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!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Buder Branch of the St. Louis Public Library

Buder is one of seventeen branches in the St. Louis Public Library system.
It is located at 4401 Hampton Avenue at Sutherland Avenue in the St. Louis Hills Neighborhood.



The library has been in three separate locations during its 94 year existence.

Starting in 1922, the library was in the Susan Buder School at 5318 Lansdowne Avenue in the Southampton Neighborhood. The Buder family donated funds for the furniture and equipment as a memorial to Ms. Buder, a well-known philanthropist, for whom the school was named.
photo source: SLPL Then and Now

Then in 1962 the branch moved to 5320 Hampton Avenue in the Princeton Heights Neighborhood. This awesome mid-century mod beauty housed the library until it moved to it's current location. As of publishing, this building is the home of Record Exchange.
photo source: SLPL Then and Now

The Buder branch settled at 4401 Hampton in a former bank and MSD office building. It was dedicated on July 12, 1998.
Per a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, MSD was the owner of the building before it was fully renovated into a library. Here are some excerpts from the article:
The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District wants to sell the old Hampton Bank Building - a structure it barely used. 
The district bought the building at 4401 Hampton Avenue in 1992 from the Resolution Trust Corp. for $475,000. It had been an office building, owned as an asset by the Missouri Savings and Loan Association. The federal agency inherited the structure when it took over the failed savings and loan. 
The sewer district was about to move its engineering department to 4401 Hampton when the state Supreme Court invalidated a $40 million rate shift, raising the possibility that the district would have to refund the money to customers. 
The move was canceled, as the district tried to conserve funds. On Thursday, the district's trustees declared the building at Hampton and Bancroft avenues as surplus.
Officials had hoped to move as many as 100 employees from the district's headquarters at 2000 Hampton to the building at 4401 Hampton. But parking was available for only about half of them, he said. 
Ultimately, Koeper said, the district would like bigger headquarters. The building should have room for employees in satellite buildings, which are mainly on Knox Avenue near the headquarters, he said. …(source)
The finishes look totally of its time, and for that I love this branch...so 90's right down to the teal and space themed carpet, etched glass, clocks, furniture and children's area.
From the photo above, notice the planet and moon carvings in the chairs. This is a detail that is a common theme to the branches renovated or built in the late 90s, early 00s. A nice touch.

The library has three floors accessible by elevator and a brightly lit winding spiral staircase lined with glass blocks.
The first floor has fiction, periodicals, movies and music.
The second floor has reference, non-fiction, biography, quiet study and computer rooms. 
Third floor is a dedicated kid's and teen floor. The children's area is bright and cheery with lots of art work.
 Straight Outta Compton

My kids loved the take home bags, each with a separate theme with toys, books, music, puzzles, etc. Just grab one and check it out...it's all assembled and ready to go.
Buder is one of several branches with a "Teen Lounge", which were realized through a grant successful written by a library employee. They have sound domes (pictured below) which transmit sound from a stereo system at the staff desk and usually have lounging furniture and plenty of reading material for teens. I can vouch that it works in attracting said age group as one of my kids went straight for it on our visit.
The Buder branch is one of five branches open on Sundays (Julia Davis, Carpenter, Central and Schlafly are the others).