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The new Mitchell Park library is ugly!

Original post made by Jane on Sep 23, 2012

This new library is not only ugly, but it does not fit in the Palo Alto context. It is not welcoming to either kids or adults. It has an industrial post-modern European look, as if we are just non-feeling automotons addicited to efficiencies. Does our ARB have no aesthetic vision? Why are we paying such a high price for such an abysmal turkey?

Comments (17)

Posted by I think, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2012 at 5:47 pm

I think someone forgot to drink their PA koolaid.


Posted by I like it, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 24, 2012 at 8:39 am

I actually think it looks pretty nice. Can't wait for it to open. It will be a big improvement over the old library, and the library and community center will be great spaces for Palo Altans of all ages to gather an participate in community events.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 24, 2012 at 9:07 am

This new library is not a charming library with character. It does have setback which makes a change from some of the other buildings we are getting so from that point of view it is not as bad. But, it looks like Ikea or office space. We do not need so many libraries, and I can't see this place becoming a nice spot for a lazy lunch with a book, sitting on the grass and enjoying the open space away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life as I used to.

The old set up was definitely nicer looking but in terrible condition.


Posted by Another resident, a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 24, 2012 at 11:14 am

It is bloated and oversized like the oversized obese vehicles people are driving. You can hardly drive through a street safely with those monsters parked on both sides.
Yes, cost overruns and 1 year delay for completion is that what we paid for?


Posted by It's OK, a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 24, 2012 at 11:49 am

My complaint about the Mitchell Park Library is it's color scheme. Sometimes blue and grey can go very well together but you must get the right shades. The blue and grey coloring on the Mitchell Park library simply doesn't blend.

As for all the glass out front - how earthquake safe is it?

I'm so relieved they didn't build the original library under Measure D which was designed with underground parking to extend over the tennis and paddle ball courts. It would have dominated Mitchell Park.


Posted by Jane, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 24, 2012 at 12:05 pm

One benefit of the library construction project is that it has forced me, and many others, to walk through the local little league park, on our way to Mitchell Park. What a charming and peaceful place! Old fashioned simple, with no pretentions. Picnic tables, BBQ pits, real grass, trees, shade, clean and kids playing baseball. Norman Rockwell scene, very peacefull and fulfilling.

Of course, directly behind the little league park is this ugly, abstract, industrial style, egotistic new library building. Our ARB should have talked to the little league people, for design principles.


Posted by tunnel vision, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 24, 2012 at 12:17 pm

I'm sure it will be nice on the inside. Pity they couldn't do something with the outside.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 24, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Our ARB seems to be enamored with post-modern and modern architecture and not very well done at that (think the new Walgreens downtown, the building where Blockbuster was years ago on University, the AT&T store on El Camino...) I actually don't mind Mitchell Park and at least it is set back a bit. but the JCC, ugh.


Posted by Jane, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 24, 2012 at 5:03 pm

For a city that honors Birge Clark, this new severe and cynical style is a dishonor to him. For example the Downtown post office was designed by Clark and it is very popular, and respected. Somehow, we are ignoring the soft ethic of human aesthetic comfort and pleasure, and replacing it with designer ego. The new Mitchell Park library is a monument to nothingness, as intended, apparently. Birge would turn over in his grave, if he had to witness what is happening now.

The only good thing about this design disaster is that it forces us to us to walk through the little league park. I recommend that stroll. Lovely.


Posted by Ronnie, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 27, 2012 at 11:12 am

Thank you for this post. I really agree with you. While I'll be happy to have it completed, and obviously will enjoy the upgraded facilities, it is really a very "corporate" sanitized, boring design.

I loved the old shake roof of the previous building, the low pitched roof, etc. It reminds me a little of how beautiful the old Hyatt Rickey's was (at least the non-high rise) portion, and that was razed to make way for just another boring "modern" housing development.

Too late now to do much about it, but for the future they should really honor some more of the styles of the past in public buildings.


Posted by BG, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Sep 27, 2012 at 7:49 pm

agree.....this mess is out of place. Further proof the planning department needs to be overhauled.

Look at recent disaster developments: zero lot-line for rickeys, alma plaza, jcc (and what is with the year-round billboard?) and now this joke.


Posted by complains too much, a resident of Community Center
on Sep 27, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Perhaps people should stop complaining about the JCC. Also if you want to complain, the JCC is a giant facility not just the corner of San Antonio and Charleston that everyone had their knivkers in a twist about.


Posted by Ronnie, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 27, 2012 at 11:38 pm

I think with the JCC there's less to complain about since it really just replaced an abandoned office building that wasn't very attractive (and the KFC).
With the library (and Rickeys) they took buildings that had a very nice local character and turned them into something completely different.

This is not a criticism of the organization or what they do - I'm just talking about the building- the JCC isn't a very friendly space at all. Its all concrete. Its very functional, but just imposing and cold. The choice of materials is very institutional, or at least what big institutions are choosing now.

That's what I love about our wonderful school buildings, and older library buildings - they are on a very nice human scale - Its comforting and warm, not cold and menacing. I always feel very at ease at any of the current libraries. I love the one story design. The JCC totally makes me nervous - you have to check in with a guard, find parking in this garage or that huge "pit," the make your way through all this concrete and metal. It looks like the new library is headed in that direction.


Posted by Keep the list growing, a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 28, 2012 at 10:33 am

"recent disaster developments: zero lot-line for rickeys, alma plaza, jcc," Add Cheesecake Factory, Mitchell Park Library
Need to keep this list growing so people who say stop complaining figure out that the Architectural Board is approving bad, bloated design and the city council is letting them get away with it.


Posted by Jane, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 28, 2012 at 3:18 pm

I think the philosophy of efficiency, especially of the modernist European tract, is driving such awful designs. For example, global warming provides an excuse for maximun glass exposure and transit hubs. Subsidized housing is also an excuse to allow absurd designs, because the developers know that this will sell their projects to our city council. The ARB lacks a sense of design, outside the prescriptions of the efficiency dictates. Our city council is locked into the subsidized housing political mandates.

Palo Alto is, one project at a time, being turned into something that obviates the attraction, the charm, of Palo Alto. New buildings can and should be built, but they need to have a warmth and charm to them, even if it means resisting the efficiency czars and the housing bullies.

Are we doomed to continue with this insensitive approach? Is there a Birge Clark yet left to help us? Do we have any politicians left that are willing to confront the current philosophical mandates?


Posted by Jan H., a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 4, 2012 at 11:02 pm

Jan H. is a registered user.

It is not attractive, but not hideous , either. True, architects with talent are scarce. But shouldn't we be glad that at least we will have a new, large library south of Oregon?


Posted by Keep the list growing, a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2012 at 11:20 pm

No, Jan H.
For a $76 million dollar bond we have a right to expect talent and competence. We are getting neither.
But the city haired them again to work on the Cubberley design. Someone in the city must be getting something out of it. Steve Emslie is in charge of these projects.


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