Ordering Structures Applied to the Image of the IDEA STORE, WHITE CHAPEL
ARUB SAQIB ENVS 3021 2010 - 2011
Ordering the Other A Study of Ordering Structures Applied to the Image of the Idea Store, Whitechapel
'The hut was of ... gum slabs ... and so far apart that the hand might be thrust through between each ... The floor was earthen, not trodden clay, but gravely and full of holes ... Partitions of slabs, a doorway but no door. A hole cut in the slabs eighteen inches squared served as a window ... A dirty sheep yard fenced off with bushes and boughs of trees exhaled odours not far off.'1 Above is a 19th Century account by an English settler of a squatter hut in the wilderness of Australia’s colonial frontier. Such accounts ‘of the actual experiences of the settler’2 were distributed in England at the time, enabling ‘the stranger arriving in the colony to form a due estimate of what he has to bear, and what he should avoid.’3 Exposure to unfamiliar dangers was a challenge facing settlers. Thus the observer is highly critical of the hut for its lack of fortification. The clear intrusion of something foreign, whether human hand or unpleasant odour, is described leaking from outside in. The boundaries are noted to be undefined. Each element within the dwelling; wall, floor, door and window, is clumsy and incomplete. The description hints at disorder, resulting from a careless attempt to resolve a threatening problem. Security is not provided by a shelter rendered with cracks, holes and leaky entry points.
buildings were required to establish order and give a sense of permanence to settlers. Clearly defined boundaries were needed to segregate and protect the settler from the foreign other. Given this context, the ‘crack’, as perceived by 18th Century settlers, was a highly undesirable architectural feature in the assertion of order.
J Henderson, Excursions and Adventures in New South Wales Volume I, London: W.Shoberl 1851, p.192 - 193 J Henderson, Excursions and Adventures in New South Wales Volume I, London: W.Shoberl 1851, A2, preface 3 J Henderson, Excursions and Adventures in New South Wales Volume I, London: W.Shoberl 1851, A2, preface 2
Two hundred years later, the ‘crack’ becomes a designed architectural motif4 in buildings that historian Adrian Forty describes as ‘chaotic and all inclusive,’ yet remaining ‘strongly attached to order.’5 One such ‘crack’ in a building that exists to establish order is in David Adjaye’s Idea Store (2005), a public library in Whitechapel. This paper aims to deconstruct the image of the Idea Store that has been created and propagated by the agents involved, to decipher how order is achieved amidst chaotic all-inclusiveness. Material published by architect David Adjaye, client Tower Hamlets Council and the press will be scrutinised to unravel the order woven into the inclusiveness image of this library. The language around this building is one of inclusion, participation and democracy, or what theorist Robert Maxwell calls a 'sweet disorder'. He suggests that for order to be manifested, it must be balanced in a way that allows it to function whilst going unnoticed.6 By contrasting the architect's perception of his own design with the client's brief, I aim to decipher where compromises have been made. I will then deconstruct the fine tuned image of the Idea Store that was sold to the public through London's newspapers. In the Idea Store, several entries blur the boundaries between outside and inside. The first crack is a gaping atrium space created between building and facade. The facade cantilevers over the busy street market below. A steel elevator is slotted into the building, directly connecting the loud street to the heart of the library with a bold and welcoming frankness reminiscent to that of the Pompidou. Diagonal cuts and insertions around the perimeter of the building seem to render it completely vulnerable. This blurred boundary can only be understood if the Idea Store is read in a context where the building does not need to fortify. Here, the function of order is very different to what it was two hundred years ago in, for example, the colonial frontier. As Forty states, the last two hundred and fifty years have been an attempt to ‘escape’ the fallacy of visual order.7 This is especially true in public buildings where the role of order is a complicated to manifest. As Ghirardo notes in her critique of
Peter Weibel, Beyond Art: A Third Culture, New York: SpringgerWien, 2005, p.578 Forty, Adrian, Words and Buildings, London: Thames & Hudson, 2000, p.248 6 Maxwell, Robert, Sweet Disorder, New York: Princeton Papers on Architecture, 1993, p. 21 - 22 7 Forty, Adrian, Words and Buildings, London: Thames & Hudson, 2000, p.243 5
post-modernist architecture, public spaces in the last hundred years have 'been optimistically defined as the space of the collective, understood not as belonging to any individual ... but to the people as a whole.'8 Given such a definition of ownership, order and boundaries become problematic concepts. In a space that should belong to everyone, what are the roles of exclusion, order and control? The Idea Store brief provided by Tower Hamlets Council quickly reveals the extent to which order is needed to operate in this apparently neutral space. As Ghirardo goes on to note, although public space is 'optimistically celebrated as open to all, it often in reality masks a series of exclusionary practices ... that limit the definition of â€˜publicâ€™ in important ways.'9 London's East End has an interesting power relationship with the city's centre. Tower Hamlets is one of the poorest boroughs, ridden with poverty and unemployment10. Order here is constantly being imposed in subtle ways. Adjaye's designs play an active role; either through private homes for artists contributing to a slow gentrification, for example, Dirty House (2002) or through public buildings like the Idea Store. Understanding Adjaye's approach to the Idea Store is the first step in unravelling its image.
The Idea Store Image: Designed by Adjaye Associates
Adjaye's stance on public space is detailed in his essay Learning from Lagos. Here, Adjaye contrasts the colonial layout of public space with the native inhabitation of it. He criticises the formalised modes of colonial ordering systems. On the architecture of the Catholic church he notes;
Ghirardo, Diane, Architecture after Modernism, London: Thames & Hudson, 1996, p. 43 Ghirardo, Diane, Architecture after Modernism, London: Thames & Hudson, 1996, p. 43 10 Tower Hamlets, A Library and Lifelong Learning Development Strategy, Apr 1999, p.28 9
'The verticality ... insists on its superiority to the urban vernacular, it loudly demands a distinctive mode of genuflection from its congregation rather than investing in a horizontality that spreads out to participate in the lateral modes of everyday society.'11 Adjaye associates verticality with imposing superiority.12 He insists on a horizontality inclined towards growth and participation. One then questions the verticality of the Idea Store, standing one storey taller than its surrounding buildings. Adjaye reasons that the building's verticality reflects ‘its significance for the local community.’13 Attempting to connect the building on a horizontal plane, he claims the Idea Store takes its scale from surrounding large buildings14 like the nearby Royal London Hospital. By grounding the building's scale in relation to other buildings on Whitechapel Road, a 'horizontality that spreads' is introduced. He observes that the Idea Store can be seen as a single building or a group of buildings.15 This grouping would be read as horizontal, with each level in the library becoming its own hub of community, layered and growing organically from Whitechapel Road. Adjaye is also critical of the modernist master plan16. He questions ‘the validity of imposing certain notions of modernity on the world.’17 Adjaye notes that along the modernist master-planning in Kigali, Rwanda;
‘There is an economic deprivation and also an opportunistic kind of negotiation. It gives rise to a layering that fills the gaps between the typological modernist grid ... You have a densification of the street plane that was not envisaged in original plans, which predicted that people would walk through the arcades. What you find instead is a ... humanizing of the architecture style.’18 Adjaye observes conditions (fig.1) which he claims the utopian modernism of Belgian colonialists does not consider. In this busy street, the luxury of organisation cannot be afforded amidst economic 11
Adjaye, David, Making Public Buildings, London: Thames & Hudson, 2006, p.208 Adjaye, David, Making Public Buildings, London: Thames & Hudson, 2006, p.208 13 Adjaye, David, Making Public Buildings, London: Thames & Hudson, 2006, p.182 14 Adjaye, David, Making Public Buildings, London: Thames & Hudson, 2006, p.182 15 Adjaye, David, Making Public Buildings, London: Thames & Hudson, 2006, p.188 16 Adjaye, David, Making Public Buildings, London: Thames & Hudson, 2006, p.208 17 Adjaye, David, Making Public Buildings, London: Thames & Hudson, 2006, p.210 18 Adjaye, David, Making Public Buildings, London: Thames & Hudson, 2006, p.208 12
and political turmoil. He describes a ‘layering that fills the gaps’ between the natural and manmade; people's ability to thrive in adversity and patch up the holes in the so-called all encompassing structure of modernism. The rigidity of modernism has been subverted and presented as insufficient in dealing with the problems of a new context. An active human role is required to fill these gaps, one that cannot be predicted. Control is placed in the hands of those living with the situation. This leads to densification which suggests a further order, resulting in ‘humanization’ of the architecture. Thus, the apparent disorder on this street in Kigali is read as an attempt to reintroduce order, and render the street functional once again.
Fig 1: 'High street in Kigali'
This idea of a hidden order in apparent disorder is prescribed in Venturi’s observations of casinos in Las Vegas accommodating inconsistencies and irregularities through disorder.19 The way Kigali occupants manoeuvre around the streets is also seen as an attempt to accommodate inconsistencies. It is difficult to escape the Western perception underpinning Adjaye's analysis. He captions the street's photograph as a 'high street'. He also refers to the shopping district as 'arcades'. This could be a reference to Walter Benjamin’s Parisian Arcade; one of Europe’s early centres of consumerism. By projecting these Western parallels, Adjaye compels his audience to understand the disorder in Kigali as an attempt to structure prevailing 'problems'. This structuring has been rationalised in ways familiar to the Western reader. This leads to a simplification of Kigali's cityscape; a foreign understanding of order is again being imposed.
Forty, Adrian, Words and Buildings, London: Thames & Hudson, 2000, p.247
In London, Adjaye also romanticizes the landscape of Whitechapel Road, the site of the Idea Store. He compares the market space on the wide pavement of Whitechapel Road to his experiences Kigali;
You get a horizontal spread that is being choreographed by human activity, in front of the verticality of the architecture. I think Whitechapel Road does this ... instinctively ... there is a double register ... Human traffic has woven in between these lanes, so the street narrows even though the pavement is really wide ... It’s a form of diffusion.20 Adjaye describes an instinctively choreographed human activity informing the architecture. This human participation has been described as a 'double register'; an activity that is recorded. People are described as 'human traffic'; as machines occupying lanes, but in a way that is organically ‘woven’. The street's dimensions are transformed by the weaving, layering and diffusing of activity that causes Whitechapel Road to narrow. The activities are deconstructed into that of particles or molecules, which also instinctively choreograph themselves in space. Stripped of their physical descriptions, the tasks undertaken are understood as functions of society rather than categorised occurrences such as buying, selling or stealing. Moving on to the Idea Store, Adjaye compares the building's atrium (fig.2) to balconies in Harer, Ethiopia (fig.3);
'This is an idea of overhang between the streets and balconies so that the public and private realms become really close...balconies also provide shade for the street.'21
Adjaye, David, Making Public Buildings, London: Thames & Hudson, 2006, p.209 Adjaye, David, Making Public Buildings, London: Thames & Hudson, 2006, p.212
Fig.2: 'Public Street, Harer'
Fig.3: Suspended atrium of Whitechapel Idea Store
The sleek Idea Store atrium is starkly different in appearance from the dusty wooden Harer balconies, yet Adjaye compares them through the idea of overhang. It seems that Adjaye has cleaned up and remodelled his design inspirations for the Idea Store. The stripy facade of the atrium, apparently inspired by the market stall canopies underneath the library, is also a far cry from the original inspiration. Adjaye almost seems to flaunt this fact, in an image of the slick glass glittering between the dusty canopies (fig.4). The facade's crispness is closer to the technological image of the Pompidou. The design connections between the Pompidou and the Idea Store are obvious; like the steel elevator and open floor planning. With the Pompidou as precedent alongside Harer's leaning balconies, a sheltering facade has been created, but one that is cold and glittering.
Fig.4: Facade of Whitechapel Idea Store captured between street market canopies
Adjaye's published drawings of the Idea Store (fig.4) express an open plan like the Pompidou. The Pompidou's floor plans have a similar uninterrupted nature. Ghirardo sees Rogers' and Piano's creation of uninterrupted floor space as commercial. This concept is described as common of commercial warehouses, where 'the storage of goods, services and structural elements never intrude on floor space.'22 She describes such a space to be capable of 'infinite modulations' 23 with a flexibility which renders it a 'neutral container for cultures of various levels.'24 The creation of open plan space is tightly linked to commodity. Commodity in turn is linked to close monitoring and accounting of activity.
Ghirardo, Diane, Architecture after Modernism, London: Thames & Hudson, 1996, p. 83 Ghirardo, Diane, Architecture after Modernism, London: Thames & Hudson, 1996, p. 83 24 Ghirardo, Diane, Architecture after Modernism, London: Thames & Hudson, 1996, p. 83 23
Fig.4: First Floor Plan published by Adjaye Associates
Adjaye describes the open plan of the Idea Store around the service core as ‘an arcade space,’25 which also suggests it is a space of commodity. This space is said to 'loop around' the service core; a dynamic description for a basic geometric space. The geometry is apparent when comparing Adjaye's published plans with the plans issued for construction that needed Council approval. The first floor plan construction drawing dissects the arcade-like open space into gridded squares. Space allocation is clear; each area is labelled with uses similar to conventional libraries.
Services are bundled
together as the functional core; stairs, toilets, refuse, cleaners' storage and staff offices are kept out of sight. Adjaye describes the square geometry of the Idea Store as 'abstract qualities.’26 The sharp angles of these qualities are said to be 'complemented by the warmth of the timber fins, the rubber floor and suspended lights,' though he admits that, 'without them, the interior would be more austere.’ 27 These decorative embellishments, dependent on budget, are the temporal interventions which soften the 25
Adjaye, David, Making Public Buildings, London: Thames & Hudson, 2006, p.188 Adjaye, David, Making Public Buildings, London: Thames & Hudson, 2006, p.188 27 Adjaye, David, Making Public Buildings, London: Thames & Hudson, 2006, p.188 26
linear atmosphere. Barriers around the ‘boundary conditions of the site'28
prevent a leaking of
activities. No walls and interfering structures are used in the open floor plans, yet modular furniture is placed strategically to choreograph circulation. Activity is thus limited and controlled. A gap between how Adjaye writes about public space and how he designs it is evident upon analysis of his publicity material on the Idea Store. By analysing the brief set out by Tower Hamlets Council, I aim to deduce the compromises Adjaye had to make when implementing his ideas on public space into the design.
The Idea Store Image: Programmed by Tower Hamlets Council
In 1999, Tower Hamlets took on the most comprehensive library consultation exercise in the country to understand why over 70% of the borough was not using the services29. It was concluded that the buildings were too institutionalised, imposing and unpleasant to interact with. They were labelled restricting. The Idea Store concept was created as a response. The strategy describes the Whitechapel Idea Store as potentially ‘the most heavily used council interface with the public,’30 as it will be the largest. Six years before completion, the Idea Stores are set to provide;
'a unique environment using the architectural and interior design language of the retail and leisure industries. Strong retail style branding and image promotion will reinforce the total break with ‘Victorian municipality’ that so discourages participation and will help excite and re-engage the local community.'31 The key aims are to reengage and excite the public, encouraging use. The library is being branded to sell access to knowledge and culture as if it were a commodity. Education is not mentioned and 28
Adjaye, David, Making Public Buildings, London: Thames & Hudson, 2006, p.188 Tower Hamlets, A Library and Lifelong Learning Development Strategy, Apr 1999, p.28 30 Tower Hamlets, A Library and Lifelong Learning Development Strategy, Apr 1999, p.30 31 Tower Hamlets, A Library and Lifelong Learning Development Strategy, Apr 1999, p.30 29
municipality is cast in a negative light. One could assume the break from municipality is a break from order and control; but a deeper analysis of the programme is required to deconstruct what is actually being implied by a desire to 'reengage'. As Ghirardo notes, since the 1980s, what she calls â€˜warehouse cultural buildingsâ€™ have drifted towards a design and layout that resembles the cultural shopping mall, and on to the realm of the spectacle.32 In relation to these warehouse cultural buildings, she asks;
'In an era of ... expanding democratization, why the vast renewal of interest in an institution whose origins are deeply aristocratic?'33 An interesting point; that though local authorities would like to break from a municipality image, the service they wish to provide is still very institutional. In a post war context, the library as an institution coincided with a drive to bureaucratize consumption. Since the 1950s, libraries have been a tool used to seek stability and social order via the training of demand by inserting a layer of bourgeois taste management between manufacturer and consumer.34 This excessive management results in a level of monitoring and control typical of the apparently open and inclusive public space. Sibley suggests that this need for monitoring arises because public space is understood to be sacred space, whose guardians 'are policing the spaces of commerce, public institutions and the home rather than the temple.'35 The Council is objective about its aims for this new monitoring facility. The Idea Stores have been earmarked as a stepping stone towards achieving broader social targets. The strategy reasons that
'only by finding ways to engage the majority and reverse the decline in use will we begin to address some of the wider issues of social exclusion, poverty and unemployment that exist in Tower Hamlets.'36
Ghirardo, Diane, Architecture after Modernism, London: Thames & Hudson, 1996, p. 72 Ghirardo, Diane, Architecture after Modernism, London: Thames & Hudson, 1996, p. 69 34 Hornsey, Richard, The Spiv and the Architect, London: University of Minnesota Press, 2010, p.168 35 Sibley, David, Geographies of Exclusion, Society and Difference in the West, London: Routledge, 1995 36 Tower Hamlets, A Library and Lifelong Learning Development Strategy, Apr 1999, p.28 33
Reasons for reengagement therefore address more than just education. As this strategy has to specify how the council aims to use its budget to address the broader issues it is responsible for, the objectives outlined in this document are far more specific than the activities Adjaye envisions his users undertaking. Encounters the public will have in these spaces are therefore very specific. The strategy prescribes imagined scenarios;
Different forms of learning space will merge and intermingle. Someone using the library for leisure will be able to see friends or family engaged in more formal forms of learning ... The results of peopleâ€™s endeavours will be showcased ... Through this experience, and the nature of the Idea environment they will be encouraged to do so themselves.37 The consequence of spaces merging has been prescribed. The ingredients are labelled clearly as 'different forms of learning space'; which suggests essentially a variety of the same thing. The word 'formal' crops up, and like a formula 'results' have been predicted. Consistent with Adjaye's descriptions of choreographing, people are described showcasing achievements. The paragraph tries to render an image of a participating public, but it is the 'experience and the nature of the Idea environment' that encourages and actively pushes the user to do something. Authority here is not with the user. Along with specifying user actions, the strategy also prescribes the type of user. Given the demographics of the borough, the council specifies that their facilities will provide for 'the Bengali community which is more likely to suffer unemployment.'38 This target user is specified clearly in the promotion shoot filmed by the council and found on the Idea Store website (fig.5). The film follows a Bengali mother and her son as they watch a magic show in the library; an event more commonly hosted in shopping complexes. The magician arrests everyone's attention throughout the filmmothers, children and staff alike. The Idea Store staff are shown talking to mother and child; they are also of South East Asian origin and are all wearing headscarves. The one scene which shows users
Tower Hamlets, A Library and Lifelong Learning Development Strategy, Apr 1999, p.30 Tower Hamlets, A Library and Lifelong Learning Development Strategy, Apr 1999, p.37
of white ethnic origin is shot in black and white. Although the strategy claims to be for all ethnic groups in the borough39, the video which has been produced and publicised on the main Idea Store website depicts mostly Bengali users. The Idea Store was planned in a political climate different from the one it is being used in; namely an environment before and after 7/7. This may suggest why the council and the international press have picked up on the target audience with what seems to be a curiously excessive interest. The Council ran 'a sophisticated and long running advertising campaign'40 to promote the Idea Stores. The material produced by the promotion arm of the Council will be analysed to see how the Store was sold to the public, and which image was closer promoted- the one the Council had in mind, or Adjaye.
Fig.5: stills from the Idea Store promotion film found on Idea Store website
The Idea Store Image: Captured by the Press
The London press has constructed a three dimensional image of the Idea Store; covering not only the building, but also its context, its users and the architect himself in order to promote the building.
Tower Hamlets, A Library and Lifelong Learning Development Strategy, Apr 1999, p.37 Tower Hamlets, A Library and Lifelong Learning Development Strategy, Apr 1999, p.28
The Building and Context The Idea Store in Whitechapel has been rebranded by the press as the Pompidou of the East End41. Adjaye himself doesn't mention the Pompidou as precedent in his writings, choosing instead to draw comparisons from urban life in Africa. The press however quotes Adjaye comparing the Idea Store to only the Pompidou. The press exploits the Pompidou as a precedent given that one of the crucial aims of the Idea Store was to introduce technology to the public. However, in an area developing at a slower rate to the City's centre, technology is lacking, new and expensive. The Pompidou is also a building envisioned in the image of technology, originally conceived in a landscape barren of modern intervention. As Ghirardo notes, the Pompidou was a structure 'indifferent to its surroundings and ... driven by the image of technology.'42 This contradicts the horizontally spreading vernacular described by Adjaye, as it is one imposed on its surroundings rather than growing from them. Yet the Pompidou is completely in tune with the image of 'a sleek aluminium and glass box rising calmly from Whitechapel Road'43 that the newspapers describe. Here, the building is said to rise above its context with a verticality similar to the Catholic Church towers Adjaye sites as imposing. The rise is described as calm, different again from the commotion of the Whitechapel Road market underneath. Even the coloured stripes on the building's facade are said to 'give a lift to the views out, colourising the brown townscape with the hues of grass and sky.'44 Describing the townscape of Whitechapel as 'brown' not only alludes to its grimy appearance, but can also uncomfortably be read as a description for the sea of ethnic minorities that colour the landscape. The papers are frankly state the Store 'sets itself apart from its surroundings and embraces them'45; though differences between building and context are detailed more than the similarities. The image is sold on being 'a world apart and a construction different from
Moore, Rowan, The East End's own Pompidou Centre, Evening Standard (London), Sep 27 2005, p. 35 Ghirardo, Diane, Architecture after Modernism, London: Thames & Hudson, 1996, p. 82 43 Moore, Rowan Glittering new design, Evening Standard (London); p. 11 Mar 1, 2002 44 Moore, Rowan, The East End's own Pompidou Centre, Evening Standard (London), Sep 27 2005, p. 35 45 Moore, Rowan, The East End's own Pompidou Centre, Evening Standard (London), Sep 27 2005, p. 35 42
any other nearby.'46 By describing the Idea Store as a fragment of familiarity in the foreign East End, readers from the City are enticed by the alien that to them is familiar. Technology and business is used to project City dwellers' interests onto the East End. Drawing on the language of business, papers exploit the image of the Idea Store being a 'store'; a library as being a commodity. The Idea Store is described as literally a building that 'does the business'47. The building itself is described as a packaged product, as 'new', 'glittering' and 'cool'48. This strategy slowly warps public perceptions of the library. The Idea Store is sensationalised; grabbing people's attention 'the way that shops do.'49 As promised by the council's strategy in 1999, location, building and services are flogged to the public like a product. The glittering facade of the building is said to resemble 'an ĂŠmigrĂŠ from the City ... a fragment of a megabank that lost its way.' 50 Adjaye's play on materials has been used as an excuse to associate grime with poverty and shine with wealth. He himself states 'opaque buildings are seen as negative, as a sign of poverty,' 51 However Adjaye has designed the private project Dirty House (2002) in East London with a distinctively grimy aesthetic. The logic for this is that he sees Adjaye Associates as being ' the Robin Hood practice - for rich people we make places grittier, for poor people we make them glossier.' 52 To turn the Idea Store into a library that people 'drive into town for'53, the papers liberally sell out both building and architect, transforming an institutionalised building into something that closer resembles 'a mall, clean and glass and glossy.'54 Whereas the London press sell the Idea Store to City readers as an attraction in the East End, the International press's portrayal of user is closer to the library's context.
Moore, Rowan, The East End's own Pompidou Centre, Evening Standard (London), Sep 27 2005, p. 35 Tivnan, Tom, The Perpetual Library, The Book Seller; 8 Oct 2010, p. 19 48 Moore, Rowan Glittering new design, Evening Standard (London); Mar 1 2002, p. 11 49 Moore, Rowan, The East End's own Pompidou Centre, Evening Standard (London), Sep 27 2005, p. 35 50 Moore, Rowan, The East End's own Pompidou Centre, Evening Standard (London), Sep 27 2005, p. 35 51 Moore, Rowan, The East End's own Pompidou Centre, Evening Standard (London), Sep 27 2005, p. 35 52 Moore, Rowan Glittering new design, Evening Standard (London); Mar 1 2002, p. 11 53 Moore, Rowan, The East End's own Pompidou Centre, Evening Standard (London), Sep 27 2005, p. 35 54 Moore, Rowan, The East End's own Pompidou Centre, Evening Standard (London), Sep 27 2005, p. 35 47
The User Adjaye's published photographs always focus on the building; even while capturing it in use. The user is always observed from a distance far enough to capture them as part of a space; light, colour and materiality are the main focuses (fig.6). The photographs in the international press however are images that focus almost entirely on the user (fig.7). The building is hardly captured beyond elements of walls and shelves. Here, the only part of the building that is captured is the furniture or the computers used by children in headscarves.
Fig. 7: Image of library interior published by Adjaye
Fig.6: image published in Croatian press
These photographs catch the user in a staged concentration; as they 'perform' an activity conducted within the library. Parents and children are displayed between shelves and on desks (fig.8). The street outside is a chaotic world of undefined activities (fig.9); the library separates this crowd into individual cases with a schedule of activities constructed around them.
Fig.8: Image of Bengali woman and child published in Italian Press
Fig. 9: Whitechapel Road published in Italian press
As a final touch to the image of the Idea Store, the architect also finds himself branded in the papers by the building he has designed. This could be seen as an attempt to link Adjaye to the context he designs in. His image is exploited for being different to the stereotypical architect, who is often white, middle class and aging. The Architect In line with a commodity orientated building, the architect behind the work has also been portrayed as 'a showman'55. Adjaye is personified in the press through his physical features, expressions and age. His grins, giggles and boyish qualities are used to express character. Described as an Artful Dodger, Adjaye is noted for his skill in raking in big projects that 'lighten wallets' 56. The press clearly his exotic background by evoking popular cultural motifs associated to Adjaye's ethnicity, such as rapping and being 'a player'57. With the help of such stereotypes, his age and ethnicity are used to exploit him as young, different and exciting. Colloquialisms like 'glam pack' and 'schmooze'58 are used to break into Adjaye's stance on public architecture which casts light hearted shadow over his argument. This nonchalant carelessness is projected on Adjaye's designing methods. Adjaye choosing materials is likened to 'a kid given the run of a toy shop'59. Though the article pins him to the stereotypical media image of young black men, he is also described as rootless because of his childhood travels. In this way, while drawing on the strength of his unique background, he is disconnected from his ethnicity because of 'his own "inability to have roots"'60. Adjaye is projected as the global architect who can 'make sense of ... complexity.' though a cultural neutrality also associated with the Pompidou.
Dyckhoff, Tom, Behind the Facade, The Guardian, 8 Feb 2003 Dyckhoff, Tom, Behind the Facade, The Guardian, 8 Feb 2003 57 Dyckhoff, Tom, Behind the Facade, The Guardian, 8 Feb 2003 58 Dyckhoff, Tom, Behind the Facade, The Guardian, 8 Feb 2003 59 Dyckhoff, Tom, Behind the Facade, The Guardian, 8 Feb 2003 60 Dyckhoff, Tom, Behind the Facade, The Guardian, 8 Feb 2003 56
Conclusion In his writings on public space, Adjaye expresses a desire for allowance of participation. He relays an understanding of inclusivity through analysing Rwanda and Ethiopia, where people play an active role in occupying public space. However, to reapply these observations in his design of the Idea Store, he uses Western precedents. Like his 20th Century counterpart, W.E.B DuBois, a black American historian who dealt black poverty in America, Adjaye is sound in intentions, but his method comes down to fault when he attempts to challenge prevailing structures of order. In Learning from Lagos he concludes spontaneous use of public space can be achieved by ‘choreograph the limits’61 of activity. He thus falls short of his ambition for participatory use of the space he creates. There is still a desire to exclude certain actions. The limits are placed by the Council, who in their brief specify the clear aims they wish to achieve by funding the creation of this public facility. Adjaye's precedents, namely Renzo Piano’s Pompidou and Venturi’s Learning from Las Vegas, are constructed within a culture provided by mainstream architectural discourse; a largely white, male dominated world dealing with problems of the ‘other’62. These precedents however sit well with the Council's agenda for sustaining a certain image of order in the deprived East End borough. The publicity campaign run by the Council thus inhibits Adjaye's African rooted inspirations from penetrating the image sold to the public through the press. The Council's aim for the Idea Store was to encourage library use. To achieve this, the Idea Store had to come across as new, exciting and different from its drab surroundings and municipal past. In this way, exclusion still plays a role in order to promote the library institution.
Adjaye, David, Making Public Buildings, London: Thames & Hudson, 2006, p.209 Sibley, David, Geographies of Exclusion, Routledge: London, 1995, p. 153
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