© 2008-2016 Alexandra Gens   
The George C. Arnold Building
Advisor Thomas Gardner    Course RISD, Degree Project, Spring 2011

0, Overview
My RISD graduation degree project, wherein I proposed a new system of knowledge archiving for Providence. If this page is taking too long to load I'd recommend the Issu version of the final thesis book located [here].

1, Statement
The order of knowledge is understood through the order of its space.
"The documents of this new history are not other words, texts or records, but unencumbered spaces in which things are juxtaposed: herbariums, collections, gardens; the locus of this history is a non-temporary rectangle in which, stripped of all commentary, of all enveloping language, creatures present themselves one beside another, their surfaces visible, grouped accordingly to their common features, and thus already virtually analysed, and bearers of nothing but their own individual names."
Foucault, The Order of Things (New York: Vintage Books, 1970) 131.
I went to the public library but it was closed.
Monday 12:30-8:30p
Tuesday 9:30a-5:30p
Wednesday CLOSED
Thursday 12:30-8:30p
Friday 12:30-5:30p
Saturday 12:30-5:30p
Sunday 1:00-5:00p
A new knowledge that is rhizomatic. That creates agency.
"In opposition to descendent evolutionary models of classification, rhizomes have no hierarchical order to their compounding networks. Instead, Deleuzian rhizomatic thinking functions as an open-ended productive configuration, where random associations and connections propel, sidetrack and abstract relations between components. Any part within a rhizome may be connected to another part, forming a milieu that is decentered, with no distinctive end or entry point."
Felicity Colman, "Rhizome," The Deleuze Dictionary, ed. Adrian Parr. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005) 232.
What is the space of this knowledge?

2, Rhizomes
Petite rhizome-mappings that establish, rearrange and re-combine typical fields of knowledge in an attempt to find new and productive relationships. The field of physical health now held in context to activities of play and potentially diet. This method of mapping became a tool; a tool to disrupt existing orders of knowledge dominated by the frames of their affiliated profession.


/A. Field of physical healthB. Rhizome of physical health, play, diet


3, Providence Public Library
A book (C) of template pages (E) requested a mapping of Providence Public Library (225 Washington Street). The templates were created from plans of the library's original structure (built 1900); the infill (F, G) of the templates mapped the 1950s addition, conversations, public and private realms and their thresholds, scales of interaction (individual, group, large), and the arrangement and use of knowledge within the physical spaces. While officially organized by a Dewey Decimal system, the convoluted circulation (largely a result of the 1950s extension), a lack of study amenities in the stacks, patterns of supervision, willing-to-fetch reference librarians and the prominent placement of fiction and leisure resources in the library's circulation path indicate that the library has begun to operate by a different order: a majority leisure, then fiction and then a minority non-fiction. The response: a poster (H), as intervention, that could begin to subvert these mechanisms of control by providing a spatial clarity. Public library organs are marked in pink, library materials (from book to DVD) in blue, private spheres in gray, semi-private organs in tan and large gathering spaces in yellow.


/C. Providence Public Library survey bookD. Example page.



/E. Book template pagesF. Example pages.



/G. Poster intervention to provide spatial clarity


4, Propel, sidetrack, abstract
Petite rhizome-proposals that propel, sidetrack and abstract typical functions of the library in an attempt to find new and productive relationships. On the left, platforms of gathering/sharing and leisure (computers) are supported by and flip-sided by column stacks, non-linear in their lack of corridors, in their cumulating open plaza. In the middle, a ceremonial approach to the modern amenities of the library is flanked by the stacks showing the raw and abstracted paper-edges of their books. The relationship between the amenity and the archived object is deliberately adumbrated. And on the left, a four-part library in which leisure, fiction, non-fiction and making spaces are separated. By a shared curve/geometry, the disconnect draws a similarity.


/H. Reimagined libraries


5, Palimpsest
Locating a model of knowledge in an existing and successful economic model (The Red Fez) and then projecting its growth: (i) a new bartender being trained, the exchange of information through conversations held over meals, (ii) bulletin board, (iii) small sidewalk extension to create a basketball court (iv), (v) renovation of lower-restaurant into gallery space, (vii) break through party-wall with heavy lintel as necessity for space grows, (viii) projection booth for screenings on side of existing building (ix), (x) additional lintel to break into another neighboring building, (xi) creation of the archive to hold, remember and share knowledge being exchange, and the return to a blank, rentable commercial space in which only the archive remains (I). Ultimately, the palimpsest suggests a order of knowledge that manifests the hinge between two people interacting, sharing.




/I. Rentable commercial space in which only the archive remains



/J. Detail of additional lintel to break into another neighboring building


6, Input/Output
The contemporary commonplace book K (or rather, the Ali-pedia) manifests the blurbs (of life, of the internet) that would otherwise pass unregistered. This habit brought the realization that most of us must make in order to learn: the academic researches in order to write a paper, the practice of marginalia, Habermasí»s literary public sphere where critical and political conversation manifests reading, the prospering of subscription libraries in New England in desire of the self-made man, and so on. In an institution of this knowledge input is twofold: in part in overlaps and leads to output, and in part if overlaps and leads to the archive (L). A possible set of programs that manifests this (M): the archive and input overlap in a gallery or viewing room, input as computer lab, output as a constantly redefined space, input and the archive as documentary facilities, and, of course, the archive (private, safe and solid). A mapping of Providence (N) to find where these organs exist already: white as an archive, red as institutions of input/output, and yellow as institutes of learning.


/K. Commonplace book



/L. Archive/input/output diagramM. Example diagram



/N. Providence Mapping: white as archive, red as input/output institutions , and yellow as learning institutes


7, The George C. Arnold Building
Freestanding with its shallow depth of 12.5 feet, the George C. Arnold Building (100 Washington St, at the corner of Washington and Mathewson) has lodged itself into the collective consciousness of Providence. Built in 1923, in total its steel frame and non-load bearing masonry hold four floors, one of which rests below ground and sidewalk. With unsure future tenants (previously, before the "fire," it held Kevin's Corner Smoke Shop, Honorbilt apparel, and Downtown Liquors), the renovation crawls by. Behind it rests a parking lot and then Mathewson Church, the register of time can be measured in the gathering of homeless for free meals. Before it rests a parking lot and then the Projo, the United State's oldest continuously-published daily newspaper. It is a gap tooth in the urban fabric in both function and popular appeal.


/O. Existing GCA floor plans and photograph



/P. Axon of existing GCA


8, Citelines
Locating the constant redefinition of a space into its inhabitants, views from city slice into the George C. Arnold Building (Q). Output as social (see also: palimpsest) and contextual; the context by which we create both consumes and constitutes the architecture of the new library. A series of tests to locate the various cuts (from a bus stop, from a car waiting at the light, etc) that cut and preserve the George C. Arnold Building's sensation of thinness, and its symmetry, facade and first-floor commercial viability (R).


/Q. Views from city slice into the George C. Arnold Building



/R. A series of tests to locate the various cuts



/S. Selected slicing views



/T. Sketches of selected slicing views' effects


9, The GCA
If the order of knowledge can be understood through the order of its space then the Providence Public Library reads as a three part knowledge: leisure, fiction and non-fiction (with an emphasis on leisure). The individual is withered in this order; agency is confined to accepting a friend request.
We output (make) in order to input (learn). The things we make dialog with someone or something other than ourselves; Output is social. But the archive, the means by which we preserve our knowledge, is not. In fact, it rejects context, treating each object as a prized truth that can be carefully held in place and validated by its organizing system. We need a new forum and form of public knowledge. We need an institution that fosters and harbors a way of learning that is both contextual and stable.

The architecture of Providence's new library, the GCA, understands this polarity. In part it protects and in part it projects:

From this angle, the only part of the GCA you can see is the silhouettes of two people talking.


/U. Existing state of structures and primary view angle



/V. Citelines



/W. Citelines cut through exisiting and proposed walls



/X. Floorplates as stages leveled to citeline cuts



/Y. The archive



/Z. GCA disappearing into context



/AA. Process section



/BB. Process section detail



/CC. Final east-west section 1



/DD. Final east-west section 2



/EE. Final north-south section A



/EE. Final north-south section B



/EE. Final north-south section C



/FF. Basement & archive plan



/GG. 3rd floor plan



/HH. Program diagram



/II. Citeline & perspective key














10, Bibliography

Black, Alistair. "The people's university: models of public library history." The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland. Ed. Alistair Black and Peter Hoare. Vol. 3. Cambridge, UK ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. 21-39.

Bostwick, Arthur E. The American Public Library. New York; London: D. Appleton and Company, 1910.

Breisch, Kenneth. Henry Hobson Richardson and the small public library in America : a study in typology. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1997.

Custer, Rebecca and Rick Stattler. Providence Franklin Society Records. July 2002. 12 December 2010 .

Dana, John Cotton. A Library Primer. Chicago: Library Bureau, 1920.

Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.

Eisenman, Peter. Giuseppe Terragni : transformations, decompositions, critiques. New York: Monacelli Press, 2003.

Foucault, Michel. The Order of Things. New York: Vintage Books, 1970.

French, Sally, ed. How to Do Just About Anything. Pleasantville: The Reader's Digest Association, Inc., 1986.

Gilchrist, Agnes Addison. William Strickland, architect and engineer, 1788-1854. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1950.

Habermas, Jürgen. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1989.

Lancaster, Jane. Inquire within : a social history of the Providence Athenaeum since 1753. Providence, RI: The Providence Athenaeum, 2003.

Leonard, Grace Fisher. The Providence Athenæum: a brief history, 1753-1939. Providence, R.I.: Privately printed, 1939.

Miessen, Markus. "Archiving in Formation: A Conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist." Log (2011): 39-46.

McMullen, Haynes. American libraries before 1876. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Pepper, Simon. "Storehouses of knowledge: the free library movement and the birth of modern library architecture." The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland. Ed. Alistair Black and Peter Hoare. Vol. 3. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. 584-608.

Pevsner, Nikolaus. A History of Building Types. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976.

Pugsley, W. C. Rationalisation in the public library. 1944. Shera, Jesse Hauk. Foundations of the public library; the origins of the public library movement in New England, 1629- 1855. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949.

Sherman, Clarence Edgar. The Providence Public Library : an experiment in enlightenment. Providence, R.I., 1937.

Thompson, C. Seymour. Evolution of the American public library 1653-1876. Washington: Scarecrow Press, 1952.

Wheeler, Joseph Lewis. The American Public Library Building. New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1941.