Duluth Public Library [1980]

Gunnar Birkerts

‘The building form is directional [.] Both ends are not the same. It is like a ship anchored at the mall, indicating its direction where it will depart.’

Latvian-born, German-educated Gunner Birkerts studied under Modernist great Eero Saarinen before going on to establish his own firm in 1959. The Duluth Public Library, although not as well known as his Federal Reserve Bank Building in Minneapolis, represents a culmination of his reduced glass and steel construction distilled with unwavering dynamic sculptural tendencies. The form pulls from its lake-adjacent context and carries the motif of an anchored ore boat throughout – a symbol of the city. Upper floors cantilever over public space adding necessity to the Library’s sculptural form and the grey steel panels form ribbons with adjacent glazing – with a palette reflective of historical buildings that surround. A fine modernist work, the Library has recently come under attack for its ‘unwieldy’ character and faces the risk of being torn down.

For a wonderful resource on the work, see an article here.

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