Thursday, December 8, 2016

Don't let Apple diminish the Carnegie Library

I love my iPad. It's my main reading device, Words with Friends, etc. I once looked forward to going to Apple stores to check out the new systems. The design seemed refreshing. But not anymore.

The Apple aesthetic, thick wood tables, uncluttered layouts, semi-minimalist, has reached its limit. The stores are now, basically, cookie-cutters.

For sure, Apple has done some interesting things with its architectural designs: soaring ceilings, floor to ceiling windows and spiral staircases. It's Shanghai store, for instance, is spectacular.

But once inside, it's really all the same: Tables with equipment on them. That's fine in most places, but not here. Not in the Carnegie Library.

The Washington Business Journal reports that Apple plans to open a "flagship" store in the Carnegie Library near the Washington Convention Center at Mount Vernon Square. It's a beautiful building on a small island of green space.

A landmark building deserves a landmark occupant. But if it's Apple plan produce a copy of existing facilities for this space then the District should reject it.

This building, the product of philanthropy, was a library, it offered education, knowledge and access to world's beyond. The PC, tablet and smartphone are the new portals to knowledge, but they haven't replaced the role of the library.

If Apple wants this building, or some part of it, the building should function as more than a shell for its products. I don't know how that's done, but Apple is certainly capable of creating something that's more than a store. A store that makes the connection between the library and the computer, and shows a path for both.

What worries me is that Apple's reuse of this building will become of symbol -- a point of reference -- for arguing why libraries aren't needed.

What Apple can't do is let this store, in some way, telegraph the triumph of commercialization over the concept of a public library.

This is a historic and beautiful property and District residents should be assured that any future occupants are worthy of it. That may well be Apple, but not based on existing evidence or this announcement.

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