Low Library
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Architect McKim, Mead and White
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Location New York, New York   map
Date 1903   timeline
Building Type academic library
 Construction System concrete and plaster with steel trusses
Climate temperate
Context urban park campus
Style Neoclassical
Notes At Columbia University, on main plaza. large dome on cross plan.
Images

 


Photo, historical

Photo, historical

Photo, historical
Drawings

 

Contributions appreciated

Discussion Low Library Commentary

“From all points one is ultimately pulled toward the Low with its great Ionic portico and granite columns sitting on white marble bases...The Low Library served a double function, both as a library and as the ritualistic center of the campus, the holy center of learning. ...Frequently compared to a variety of sources such as the Pantheon, the Library of Congress, and the Rotunda at University of Virginia, the final design of the library was peculiarly McKim’s solution. As a functional library, it never worked very well, controlled by the powerful abstract geometry. The plan is essentially a Greek cross, the void at the center used for the reading room is the dominant element. This is surrounded by a ambulatory, and the other functions of the library, such as specialized reading rooms, catalogue and stacks, are pushed into the wings. The consequence is a procession to the center; the dome and space overpower while directional orientation to the necesseties, such as looking up a book, are afterthoughts. On the exterior, the building has certain features typical of McKim. While details such as the moldings or the antifixae on the cornice of the drum are particularly refined, there is a certain primitivism to McKim’s composition....Only the details are refined, the rest of the building has a powerful, rude strength of classicism being reborn.”

— Richard Guy Wilson. McKim, Mead & White Architects. p177.

Resources
Sources on Low Library

Benjamin Blom. A Monograph of the Works of McKim, Mead & White, 1879-1915. With an essay by Leland Roth. New York: Benjamin Blom, 1973.photo of exterior, plate 48.

Edward Ford. The Details of Modern Architecture. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1990. exterior photo, section drawings showing as-proposed and as-built, p68-71.

Richard Guy Wilson. McKim, Mead & White Architects. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 1983. ISBN 0-8478-0491-7. LC 83-4534. NA737.M4W54 1983. p177.

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