January 14, 2009

The Bird-Killing Library Wing


Tomorrow I will stop by the Colorado State University-Pueblo library to return some books.

The long-hoped-for renovation is finally underway, and this weekend more offices and the circulation and reference services will move to their temporary home in the student center.

Even the library dean herself admits that the building (as with the rest of the 1960s campus) is pure "Brutalism," and not too much can be done about that. Unlike her, I don't think the style is retro-cool.

My former office, in the attached academic wing, has been or will soon be gutted along with the rest of that floor. Good riddance.

The "wing," built about 1965, had deteriorated into the campus slum. Administrators walked its halls only in pairs. The windows were last washed in 1965. Curtains hung in tatters. The classroom that I usually used was finally re-painted after 40 years when I organized a small painting party of friends and adjunct instructors and paid them in pizza.

The architects, Caudill Rowlett Scott of Houston, had wasted no money on soils engineers. Built with inadequate foundations on expansive soils, all the 1960s campus buildings bucked and heaved in slow motion, opening cracks in the floors and walls. (I filled a couple myself with spray foam insulation to keep the whistling winds out.)

They were hard to heat and cool, wasting energy all year around. No doubt the architects were given awards by their peers in the competition for ugly Modernist buildings.

And the library building killed birds.

I used to frequently find dead house finches, sparrows, etc. by the outside door leading to the staircase to my floor.

The building design included a glass panel that served as an inadequate windbreak beside that door. I think that birds flying past the building did not always see it sticking out in front of them.

So one day I slapped up a falcon-shaped sticker that came with an Audubon Society mailing, and I like to think that the number of avian deaths decreased. The raptor's silhouette is supposed to scare other birds away.

For several years, I considered that falcon sticker to be my legacy, but it probably will not survive the renovation.

The West wind will continue sweeping across Baculite Mesa and past the stained concrete and stucco, Le Corbusier's ugly stepchildren.

2 comments:

gl. said...

ah.... yes, i'll be what sort of innovation they can eek out of that building. i still miss the library wing, though. it had great windows and felt like a world apart.

Mark said...

i'll be what sort of innovation they can eek out of that building. i still miss the library wing, though. it had great windows and felt like a world apart.