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DCist Looks at Impact of Shaw’s Watha T. Daniel Library

by Borderstan.com July 5, 2012 at 10:00 am 1,035 3 Comments

From Alden Leonard. Contact him at alden[AT]borderstan.com and follow him @aldenleonard on Twitter.

The Watha T. Daniel Shaw branch of the DC Public Library.  (Luis Gomez Photos)

As many Borderstan readers know, the Watha T. Daniel Public Library in Shaw opened in 2010, creating a striking, modern presence along Rhode Island Avenue NW.

The Shaw branch of the DC Public Library, encased in metal and glass, was followed by similarly ambitious projects in Tenleytown, Anacostia and Benning. The designs, many of which are by world-renowned architect David Adjaye, make it hard to believe the structures are government buildings.

DCist takes a moment to focus on the renaissance of the District’s libraries. It notes that their progressive designs have brought critical acclaim and, more importantly, much-needed attention to the slumping library system.

Librarian Ginnie Cooper points out that these projects are favored by architects, who relish the library’s function-oriented public space. “One architect I know calls them today’s cathedral — a secular, sacred space.”

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  • LisaJDC

    Really wish they would tear down that dreadful MLK library and rebuild. Unfortunately they consider it an architectural wonder.

    • DupontRes

      It would probably seem less unattractive if it didn’t constantly smell of urine in front of it.

  • T

    Minor note: Watha T Daniel was designed by Davis Brody Bond Aedas, not Mr. Adjaye.

    As an architect working nearby, I think it’s a good, modern building (anyone else remember the bunker that previously occupied the site?) Some don’t appreciate the super-graphics (giant letters), the smoothly formed concrete, or the metal skin that shades sun and fills out the urban massing the naturally implies. I like all those things and I appreciate the efficient footprint and public garden/terrace spaces, as well. I use this branch regularly and find it open, bright, and well-used by others.

    MLK is a decent building, too – with high ceilings, huge windows, great views and a sheltered outdoor urban space (great in the rain!) Unfortunately, it is poorly maintained, poorly policed, and generally left to the homeless folks who make the ‘porch’ and the reading rooms their smelly home. Not appealing.

    Given the proper attention and care, both of these buildings should be around for a long time, providing dynamic and bright spaces for readers and visitors alike.

    The two latest additions to DCPL system are by David Adjaye (one in SE and one in SW.) I can’t say that I am enthralled with them, but I’ll reserve real comment until I visit them.


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