Oh my god!
Something strange must have happened to the big public library building! I’ve just got off the train, and I’m not threatened by its imminent shadow as usual! How could that be? Where is the building? I really have to go to this library! - I need a book… one of these books which – maybe - could elevate the human mind. But where the devil …? No, that’s impossible! Books have to be treated in a serious way! They have to be protected! And, on that score, the library building was just right: solid, similar to Dogbert Duck’s money depository. Sitting on its slightly inclined pedestal it represented a menacing and almost inaccessible cultural autonomy. The solid sarcophagus-like wrapping seemed to be perfectly safe! … Or at least I thought so. |
Carefully I’m climbing down the stairs of the station. An enormous long fissure bursts the ground where once stood the library. Downwards I pick up some news fragments: “During the night an ear-splitting noise … a heavy tremor … some seismic motion … perhaps a subterranean volcano … the library knocked over, turned upside down and rammed into the subsoil … maybe the heart took revenge on the spirit: as we know our sentimental organ is attracted by the center of the earth. A natural law! Maybe the library had only preferred to turn back to the basics after all this elevation of spirits and minds! …” |
In a first stadium the library seemed to have assumed a simply reversed position, but - walking on the ceilings – it could still be used as it was. Its roof decorations were planted deep into the ground, the structure appeared to be robust and well anchored. But then, with another jerk, the building subsided again and sunk into an alarming lop-sided position. At that point, one thought the library was lost forever… |
Now a few people pause in front of the scene of the accident. Someone believes to see a stream of molten lava, inundating the holes in the ground with its red liquids, whereas more attentive observers catch sight of a strong source of light. So perhaps not everything has vanished? Indeed! Just a few moments later the library building turns out to be still intact, or at least partially, and all the books undamaged. “And even better”, some people are shouting themselves hoarse, “finally we have an archaeological find downtown Chicago!” |
The big crater of this night, now almost re-contracted, has left a landscape of big crystallized fragments forming an open city space. The field of tension finds its references in the vanishing points of the adjacent buildings and corners. Tense lines penetrate into the piazza. They form gaps and holes, paths and bridges which invite to enter the new library and see the rests of the old one. New stairways allow the descent to the core of the ground. The interior spaces are enormous, and the almost obtrusive geometries of the old library building, once enthroned above earth level, have become memory. They aren’t threatening any more; piece by piece they can be visited and seen at close range, almost without distortion. The new reading spaces are suspended from the old library’s surrounding walls. Well, the under-earth building is not quite suffused with daylight, but to preserve the books, they shouldn’t be exposed to too much of it. However, the sun is penetrating into the most important reading areas; and cocoons and satellites, navigating underneath just like celestial bodies, form additional sources of light. |
Perhaps there is another explanation of the incident: the surrounding blocks - practical Americans - desired a neighbour that didn’t suffer from obsessions: the carnival-celebrating library with its feather-like head jewelry brought them at the end of their tether. If Sullivan couldn’t construct any more, why should a building disfigure this place? |
Not bad! I have found the book I wanted, but I don’t want to read it at home: today it isn’t cold outside, and I will have a look for a place in the sun on the square, maybe along the water vein next to the big fissure, or beside the surface of water on West Congress Parkway. Coming back tomorrow, I might find everything as it had been before … |
© michelangelo acciaro
Chicago city library by michelangelo acciaro in United States won the WA Award Cycle 4. Please find below the WA Award poster for this project.
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