RE: Another Option
by Dave Kiffer
March 24, 2004
It was interesting to see the letters generated by Pat Jirschele's
recent comments regarding the proposed new library and new museum.
It is obvious there are people in the community who care deeply
about the library and the museum and that is a very, very good
I have had a somewhat inside view on the situation because I
have been involved in museum planning efforts since the mid 1990s
and my wife has worked at the public library for some 14 years.
I'm also just old enough to remember the original construction
of the Centennial Building and the fact that even then most local
leaders felt the combining of the two departments in one building
was a temporary situation that would be rectified in the early
1970s. Ketchikan needed a project to celebrate the state's centennial
in 1967 and the Centennial building was it. Something had to
go in the building, so the museum and library went there with
the general feeling that at some point one or the other would
move out as expansion warranted.
That "temporary" situation has lasted nearly 40 years
and only the most determined "head in the sand" ostrich
could contend that the residents of Ketchikan don't deserve better
facilities for both. Fiscal responsibility is the key to accomplishing
this, but there has to be a realization that there is a cost.
We need to build facilities that will serve this community now
and in the future. In 1967, local leaders built a single building
with the belief that future governments would alleviate the problem
created. That has not been the case. We don't want to make that
same mistake with any of our necessary city or borough facilities
in the future.
The idea of a larger structure spanning Ketchikan Creek brings
into play several factors that would have to be addressed, most
notably design and the effects on the Creek.
First of all, it is a logical assumption that neither state (Fish
and Game or DNR) nor the federal Army Corps of Engineers are
going to quickly sign off on any proposal that could significantly
effect such an important anadromous (spawning) salmon stream.
Nor should we expect them to. Salmon are pretty resilient (look
at that little run of humpies that refuses to abandon Hoadly
Creek!) but in the modern world any construction over a salmon
stream involves the triggering of regulations that make Dante's
various circles of Hell seem like a picnic. I realize that some
of the oversight has transferred from Fish and Game to the more
development-friendly Department of Natural Resources, but it
would be a mistake to assume that all the restrictions have gone
away or that the interested government agencies would "welcome"
Secondly, libraries are extremely heavy structures. Books are
not light as any one who picks up a fully loaded book box quickly
learns. Load bearing requirements for libraries are extremely
high because of that density. Over the years, there have been
surveys to determine whether the space problem at the Centennial
Building could be alleviated by adding additional floors. The
answer is yes, but only if you don't put books up there. They
are simply too heavy for the existing structure. I would be surprised
if an over-the-creek design didn't require a very significant
arc to transfer that weight load to the footings on either side
of the creek. Not that it can't be done, but it might not end
up looking quite like you would like it to and that it probably
would be cost prohibitive.
Many writers have commented that the library and museum building
currently occupies a spectacular setting and great creek views.
Yes, it does, but the current overcrowding in the library has
pretty much eliminated the ability for the public to enjoy that
view from inside the library. The reading "room" now
offers a spectacular view of the interchange between the upper
and lower Centennial parking lots. The increasingly smaller reading
"area" that does have a view of the Creek has become
an unofficial gathering place for the less fortunate members
of our society seeking a dry place. The view from the children's
library downstairs is usually of the cars parked in the Mary
Frances Lot, you get the idea.
A section of the library spanning the Creek would provide great
viewing up and down the Creek. It would also dramatically cut
off the view up and down the Creek for every one else which I
suspect would be more than a little "controversial."
In designing a new museum for the site, there is always the opportuning
to come up with a design that increases the Creek viewing opportunities.
It would not be easy because museums by their nature tend to
want to shield their collections from ambient light, but I think
that both concerns can be accomodated. Similarly, a new library
in a different location can be designed with the "viewsheds"
of Pennock, Gravina, Tongass Narrows and Deer Mountain in mind.
We just have to make it a priority in the final design. Just
as we have to make the aesthetics a priority in both buildings
to that we don't end up with something as ugly as the Juneau
parking garage/library bunker...er building. For the past several
years, I have been researching communities that have designed
parking garages to fit in with their surroundings. It can be
done, as long as we make it clear to the architects that we are
looking for something that reflects the community and not the
"creativity" of the architect. I totally agree that
we need to be building buildings that meet our needs and "fit"
our communities, not win awards for architects or look they were
deposited by in our midst by aliens.
Whether the current proposals for the museum and library "fit"
our community needs is for the public to decide and I look forward
to that discussion and debate. But what is not debatable is that
the only true measure of our time is whether we pass on a better
community than the one we inherited and that we don't shirk our
responsibility to do so.
Ketchikan, AK - USA
Note: Comments published
on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
Another option for new library structure
not yet explored by Patrick Jirschele - Ketchikan, AK - USA
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.
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