Inspirational, pristine, bold: The Stockholm Public Library by Gunnar Asplund, ’tis a marvelous wonder. I enjoyed the rotunda immensely, and I appreciate Nordic Classism so much — there quite a lot in Stockholm. I describe it as ‘politely abstracted’. They experimented with modernism, but on less grand of a scale as in other places, and in a much less extreme way.
But this is the part the text books and the photos leave out! I believe the space below was originally intended to be a ‘market hall’; now it is occupied by a 7-Eleven, falafel joint, appliance store, and McDonald’s.
The design is classified as ‘Pre-Modern’, and that is more than evident in its treatment of its public space and the urban fabric/streetscape. The public plazas to the north/front of the library are removed from the street, and shaded by building: therefore, dead. And for some reason the area with signage has been allowed to deteriorate, even though the building facade is in great shape. The rotunda is truly wonderful, but the relationship of the building to its urban context is disappointing, and tragically a harbinger of the Modernist ideas to come. The building’s removal from the street isolates and sterilizes it as both an entity and an institution; it feels out of place in this neighborhood which could use the cultural vitality of a library of this caliber.