured president. Little known facts that might come up on
a test someday. Like this was substantial in this community
and of course at the University. He was one of the few giants
it was said. I can’t tell you who said it. Somebody said it in this area. And he truly
was highly respected, not only at the university. I’m sure there
were some people that didn’t like him, but he was quite a guy.
In 1943 World War 2 was on, Tolley chaired the post-war planning commission for Syracuse
and Onondaga County and I think that people respected
his vision and he was a visionary and at that time he
revealed his vision of what Syracuse University was to become, which was a major research
university. He estimated at the time that 20-30 buildings
would be required to bring it to that point, where it would
service this research university. He was just about correct.
I think there were more than probably about 30 buildings built. We did maybe 20 of them.
Which was great, great thing, but how did we get involved
in all of this. Tolley was quite a remarkable guy to me he
was a visionary who often said make no small plans. During 1943-45 he recognized that he
needed a lot of land to complete his vision. He was a land
baron. He added nearly a thousand acres of property to the
university holdings including much of it around this area. Old houses and whatever he could
buy, he bought. I’m not sure how he financed it
but he was good with money. In 1943 during the war the draft age was lowered
from 21 to 18 that took about almost half of the
enrollment out of the university at the time. It went from 3800 which it had been prior
to the war or went from 6000 prior to the war down to 3000
or 3800 so he added military unites and military education which was somewhat controversial
but it helped pay the bills. As the war went on the GI Bill
was put into place to in 1946 and we had what was referred to as the GI Bulge. In 1946 the
enrollment was had swelled 15000. By the next year it
was 18000. The need for space was huge. He owned a lot of the the University owned
a lot of the cottages there and converted to dormitories and
bought other buildings that were converted to dormitories for housing some of the students
initially were housed at the State Fair in some of the
animal buildings. Actually in the horse pens. There were buildings in at the State Fair
that were used contend road the Carrier plant and Baldwinsville
and all over the place. There were blue buses running all over the city and this is how
the how it was in those days and I happened to be in school
about that time so I know that the enrollment was huge there
were all these older guys that were back from the service I was 18 year old apple cheeked
youth at the time. But the Chancellor recognizing the need
for space had said that he bought 700 war surplus
prefabricated buildings for a dollar a piece. Not a bad deal.
Some were else I read that it was only 300 so there might be a discrepancy there but
nonetheless a lot of buildings to get in place. And so that’s
where King & King came into play. We were called upon with a team of engineers,
landscape architects, and planners to get these buildings
in place so that they could be used. Getting heat in them, getting foundations done, roads,
and parking, plumbing and so forth. There wasn’t much
much character to it but it was war work as Gordon Smith,
one of the a retired industrialist who’d been made a Vice President of the University
said. It was fast and furious. And I guess it was.
The only interesting architecture which unfortunately is now gone or maybe fortunately it’s gone
was the Quonset-eria some of you might be old
enough to remember. It was two huge Quonset huts. I tried
to find out how big they were but they were monstrous and connected with the dining with
the kitchen and the food services so they served about
500 people at a sitting and there were a lot of sittings. It was
guilt out on the site where Manley Field House is now, along with that whole area of Manley
was covered with temporary buildings.
That’s how we got our feet wet at Syracuse. 24:00
We became the associate architect to Lorimer Rich and Robins??? in 1948 when some of the
new buildings in Tolley’s vision were being
conceived, the Women’s Building, the Law College, Shaw
Dormitory, and several other buildings. Rich was from and his partners were from New
York City, their famous building that put them on the
map was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that was built after World War I in New York City.
Rich had a great reputation.
But by the mid-fifties, his role became somewhat diminished and the Chancellor the Chancellor’s
impatience I think contributed to this. Rich was a very contemplative style, had a contemplative
style. Well let’s just say that schedules and budgets
and timely decisions weren’t his bag. He needed to think
more about it. Rich was not fired but according to some of
the material that I’ve read he was substantially blistered by
several letters from the Chancellor decrying his lack of movement on these projects. Chancellor
was not one to be delayed. And it sort of just morphed
into King & King and Rich sort of switched roles. We
became the architects, he was the associate, and soon Rich just seemed to fade out of the
picture. He was never fired, he wasn’t terminated, but
just so happened that he faded away like all good soldiers
maybe. So we became the architect for the university
and we were called on daily. We had to renovate a
cottage over here for an ornithology professor who had been hired and was coming to the university
and need a laboratory. We had to fix a loading dock on the back of Bowden Hall. We had to
create a laboratory in one of the other buildings for
a professor that had just been hired. We did everything. We
actually became by 1956 we were an arm of the University. Clark Auburn who was one of
the vice presidents we were very close at the time
said you know we should be paying you guys for some of this
stuff. Some of it was so small I mean it would take more time to create a bill that it would
to do the job. So we did a lot of thing gratis. But we agreed
we should be paid. And I guess we were. We did everything. We were the design and
construction department until Harvey Kaiser so ably
established one, a real one, in 1972. Harvey reminded me of the day.
About the time this building was being completed. Now enter Mrs. Carnegie. And that’s who
we’re here to talk about. The Library. Not the Carnegie Library
but Mrs. Carnegie the myth. It was 1957. I’d carried Chancellor called my dad and said
I need a plan picture and a model for the new library. What
new library? For Mrs. Carnegie. Obviously a potential
donor. We knew there was a new library in the offing but this was the first call. So
this is where it all began. 1957 with the Chancellor’s call.
So the Chancellor articulated his vision of what the Library should be along with Wayne
Yenawine who was then not only the Dean of Library Science
but also the Head Librarian. And it seemed like almost
overnight we created it. Not this model and not this plan but a model and a plan on a
site which was the opposite as I remember it was opposite Sims
Hall on that block that was full of fraternity houses and
other houses the Pace center and other science buildings. It was not the real site and it
seems like it was done overnight. Probably took us a couple
of weeks but it was I think Chancellor Tolley realized he was
giving us an impossible assignment but we also knew at the same time that he expected
us to do it. So we did.
And by the way we never found out who Mrs. Carnegie was. I never met her and I don’t
‘even know whether she existed or not but.
In 1960 by 1960 and then there was some activity in the interim period on the library but not
much. The Chancellor was anxious to get started. He
didn’t have a donor he didn’t have the financing in place but
he understood that lead time that we couldn’t design this building and get it built overnight.
So he asked us to get started on the library. We actually
assigned it a job number which is tattooed on my arm 60-
124. But it didn’t have a name. Was it about
to happen? Looking – I know it was but at the time we weren’t
too sure. So the programming that is the getting the requirements from the librarian and the
library staff began. And it was excruciating. We sat
in meetings and listened and this one would talk and that
one would talk and the head librarian would talk and then this one would talk and there
was absolutely no leadership with all due respect to Wayne
who was a great guy there was so democratic that if you
had an idea and you had an idea well they were ideas and nobody questioned them. So
we listened and listened and listened and listened. And we
got nowhere. 29:59 So there was a hiatus in the planning, but
the Chancellor and vice chancellor Piskor and other
administrators were anxious and the said why don’t you people, you architects, engineers
and library people – we want you to see the best libraries
that there is in the country. So that meant travel coast to
coast, and travel we did. We went to Harvard, and MIT, Cornell. I’m
not sure why we went to Cornell. Notre Dame, Washington
at St. Louis, UCLA, Stanford, Wayne State in Detroit, University of Oregon, Washington
at St. Louis and there probably was others but that’s all
I can remember. We got great information. We travelled as
architects looking at the architecture and the planning that
was done, the library staff was looking at the technical issues of how the library would
function, so we were both getting excellent information. We
would see things that they didn’t, they would see things
that we didn’t. And that’s a great way to research with your client.
And we did this often. So we had all this great information. The
staff was motivated and ready to go. We got back, started our
committee meetings. And started listening again.
And listening, and listening. Trying to inject some ideas. Nothing was happening.
It was all just like we’d started over again. Then we
said the only way we said to ourselves the only way we’re going to get a program is
we’re going to write it. We know what’s needed, we have a pretty
good idea of what this program ought to be. We’ll write it.
So we wrote the program and it wasn’t perfect. Well we didn’t expect that it was. Nothing
the first time you do it on paper my grandfather says you
make all your mistakes on paper. So we submitted the program to the library. Wow, yes this
you know well how about this and how about that.
Well there were adjustments made in the program and finally we got some agreement.
This was the only way we could get it we laid something in front of them and they critiqued
it. We made the changes just the way you do in an architectural
design process. So we finally had our program. And we knew that there were three million
items to be included, a million and a half books and a million
and a half other items, 2500 reader stations, and it yielded a plan of about 300,000 square
feet which is a big building. And you’re in it and you
know that it’s big. Now looking at the University master plan,
where was this building to go? Actually by this time we had a
site but let me tell you the story. With a five block area between –
bounded by University Place, Walnut Avenue, Waverly and Irving avenues. A big five block
area and it was to be, according to the master plan which
I think we helped to create, a high density academic
center. And so we looked at this area and actually
I had forgotten this but there were actually three buildings
that were going to be the library. The centerpiece was this building which was going to contain
principally graduate and research facilities and some of the undergraduate collections.
Phase two and three were a building to the east which is
over where the Belfer building is, on top of a five hundred car
parking garage which may or may never be completed worked on. And then the west there was the
college library which was to be connected to the student union.
So that was the general plan but Bird was in that plan was to remain as upper division
research library. But as it happened you know that all of those
functions ended up in this building. So we now had a site we had selected this
site because of its proximity the campus and its being central
to this high density development and as the university moved north it became more central.
And so it’s a sort of a keystone in the whole campus plan.
So finally the chancellor announced that we have a site.
He announced that the building size was about three hundred thousand square feet, the estimate
was 9.8 million and it was this site. That sounds
pretty simple we should be able to get started immediately.
However it turns out that this site is a city park its at the end of Walnut Park and if
you’re familiar with this are you realize that Walnut Park used
to extend all the way to the University Place. There was a little glitch in the in obtaining
this plan while city was willing to give it or sell it to the
university. There was a reversionary clause in the contract when the Comstock family I
think donated this land to the university, said that if
the site ceased to be used as city park then it reverted to the back
to the Comstock and the family. But Chancellor Tolley was pretty good with negotiating with
people and cajoling and he and some good law work got
it done. But the 35:25
heirs had no object but I’m sure that was due to Tolley’s spirit and discretion. So
we did have a site in fact,
but the land swap was proposed by the city to give them an equal amount of land at the
north end of the Walnut Park.
But as far as I know the land swap never happened and I hope there’s nobody here from the
city to try to dredge up that agreement.
Also, Mr. and Mrs. Bird became were on board and had made their agreement to finance a
big chunk of this library. Maybe Mrs. Bird was Mrs. Carnegie
– we never know that. The Chancellor announced the
gift at three million dollars. So now we have a donor, our job number 60-424, I hope that
doesn’t bore you too much, has a name Ernest Stevenson
Bird Library and its 1967. The Chancellor announced a gift for three
million dollars, actually it was about two million eight and
when Mr. Bird read the announcement I thought he might be mad but actually he came up with
the difference
so he did contribute the three million. It was the largest alumni gift up to that
point. So now we’re ten years into the project. The game is on. We have a program, a preliminary
design, a site and a donor. And final design is ready to
proceed but the design board. The design board was created in the early
50s because the university recognized that there was a lot of
building to be done to create Tolley’s dream of a research a national research university.
And it was decided by the Trustees that there ought to be a special committee to oversee
those designs. So the design board was created about 1953
and that wasn’t just for this project it was for all projects all
projects that we or anybody else did had to go before the design board.
And so they were charged with reviewing and approving. Tolley really enjoyed the design
board process. One of the vice presidents said that the design
board was a recreation outlet for the Chancellor. When I
look back I read that recently and I look back and I think that it was true. He enjoyed
all of the interchange. He knew exactly what was going
on in this University and in the community all the time. He
was kind of like a dean of students. He walked round and he knew everybody and he had an
amazing capacity for detail. And so after one particular
contentious meeting and I think Bob and I were there, it
was pretty obvious we were kind of disgruntled by some of the one of the board members comments
and he kind of continually gave us a hard time.
He had some architectural background and he would say well I think it needs more study.
This needs more study or that needs more study and we
weren’t getting anywhere. So the chancellor came up to us as everybody
kind of filed out and we were picking up our stuff he said
to Bob and I – I don’t know if my dad was there or not. He said now listen, don’t
let whatshisname get you ruffled. Some votes count more than others.
Mine. He didn’t really say mine but we knew. 39:04
So we finally got our approval. One other story I’ll tell you about Tolley
that’s totally unrelated to this building but it has something to
do with the university. We were working on a project which shall remain nameless and
a dean who shall remain nameless and we always took the projects
up to the Chancellor’s office and sat around and he
looked at what we were doing. On this particular project he spotted something right away that
wasn’t right. We knew it, he picked it up immediately.
He said what are you doing that for. I said well
Chancellor the dean wants it that way. He said don’t pay any attention that guy is
a nut. Do it right. He was pretty frank with us. He was quite
a guy. The next twelve months or so are full of activity
we were off and running with final design. And there
were federal funding there was utilities to get out of the way and we’re developing
the final design and site plan. Was also a water plant being designed
at the same time not only for this building this was
going to be the first building on it but for a portion of the campus. Sometimes the costs
of that is kind of lumped into the library. Unfairly I think
but nonetheless that’s the way some of the literature. So we’re
off and running and as we’re taking in June of 1969 another number that’s tattooed on
my other arm is 11,689,000. That was the bid. As I recall.
Construction was relatively routine. This is a big building it has some complicated
things in it, but it went along quite well.
Building as I remember was opened in September 1972 and although I was confused I went back
and looked at my own records that we dedicated
it in April 1973 but I found out that both of those dates are
correct. 41:19
So the final cost of the library was about twelve and a half million after furniture
fees and so forth. For about three hundred thousand square feet,
forty two bucks a square foot. The cost today I don’t know
70-80 million dollars maybe. I have a hard time dealing with those numbers. I thought
11 million don’t quote me now was a lot of money, but it’s
hard for me to understand the numbers that our firm deals
with today. The sidebar I think this was the first building
that we actually had a written architects contract and the
reason we had that was because of the federal funding they said you know we need to see
the contract the building was about half finished or maybe
it was just starting but we wrote the contract and
previous to that time it was a letter, exchange of letters and a handshake and off we went.
But the other buildings you wouldn’t do that today, and we didn’t do it following
that we recognized the need for good contracts, good business practice.
Talking a little bit about the design. And the reason I didn’t use the podium and
the reason I didn’t use the PowerPoint is that I like to move
around a little bit so I will talk a little bit about the design.
The site plan as I mentioned the site was the focal point in the university and was
going to become a focal point in the university at this time
and as it turns out it did. The model when we were finished if you are
still awake you can come up and take a look at the model it
really tells you about the site and how it works.
Before I go any further, I just want to mention Dr. Don Healy sitting here in the back. I
told him I put him in this presentation but I didn’t tell him
about it because I was afraid it would scare him off. But Don was
the guru of what’s coming next what is information retrieval what is electronic communication
what did we know at that time. Don worked with us on
almost every building we did to help us anticipate what
the needs were going to be in the future. The site sloped from the university place
side down to Waverly which gave us an opportunity to get
entrances at two levels. Now we wanted this building to sit on a flat site so we flattened
this side so that we could have a plaza all the way around it.
And one of the things about a library for those of you who work in a library this size
you know that the service to this building a building like this
is very heavy. In this case probably the heaviest service on the
campus with the exception of say food service. The mail, the books, the periodicals, and
stuff that comes in processed and goes out to the other parts
of the library system on the campus in huge. So the
processing area technical services area of the library is a big one, and there’s a
lot of movement of goods and services. We didn’t want a back door.
None of the research that we did at any of the other libraries
around the country had really solved that very well. UCLA probably came the closest.
They recognized it and they had a sub-grade tunnel out to a parking
lot but the tunnel itself impeded traffic around the
building. So but it gave us an idea that maybe we could do something and we could not have
a back door. And I think there’s a lot of people
don’t know where the back door is. Because if you walk around
the building it all looks you know there’s no loading docks, no dumpster. But down below,
in technical processing area there’s a tunnel. And it
goes through under the plaza, and comes up in a little building
over on the side which contains an elevator and a loading dock and all the stuff that
goes in a loading dock where stuff comes in. And goes into the
processing area. So that’s how we solved that problem and
I think it worked at the time. I don’t know, Dean does it still
work? Yes.
The answer is yes. That’s the answer.
And to go any further the building plan of which you can’t see up here which I can
tell you a little about . The building itself is very symmetrical, it’s
square, it’s approximately the same on all four sides. Looking
at the Waverly Avenue entrance here on the North went into a big open area. These dots
here are columns and they’re actually, there’s
one there and there’s one there, and over here and over there.
And that’s a 26 by 26 foot module. And that’s what really shaped the building. Because if
fit exactly the typical spacing of the book stacks. Other
than that none of the other elements really had a major effect
on shaping the building. But that was sort of the beginning. That was the module that
started developing on.
And we continued that throughout everything else fit within that.
The processing and periodical library were at the lower level I don’t have that plan
but take my word for it. At the lower level and that’s partly
connected to the tunnel. There was also a big reading room for the
current periodicals. Processing at that time was computerized.
Must have been pretty primitive by today’s standards but
nonetheless there was a computer operation down there.
Looking at the rendering here this is the Waverly Avenue side and the first two floors
were the open public floors, easily accessible, and I’m
glad to see that they are now again easily accessible.
Because at one time they weren’t. But the whole building has adapted reasonably
well. So the first two floors on the elevation here were
open public floors contained reader services, the catalog, general reading space, and now
a coffee shop. That didn’t exist at the time, was supposed
to be connected right directly to the student union.
But at any rate then going up in the upper floors for three, four, and five were identical
in plan. And they were the stack floors.
Again our 26 by 26 foot module, the central elevator of course, and services.
And then on the sixth floor was the rare books and special collections area was deeply set
back and it says it’s saying to me that you know it’s
a different kind of space, its special. And it is. Those of you who
have been there recognize that. And topping off the building is this deep
cornice which sets the whole building, terminates the building,
and unifies the whole composition. The stairs at the corners at each corner, there’s a
vertical stair and a shaft way for the mechanical, electrical equipment.
And anticipating some of Don’s future requirements we thought there was going to be a lot of
wires out back in those days. But we didn’t want to add cost to the building
to include those things so we provided places where
those wires and pipes could be threaded through at a later time. And as a matter of fact during
construction the university decided that the building should be sprinklered. We sort of
cringed at that. We’re going to see all the sprinkler piping
especially where the structure is close. But as it turned out we had left chases through
the beams and the sprinkler pipes on the stack floors
were simply threaded through those chases that we left and now the sprinklers are set
up within the structure. You can still see them but they’re
not hanging down on pipe hangers and so forth. So it was fortuitous that we thought about
wires and ended up being sprinkler pipes. But it worked.
Security control were major issues in the library at that time so that on the first
floor we entered here on the upper floor on the second floor we
entered here via bridge which has been removed, but I
understand it is going to be reinstated. But there were major control points at those
entrances. To prevent any loss of the books. There were alarmed exits so if you went through
an exit into one of the stairwells on the upper floors
theoretically the security person can catch you by the time you got out to the plaza.
And you’re outdoors outside. The fact is you can see
it on this here’s the exit door right there. A sidebar, and I talked about automation information
retrieval, Don Healy, it was in the late sixties and I
mentioned how did we accommodate it and what did we know at the time. But anticipation
was the name of the game. Fact is all of the buildings
that we designed, the dormitories, they had wire ways
placed. We didn’t want to add cost and I explained how that happened.
One of the questions that was asked if you can believe it during the design and even
while we were dealing with Don and his anticipation of the
needs for information retrieval, someone said well, are we
still going to have books in the library? Or will it all be electronic media to be retrieved
somehow into a study carrel. Don remembers some of that stuff.
So it was a question. A lot of things we didn’t know about the information age that was to
come. The nuts and bolts of the building it’s
a poured in place reinforced concrete, I mentioned the module
established the building and its expressed on the exterior with these columns here which
hold up this faceted screen which provides an interesting
place as a matter of fact during the last month or so I’ve
tried to put this together to refresh my memory about what this building is all about I worked
in some of those stack floors, against the outside windows.
And the deep fins of the varying size windows provide
really a human scale to those the big spaces. And it was a very pleasant experience for
me to work there. Quiet, and glimpses of the campus made
me want to go back to school again. It’s a little late for that.
But it was fun being there and it was fun doing that research and putting this together.
The exterior is either poured in place concrete on the exterior,
has sandblasted as have these columns you can see the
aggregate on the columns and its’ a pink granite.
And the screen elements on these floors and the balusters here were precast concrete with
a light wash and exposed aggregate.
So there you have it. The Bird Library: Designing the Bird an Architect’s Tale.
Sixteen years in the making. I was much younger when it started. I was
much younger when it was finished. I’d be very happy to answer any questions
as long as they are reasonable.

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