Recently a friend fixed for us to visit the British Library. Inside the British Library there is a big architectural model, of the British Library. Which looks like this:
I have never really given much attention to this building, which I now regret. Because, what a very interesting building it is.
In contrast to most of the modern architecture being done in London at the time when the British Library was built (it was opened in 1973), the British Library looks more like an assemblage of buildings than a building built all at once. Most of London’s big new architect-designed buildings from that time look geometrically pulled together, so to speak. It’s as if the architect was looking for the one big simple shape that would accommodate all the bits of the building, like someone designing the packaging for a complicated bit of equipment that consists of a number of different bits.
But with the British Library, the only unifying principle at work is that all the buildings are made with the same red bricks. That’s how you know it’s all the same building. Otherwise, the way it looks is that way because that was the way the particular bit of the building in that part of the building needed to look. It’s not so much a design as an agglomeration. A brand new exercise in the picturesque. Lots of buildings, all different from each other, all jumbled together, and all built in a similar style.