From: Robert Pulley
Received: April 19
I was dismayed to see the plans in the Republic to “update” the library plaza. The library plaza has been my favorite place in town since my wife and I moved here in 1978. I decided to stop by and really give it a critical look.
The dominant players on the plaza are the library and church linked by the embracing arms of The Large Arch.
The visitors center to the west is connected by the large low walled planter, which serves as seating, shade, texture and a boundary for the plaza plane. On the east the Irwin Sweeney home with its wrought iron fence bounds the plaza.
The church and library, especially, echo each other and whisper to each other in a hundred ways. Both sit on paved planes, the church on concrete and the library on brick.
The west edge of the bricks visually aligns exactly with the west edge of the church’s concrete. The massive raised plinth to the west of the library steps would slide neatly between the church’s west wall and the tower where the buildings pushed together.
The tall rectangular, deep-set windows of the library echo in number the vertical rectangular limestone columns flanking the doors of the church.
One can see and recognize these and many more design elements that define this great urban visual conversation. But it is my belief that we feel the beauty and rightness of this space whether we analyze it or not. It is no accident that the library plaza has had its praises sung by many national and international visitors to Columbus.
It is not only our finest space, but one of the finest built spaces anywhere. Not an inch of proportion of brick or negative space is accidental or unconsidered. I.M. Pei, one of our greatest architects, designed our library and sculpted the spaces around it to harmonize with its neighbors, in particular the older masterpiece by Eliel Saarinen.
The fine Henry Moore sculpture, The Large Arch, opens in gesture to both buildings, the church, seat of America’s spiritual aspirations and the free public library, civic symbol of hope, knowledge and culture.
The entrances of both are raised, the steps wide and deep and the entrances grand. As we cross the plaza and mount the steps to enter both we feel our spirits lift.
I believe the library plaza is as perfect a space as exists in architecture. It is Columbus’ cultural diamond. To think that one can change the proportions of the porch, pry up a few bricks and plant sod or plop down some seating without profoundly altering the whole is ridiculous. Why not scrape off the nose of the Mona Lisa and hire a local artist to repaint it to fit modern whims?
We should grow our city outward from the library/ First Christian plaza like an expanding crystal, not whittle it away until it is as bland as the big box stores on West 46.