Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The San Francisco Main Library just got cuter, and I'm happy.

It has two big, new banners running up and down, about a story high, above the entrance that is most used, the Hyde Street entrance, the one closest to Market Street.

On banner is bright blue and says "Library" up and down in big letters in white. The other next to it is yellow and says "Library" in big letters in brown.

I love the way they look.

They alsohave a function. The Main Library was designed to be modest on the outside and not compete with the other Civic Center buildings that were built in the early twentieth century when certainty and curlicues came together in a way that really worked. The drama of the Main Library (built at the other end of the twentieth century in1996) is in the inside in the dramatic central atrium and all its effects. One effect of the dramatic central atrium is that library has lots of different good internal views. Appropriate for San Francisco, city of views and interesting to look at stuff.

The result of the library being externally modest on purpose is that from the Market Street and Hyde side, the side most people approach from it isn't overwhelmingly obvious that this is the library. Obvious if you are looking, but not a kepow type experience. I have directed people to the library from the very nearby BART/Muni station and said to them ". . .and it's right there" and been uncertain that they would see it right away even though it is indeed, right there.

All that changed with these banners which cheerfully yell, "Library! Right here!"

The banner poles have been there and been used for the life of this library, but they said things, like about events, in much smaller letters that were horizontal, and didn't have to be read. These letters that say library are much bigger, vertical--on one top of the other and will be read without thought by anyone whose literate eyes pass over them

And the colors are right. An excellent kind of in your face.

I'm already picturing other white/grey government buildings getting big bright banners up and down their sides to say their function as briefly and bigly as possible. I don't know if that's a possible dream. The library has more room to be playful than many government departments. But these banners, in themselves, are a good thing. The tasteful, blend in with the old stuff civic center courthouse would be a lot easier to find for first time visitors if it had a colorful banners that said "Courthouse." The other courthouse dominates its neighborhood of short buildings and private businesses. and doesn't need a banner--it looks like a courthouse, nothing else around it could possibly in a hundred thousand years be a courthouse.

But a lot of government buildings, like the civic center courthouse, like the main library are in neighborhoods where it's one dang dignified government building after another and for inexperienced visitors, which many visitors to government buildings are, banners would be a big help and would give that initial feeling a being reached out to.

I'm not utopian enough to think that that's going to happen--but hey, the SF health and human services building, near the main library, would it be such bad thing if it had a giant cheery banner visible from afar that said "Health." A prayer, a good luck wish, a help to confused lookers for the building who may be feeling not so great.