Author : Vanessa De La Hoz

University : Southern California Institute of Architecture

Status : BArch, 2016

Advisors : Eric Owen Moss & Marcelo Spina

Title : Alexandria

Traced back to Alexandria, the library has what can be considered a consistent model; there’s a need for a place, it has to hold books, keep them dry, organized, accessible to those interested in flipping through their pages, all while keeping them relatively safe from fires. Alexandria didn’t make it past this final and most significant point in book survival but it’s safe to say this exact model lives within every library erected to serve a community along a global scale. Now, as we, let’s say those of us above the age of 20, move through the early 80’s, 90’s, into the new millennium and past it, we do so witnessing an exorbitant amount of our day to day change according to how the technological workings of our world have done so. Moving from point A to point B, daily interactions with fellow humans, how you make you coffee, everything remains in a constant motion of change, layer after layer of our existence, constantly on the move.

The time has arrived for this same momentum of transformation to be applied to the sacred library, the same library that first stood on top of the ancient sands of Egypt. Within the days where needing a book is resolved by not leaving a couch thanks to 2 day shipping (if you’re a prime member) how does the library stay relevant? In the days where google and it’s bottomless pit of knowledge remains at our constant disposal 24 hours of everyday of forever, how does a place like library remain relevant? Not relevant as a holder and keeper of books but as an active member of society serving a singular role not being fulfilled by any other constituent. Here is the proposal: the library has to evolve into a new, more active role within a changed society. The library has to rise to the occasion to what the technological whirlwind has brought with it. It has to sprout leaves towards accommodating how our societies have come to seek out, process, and manage information. What this project is proposing is the contemporary replacement of the traditional library. This proposal revolves around the understood structure of what the library has always been and what it needs to be today, replacing worn out systems with those of our 21st century that drive us forward into a new realm of knowledge, production, and understanding.  The punchline: the protagonist, antagonist, and all other variant roles are played by a single member: the robot.

The robot arrived to dismantle the understood establishment, projecting the human race into the next phase of intellectual evolution. It seems as if every field, every working that contributes towards our functioning society has some sort of a relationship with the robot, some more significant than others, of course. The robot, as the key element of this proposal, moves into the library as the books move out. Why are the books moving out? When was the last time the average person went to library to check out a book? It’s simply not happening anymore. What is happening is this sort of viral spread of knowledge consumption which is not coming from books. Instead it’s coming from what I’m going to refer to as the creationist, (not in relation to creationism) the thinkers and processors of ideas exploring and utilizing the technology at their disposal to push the boundaries of the known. The problem with being a creationist, let’s say without deep funding backing him or her up, is having access to the resources to do just that, create. Let’s go back to the proposal: the robots are in, the books are out. The book shelves and reading rooms get replaced with fabrication and resource labs containing 3D printers, CNC mills, sounds labs, physics labs, botany labs, robotics labs, oculus and projection rooms. Suddenly society is presented with a place where the creationist has a vast array of tools at his or her disposal. No longer does he or she worry about where or how to realize ideas, particularly at the dependence of others, a place has been established for them to come and do so.

So we have the proposal and the program is arranged into a formidable composition appealing to a certain crown. But there’s the problem: that certain crowd is small and this all seems like a massive upheaval of a megastructure with 2,000 year old roots for its servitude to be for so few. This means that this proposal not only entails a reform of a public constituent but also of the many who make up the society that encompass it. In other words, the gap between where so few of us are technologically and where so many of our fellow comrades are not has to close.

The creationists go, find, seek, and investigate what technology is available and how it can be used. Unfortunately for the masses, the same ambitions and curiosities get clouded by the blanket of the “social structure order,” the opiate, in which they’re decoyed into living in. The success behind this proposal requires a reform, educationally, socially, personal, for the greater numbers to embrace without fear of misunderstanding that anyone can create.  This isn’t implied as in anyone and everyone can be Picasso, but to state that a creationist can come from anywhere, it’s a matter of getting these thinkers to the right resources and tools. Here is where the library reaches a new position as educator. Until the number of users is high enough for such a place to function without falling as a wasteland, the library not only has to offer the resources but offer the education to use what’s found within. The library here has an opportunity to heighten its role within its society into that of a massive educator for the 21st century. As within, it houses the library of robots meant to serve the creationists, it must also provide the passers of the torch, opening the way for the next wave of thinkers who otherwise wouldn’t have access to such information. The library must house the information as well as project it out into the minds of those who make up it communal context.

As this library moves forward with educating, helping propel our societies into the already passing future and its technological happenings, it’s important that this sort of place serves the past as much as it serves the future. I don’t think it’s possible or intelligent for a place such as this to separate itself entirely from its ancient papyrus roots which contains none other than our entire human history. As this new library enriches for the future and educates for the present, it must also transfer the importance and eminence of all that has taken places within the history of the book and what it means within our existence. Without this transfer of history, the book, its significance and beauty could someday be entirely lost. What happens to the books when societies no longer pick them up? The book, particularly those which even today would never be touched or looked at outside of a glass box, needs a place to die in peace where it can be remembered and cherished for what it was. The second part of this proposal presents a portion of the library as a mausoleum, a place where ancient writings are housed and displayed for the population to see and remember. The ancient book doesn’t need to die; it needs to be remembered for where it stood within our time of progression and understanding, illustrating how far we’ve leaped from the days of Alexandria. The same way this proposal structures an educational system that serves towards our progression forward, it’s essential to remain allied with a past we cannot afford to forget. 

One of the greatest impacts of this proposal for the contemporary model of the library is how far it extends into what doesn’t exist and simultaneously into what will never be seen again. The proposal for this structure of program and space carries an enormous impact on ideas that have yet to be conceived while presenting a colossal history to a society susceptible to forgetting. This library manages to exist within multiple prisms of time, serving each sector loyally as a keeper and holder of knowledge for the masses.

Interview

S//A : What’s the most important aspect of this project that we should be aware of?
Vanessa De La Hoz_ This project sits as a gateway within the Potter's field along the Themes river in between the Tower of London and the Shard Tower. Its location places it as a transitory point between the London that was and the new London that is to come. This Project proposes how library has to evolve into a new, more active role within a changing context while still serving as a constituent for ideas and creation. The library has to rise to the occasion to what the technological whirlwind has brought with it and sprout leaves towards accommodating how our societies have come to seek out, process, and manage information. This proposal revolves around the understood structure of what the library has always been and what it needs to be today, replacing worn out systems with those of our 21st century that drive us forward into a new realm of knowledge, production, and understanding. One of the greatest impacts of this proposal for the contemporary model is how far it extends into what doesn’t exist and simultaneously into what will never be seen again. The proposal for this structure of program and space carries an enormous impact on ideas that have yet to be conceived while presenting a colossal history to a society susceptible to forgetting. This library manages to exist within multiple prisms of time, serving each sector loyally as a keeper and patron of knowledge for the masses.

S//A : What other fields outside of architecture interest you?
VDLH_ Set Design
Fashion/Couture Design
Sculpture
Classic Literature
Urban Planning
Interpretive Dance & Ballet

S//A : Most important thing you learned in architecture school?
VDLH_ My intuition as a thinker and designer is my greatest ally.

S//A : Describe your dream project?
VDLH_My dream project is one where the user's interaction with their surroundings are amplified thanks to the power of a design that breaks the rigidity of day-to-day living. I hope to someday create a place that draws people in, catching their attention and sparking curiosity. A place that simultaneously serves those who seek a place for tranquility while fortifying a community as a moment in space of coherence and union.