Sunday, January 31, 2016

Machacek Branch of the St. Louis Public Library

Machacek is one of seventeen branches in the St. Louis Public Library system.
It is located at 6424 Scanlan Avenue at Watson Road in the Lindenwood Park Neighborhood.



Formerly the Fyler Branch (I need to track down the address) served this part of the city.
The Machecek Branch opened in September, 1974 and is named for Charles Machacek, a piano and violin teacher who granted his estate to the St. Louis Public library to be used for a branch library. 
Charles Machacek

There is a charming write up on Mr. Machacek hanging on the wall just inside the foyer. It reads:
This branch of the St. Louis Public Library is named for Charles Machacek, who taught piano and violin for many years in the South St. Louis area. 
Seventy-five years old when he died on January 11, 2954, Charles Machacek lived frugally and alone at 1725a Oregon Avenue. His father, a tailor for many years here, died in 1924, followed by his mother, ten years later. Charles Machacek inherited their estate and, by investing it, solely in first deeds of trust and reinvesting the interest, built the legacy into a sizable sum, which he bequeathed entirely to the St. Louis Public Library for the purpose of building a branch to perpetuate the name of his family. 
The name, "Machacek," is of Czech origin, and in the native tongue would be pronounced "Ma - HA - shek," which has been Anglicized to "MAK - a - check." 
Although known to be a man of wealth, Charles Machacek spent very little of his resources. He was remembered by neighbors and by librarians at Barr Branch Library at Jefferson and Lafayette Avenues, which he frequented, as a kindly man, tall and muscular with fair skin and heavy brown wavy hair. 
The Machacek Branch Library was constructed with funds from Charles Machacek's estate given to the St. Louis Public Library, additional 1962 bond issue and federal funds.
This building is amazingly unique and is a straight-up spectacle. It might be the smallest-scale example of 1970's brutalism the city has to offer.
1974 photo from: SLPL "Then and Now"
Speaking as a child of the 70's, this "fort like" brutalist architecture was part of the futuristic ideals of the time and Machacek is one of the city's best examples of the architectural fascination with concrete technology and stark forms.

The design took third place for new construction in the 1974 City Beautification Awards. The award hangs on the wall just inside the foyer.
It was designed by Berger-FieldTorno-Hurley Architects, is a single-story Brutalist style building set into a hillside with partially visible building fa├žades. The entire building has exposed gray concrete walls with horizontal joints at traditional cornice level and varied roof-line heights. An exterior stair leads to the rooftop playground area. In 1973, a “tree saving” ceremony accompanied a traditional “ground breaking” was held. (source)
The building is a spectacle and is probably a "love it or hate it" situation. I fall squarely in the former category because it is simply so unique and wonderful to behold.
The roof is at grade per the top slope of the property, built into the side of a hill and covered with rocks and a fence to keep people off it...because you can walk right up to it.  There is an entry to the roof from the interior as well.
The entrance at the lower parking lot along Scanlan Avenue and the larger parking lot off of Watson Road are both flanked by concrete walls setting the stage for the plain starkness of the style.
The interior fortification is totally bunker-like, a book bunker where all the cherished reading materials are held safe and protected. Everything is concrete from the walls, the floor, the exposed structural pillars, the ceiling.
The library has installed cork board on the walls to help brighten/soften the place with art work and color.
It's amazing when architecture, a building, a place, can make you feel a certain way. This branch has that underground, Kubrick-futuristic feel.

Amazingly, the grounds are charming as well, providing a hilly, spacious, outdoorsy feel right in the middle of a dense, urban neighborhood.

Upon my visit there was a Pez dispenser display.
In my opinion, the Machacek branch takes the cake as the most unique branch in the system simply due to its brutalist style. A bona fide St. Louis classic. Go check out and hunker down in the book fort!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

6440 Fyler where a beauty salon is now.