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Another humdinger from Architecture central. . . behold: the new Deschutes Library at Steven’s Ranch, Oregon, designed by Miller Hull Architects, a giant corporate practice ruled by DEI with dual headquarters in Seattle and San Diego. What you see (and get) are the fad tropes of the moment: alt energy to “reduce greenhouse gases” (cuz “climate change’); a “holistic framework of sustainability goals and performance features designed to achieve LEED Silver” certification; and an exterior design based on “[r]eflecting the nature of its surroundings. . . the library’s base is made of regional stone and dry-toned metal, while its staggered roof line mimics the mountains in the distance with its undulating roof plane – human-made peaks and valleys.”

This last part, the actual look of the building, follows a popular grad-school metaphysic that has become a tiresome and pointless cliche. The actual reason for it is that most people not mentally-ill do not like contemporary architecture, so the trick is to pretend that the building actually springs out of the landscape, the local ecology — it’s nature you see!  You can’t hate it. . . plus it’s totally original, one-of-a-kind, never been thought of, conceived, seen before! 

The interior, below, just suggests a fantastic waste of space that could have been devoted to galleries, reading rooms, lecture halls — and still have afforded a grand ceiling height of up to 20 feet.  By the way, heat rises. It will require elaborate duct-work and fans to push the heat around that atrium in the cold Oregon winter (January temperatures average high 35, average low 19).

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About James Howard Kunstler

View all posts by James Howard Kunstler
James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency and the four-book series of World Made By Hand novels, set in a post economic crash American future. His most recent book is Living in the Long Emergency; Global Crisis, the Failure of the Futurists, and the Early Adapters Who Are Showing Us the Way Forward. Jim lives on a homestead in Washington County, New. York, where he tends his garden and communes with his chickens.

13 Responses to “July 2024”

  1. tucsonspur July 3, 2024 at 6:38 pm #

    I don’t think that it’s all that bad. Should they house the books in tents or hogans or log cabins? I guess you could also say that the roofline mimics an ocean wave, but the mountain reference is more appropriate here. If it could only reflect the “Three Sisters” in the Cascades.

    Heating could be a problem, but that steaming coffee cup could help heat things up a bit. Hot coffee and ‘garments’ as espoused by old Ebenezer Scrooge just might do the trick.

    Timber could be a bit darker.

    I found the following interesting:

    “Part library, part museum, part “retail” space — Central will also be increasing its own “Library of Things” collection, which enables visitors to borrow beyond the book. With a robust assortment of tools and objects, it allows patrons to check out anything from an air fryer to a sewing machine to a fly-fishing kit. By encouraging borrowing rather than buying, this system allows people to “try things on” without a financial commitment, creating the opportunity for people to experiment with subjects — with hobbies, and to continue sustaining a lifelong journey of curiosity.

    Creating and experimenting are demonstrably prioritized at the Central Library, and its spaces that are devoted to epitomizing these ideals. Creative spaces include equipment and flexible space to host a variety of activities for all ages; from crafts, to quilting, to emerging technology and more. When not in use with scheduled programs, the spaces open up and allow users to come in and use the space doing their favorite hobby:”

    Let us also be careful not to use the tired old tropes in attacking anything that is built with environmental concerns. A reasonable concern for the environment is a good thing, let’s not forget that.

    I don’t know how far Miller Hull goes with its DEI philosophy, but there certainly has been a surfeit of it already by our government, by our educational systems, and by the media. So far, in this case however, I can’t find much to complain about.

    I’m intrigued by that huge panel on the right wall.

    • ZrCrypDiK July 15, 2024 at 5:21 am #

      Children and teens!!! They were *DEF* thinking ahead – haha!!!

  2. Zoltar July 3, 2024 at 7:12 pm #

    The first thing one notes is the lavish waste of interior space, requiring a bit of a hike to get from anything to anything else having to do with – you know – a library.

    I am also troubled by the absurd little Popsicle sticks of vestigial columns, suggest that they are needed to support the roof, while being obviously incapable of supporting much of anything at all.

  3. laceration July 3, 2024 at 8:57 pm #

    The eyesore of the month makes it to the city I live in! I never even heard of this area, it is located in an area that was nothing but sagebrush and tumble weeds, by the garbage dump as far as I knew. When I moved here 25 years ago there was a quaint downtown, modest houses adjacent to the river and farms on the outskirts. That there was a decent ski area and tons of mountain biking trails is what got me. You couldn’t give away houses here in those days. I got 3 acres and jaw dropping views of the Cascades for a song. But the place went bad, it is Los Angeles all over again. The population has gone from 37k to over 100,000, billion $$ road projects and Real estate hustlers rule the day. The stupid library is par for the course. Luckily I am on the outskirts of town, a town that I do not even recognize, so it is a little more tolerable. I do wish I knew 1 person who wasn’t an asshole though.

  4. tom clark July 3, 2024 at 9:27 pm #

    Looks like a huge piano with alternating black and white keys turned on its side.

  5. holdfastspike July 4, 2024 at 3:56 am #

    my God, it’s full of Stars….

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  6. KappaJoe July 4, 2024 at 7:05 pm #

    It looks like a freeway noise-blocking wall.

  7. Ishabaka July 5, 2024 at 6:49 am #

    I tend to agree with tucsonspur – not the worst building by far. Not pleasant, but doesn’t seem designed to humiliate, torture, and offend the locals, as so much of modern architecture seems to designed to do.

  8. Jo-G July 5, 2024 at 10:04 am #

    Not that bad. The exterior looks like a wall- not welcoming- but also reminded me of the backs of books on a shelf, not mountains. The interior doesn’t look “cozy”. It looks like a street scape where panhandlers and homeless drug addicts would feel comfortable.

    Books connect us with our more talented ancestors so I want a library to have an ancient feeling. At the University I preferred the oldest library over the newer buildings. Brick and stone work outside, solid wood and wonderful rounded chairs on the inside- with stone or wood floors. The newer libraries were brutal cheap metal plastic synthetic carpet on the inside and just a box on the outside.

    If you go to DC compare the ambiance of the Library of Congress building behind the Capitol building with the James Madison building just across Independence Ave. In the old building I felt I was in the presence of great minds of the past, in the James Madison building I felt like I was in the presence of petty functionaries.

  9. Chris at Fernglade Farm July 6, 2024 at 8:47 pm #

    Hi Jim,

    Buildings are meant to have, or at least project an intended purpose, and the actual product (i.e. books and other media) are dwarfed by the building. It’d be incredibly difficult to heat. Plus, what’s with the floating staircase? Surely it would not be too difficult to add a few supporting posts? The floating construction would have bounce, which frankly would feel unsettling. As someone who has ridden over the West Gate Bridge in Melbourne on a motorbike and been stopped in heavy traffic whilst way up there above the river, you can feel the bridge deck movement in your guts. Up and down and wobble. Not to mention high wind effects. Hmm. The thought then always pops into one’s head: Hope the designers and engineers hadn’t stuffed the calculations up?. Of course history notes that the bridge in question did collapse during construction.

    And also, just a practical matter with the arrangement of the library. Generally libraries tend to have a large manned counter near to the door for obvious reasons. Not a bad idea to deter people from theifing off with product. Then you start wondering, will there be any money left over after construction costs are settled to purchase shelf filling stuff and pay salaries to the people working in there?

    So many questions…



  10. JackStraw July 8, 2024 at 10:37 am #

    It looks like a refurbished shopping mall.

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  11. RobRhodes July 9, 2024 at 8:12 pm #

    If this building reflects the nature of its surroundings there must be a lot of filing cabinets with their drawers open around.

  12. BackRowHeckler July 12, 2024 at 11:23 am #

    That heap will be slated for demolition in about 20 years … after the revenue stream dries up, maintenance is deferred (forever) and the main tenant goes belly up.

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