And now for something completely different . . .

There was too much to see and do in Jacksonville today to put it all in one post, so I have a magnificent treat for you, my loyal readers!  A second post tonight!  In this one, you will not only be amazed by the Jacksonville Downtown Public Library, but you will learn a little more about me.  Like my willingness to whip out a camera while sitting at a red light just because I liked the hardware on the underside of a bridge.

There was one I drove under on my way here that I wanted to shoot, but at 70 mph, I thought it was better not to do so.

Anyway, back to the library, which is right next door to MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Art.  My photos do not do it justice, so I encourage you to visit it yourself sometime.  If you don’t believe me, just ask Jenn, who was with me for this part of the day, too.  She kept pointing out things that I needed to photograph, so I’m pretty sure she agrees that it is a pretty awesome place.  It is one of those wonderful conflagrations of books and architecture that I adore.  Designed by Robert A.M. Stern, the library opened in 2005.  For those of you who have lived in Florida for any length of time, you probably know just how amazing it was that anything new was built to open in 2005, since every contractor from Florida and all the neighboring states was booked solid with hurricane work from 2004’s crazy season.

This library was part of a revitalization project for Downtown Jacksonville, which has an interesting history.  In 1901, the whole city burned down, except for one stone church.  Some of you who are architecture buffs, or who live in Chicago, San Francisco or Baltimore might recognize why the timing mattered so much.  Those of you who don’t know, well, I will tell you!  By the turn of the last century, the hydraulic elevator had been designed, steel was being manufactured, glass curtain walls had been introduced and the early Modern movement had begun.  Architects flock to disasters, especially ones that leave large swaths of land empty for them to play on, so of course, Jacksonville became the playground of modern architects.  Lots of beautiful skyscrapers were built in the Modern style, streets were planned on a nice grid system, and the city was set to be a major player.

Except that it never quite happened.  The buildings wer built, the streets were efficiently laid out, but full occupancy was never achieved, because land right outside the downtown area was cheap.  There was no need to flock to the center of this modern city in the middle of nowhere, so the city center was left to fall into disrepair.  By the time this library was built, Jacksonville really needed an improvement plan to work.  It still does, but it seems to be improving all the time.

*****

And again, back to the library, since all the photos you’ve been enjoying have been of the library.  The stairs are probably my favorite feature.  I love stairs and think they should always be celebrated, which these are.  Sure, there are elevators you could use here, and plenty of people do, but the stairs are prominently placed to encourage their use.  Each flight is different, so that it really is an experience to use the stairs.  Rather than switchback stairs that are so common, these are placed away from each other, to lead you through the building.

Two of the flights of stairs have open treads, but instead of quite leaving them open, there is screening placed in them, which allows light through, but helps stop debris (or Match Box cars)  from falling or getting kicked through.

The middle flight is entirely different from the other two.  When you climb the first level, you can see the mid-level stairs ahead of you.  There is this wonderful thick-walled arch to go through before reaching this flight of stairs, which are solid but luminous due to the windowed wall behind them.

Outdoor reading space is offered on the second floor in a courtyard space that overlooks the city.  From here you can see to the river and listen to the city while reading in a garden.  On the street side of the courtyard, a pergola offers enough shade that you actually can read here, even on a bright day.

While there is plenty of space for serious readers and researchers, there are also places thoughtfully planned for younger patrons.  The Children’s Room is bright and friendly, with smaller furniture.  However, it is the Teen Reading Room that really shines.  The ceiling undulates in bright colors, the room is full of books and seating areas, and it is overall just an extremely appealing place to be.  Unless you are an adult with a camera.  Yes, she is looking at me.  And yes, she did question my motives, but I escaped with the images!

See what a dangerous life we bloggers lead?

As we left the library, I saw this church steeple, red against the blue sky, with an echoing white steeple beyond it.  The blue mural on the wall in front of it really helps the red of the roof pop.

But do you see that sky?  It was darkening quickly, promising heavy rain for my ride home.  Sensing that the sooner I got on the road, the les rain I would have to deal with, I said goodbye to Jenn with promises to come back soon, because there were a lot of places I wanted to explore.  Fortunately, she isn’t too annoyed by my camera habit yet, so she agreed that we should get together again soon.

The rain held off for the most part until I was off the interstate.  Of course, the interstate is the short part of the trip.  The skies opened up at almost exactly the instant I got off the interstate onto FL-121.  It poured.  There was lightning and thunder and wind for miles and miles.  Finally, the clouds broke a couple of miles from the house and I was enjoying not having my wipers on high, when suddenly, a tree fell in front of me.

What did I do?  Well, what would any sane person do?  I jumped out and took pictures, of course!

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