Los Angeles Central Library: A History of Its Art and Architecture by Arnold Schwartzman and Stephen Gee
the fight to build a new building in the early 1900s, to the fight to keep it standing
during the mid ’70s, this profusely illustrated book follows the course of LA
Central Library. As author Stephen Gee aptly states: “Like the history of the
city in which it was conceived, the saga of the Los Angeles Central Library is
a powerful tale of politics, ambition, and reinvention.”
The book chronicles the Library’s
course through its several locations prior to the now-historic 1926 building by
Bertram Goodhue, to its disrepair, fires, and ultimate 1993 restoration and
addition by Norman Pfeiffer, FAIA, of Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer.
It should be no surprise that a book
about a library would have historical documents to show. A sepia-toned photo
from 1889 shows studious patrons in its City Hall location, while a newspaper
editorial illustration implores citizens with an image of a defeated reader
surrounded by piles of books (“Los Angeles! YOU NEED A LIBRARY”).
Arnold Schwartzman’s contemporary
photography presents many delightfully artful details throughout the building
that only the most intrepid visitor would be able to hunt down. Not only are
the finished elements of the building shown, but blueprints and preparatory
materials are juxtaposed with both historic and contemporary photos, adding to
the richness of discovery.
There is discussion of city
librarians, but the main focus here are the architects, artists, and craftsmen
who created this veritable temple to the written word. Individual chapters
herald the creative forces involved—“The Architect,” “The Associate Architect,”
“The Iconographer”—honoring the achievements of Goodhue, Carleton Monroe
Winslow, Hartley Burr Alexander, Lee Lawrie, Julian Ellsworth Garnsey, Dean
Cornwell, and Albert Herter. In a subtle tribute, the book’s main text is set
in Cheltenham Roman, a font Goodhue designed in 1896.
Press; 240 pages; hardcover, $45; softcover, $30.