On Friday, Amber and I went into Stuttgart to see the Opera, about which more later, and made a detour en route to visit the newly remodeled Stuttgart City Library. I knew, depute the lack of directional specificity on the part of Broom-Helga the Wicked, our typically-Swabian helper at the tourist office, that we had the right building because I'd seen the drawings from
, but we approached the glowing stack of blue cubes with some hesitation, not only because it looked so little like a library, and not only because it was raining and we didn't want to wander too far into what looked like a construction zone cum office park, but because the only markings on the building's exterior were some three characters in Arabic, carved into the white stone. If I've seen a less-reassuring approach, I'm sure I couldn't name it.
Once inside though, all is well. Or, nearly all: there aren't any books for awhile. They begin on the fourth floor. The first few floors are given over to "media," which is usually done badly, but which Stuttgart manages to do pretty well here. There are rows of flatscreen TV's, listening stations for the vast music library (this is Germany after all) including private listening rooms full of couches and pretty-serious equipment, and various adolescents strewn about like shwarma wrappers plugged into the laptops one can rent from the desk for less admirable forms of "research."
The central receiving room is a giant cube, white and undecorated, without furniture or markings, and while this enthusiast appreciates the grand gesture, the space does feel a little wasted in this case. What do we need all that absence
, in a space like this? Libraries are for contemplation, sure, but isn't it active contemplation we're after, rather than the absence one hopes for in a cloister?
When, having wound around the exterior up four flights of white tunneling, and having shaken off the suspicious feeling that someone might be above, watching and promising cheese, the books appear and color explodes everywhere.
Another experiment in the linearity of libraries, not unlike Rem Koolhaas' stunning (and similarly difficult) glass refraction in downtown Seattle, the Biblio anchors a developing area off the Schlossplatz that attempts to lure both tourists and residents through the sleek, if over-planned, spaces between the skyscrapers, towards a feeling for the real daily life of this sturdy and serious place.