It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was a dark and stormy night when Ben Quick’s barn burners razed our town’s old main library much like the sacking of the library-at-Alexandria while Santa Monica’s 8.4 million preservationists stood by in complicit silence.
Our lost library building was latter 20th century “municipal moderne” at its best with wonderfully sculpted pre-fab LACMA-like concrete cladding, a set-back eucalyptus grove along Santa Monica Boulevard and a cozy human scale central reading room atrium. Paradise lost.
Now the slum also rises as the new library erupts ponderously upon its parcel — a library plain and tall. Its exterior is painted corpse lips gray (catalogue color “Da Vinci Code Blue”) and rumor holds that the grim structure could convert into a prison in days if needed to hold enemy combatants indefinitely. Hope springs eternal. City leaders may trash the austere new library in a decade or two like the last one, and as the brick and mortar saga continues, leave tragedy to literature and bring triumph back to municipal architecture. Where is Christopher Wren when we need him?