Digital Athenaeum - A Place for the Manifestation of the Information Age
Building Type: Library
Location: Downtown Los Angeles, CA
Class: Degree Project, Woodbury University
Professor: John Southern + Jennifer Bonner
Date: Spring 2011

What happens when the physicality of printed media can no longer keep pace with the information age? How does the rise of information infrastructure effect architecture spatially?

Create a sense of place, provide a custom tailored space to facillitate the digital information environment and explore the techtonics of structure in relation to the digital infrastructure in order to create a place unique to the user. The digital library must be functional and adaptive to growth.

Research topic. Diagram program requirements and remove antiquated program. Investigate site in Downtown Los Angeles. Question typical structural systems. Investigate data infrastructure. Investigate phenomenological effects. Research concept, diagram site according to concept, generate program, order spatial sequence of program to concept, generate form. Resolve.

The structural shell becomes the data storage device. Form is driven by its inherent qualities of storage, cooling, and activity. Digital Forest. Digital Columbarium. Housing both pure information and personal memory.

Design Concept:
Although storage of printed media, and the physicality of media itself has played an integral role in shaping society since the first books were produced, the spatial architecture of the printed word cannot keep pace with the digital age. In addition, advances in electronic reading devices, such as the Amazon Kindle, are quickly becoming environmentally sensitive alternatives to the traditional paperback book. The proliferation of digital media, coupled with the continued evolution of the digital storage industry has brought the notion of the library into question. One might go so far as to suggest, that the typology of the library has been rendered obsolete and thus will eventually be replaced by a version of a data center. However, data centers are privately owned and are entirely inaccessible to the public, and, given the physically large building footprint, data centers are usually located on the periphery of major metropolitan areas. This project seeks to revive the dying typology of the library, and to do this, the library must be re-imagined. The project will merge the typology of the library with the typology of a data center to create a hybrid public information access point. The archive represents the totality of the world and the complete scope of human knowledge, and should therefore be located at the center of a major metropolitan area. Instead of hunting through rows and rows of books, users can interface with a multi-media data transmission interface which would have access to the entire archive of human knowledge. Instead of storing books, the library would archive and store servers, allowing users to interact with each other and with the servers themselves. As the library shifts away from storing physical cultural artifacts, new programmatic opportunities arise, such as the ability to store and access the digital life left by a loved one who has passed on. The introduction of a digital columbarium, as well as civically focused and digitally influenced program fi rmly seats the library within the heart of the major metropolitan area of Los Angeles. The project will not be an attempt to merely optimize access to paper, rather, it is an attempt to spatialize the digital information age physically. Given the pervasive ubiquity of digital media, and the shifting focus towards archiving information digitally, Digital Athenæum seeks to redefi ne the role of the library within the context of the community and seeks to question traditional methods of media access in the twenty-first century.

Case Study:
The IBM building, and the Bell Laboratories, by Eero Saarinen, were among the fi rst buildings to question how people access data, and how the building can perform to enhance this relationship. The IBM building approached technology as deep structure, whereas the Bell Laboratories saw the building itself as hardware. Lastly, The Seattle Central Library changed the way people use libraries, as well as fundamentally altered the way the library itself functions. Through reshuffl ing program and accommodating fl exibility, the library was optimized to its peak function. However, in a digitally data-dependent world, the OMA model is obsolete. This project seeks to not only reshuffle the programmatic needs of the library, but questions the basic programmatic assumptions of the library itself. The project will not be an attempt to merely optimize access to paper; rather, it is an attempt to spatialize the digital information age past Saarinen’s initial attempts. The programmatic parti and the basic functions of the library will drive the form and scope of the building in order to produce a sensory and tactile environment.