The concrete layer cake of my childhood

As a child growing up in Dunedin, the curious behemoth of layered concrete known as the Dunedin Public Library (designed by the City Council’s Architectural Division) always had a seemingly omnipresent feel as a ‘civic surveyor’ of the Octagon city-scape.

I remember various class trips, trolling through the shelves and finding myself lost within the books. It seemed all to easy to escape into the womb of my imagination by venturing into a window box or simply resting on the warmth of the carpet flooring. The escapism was most definitely the jam filling between the layers concrete sponge.

In a sense, I feel that libraries lead a double life with their role as public places in the city – as public places they facilitate collective intimacy as a refuge for the mind and soul.

In a way, I believe that these childhood spaces we experience have a significant part to play in the formation of self i.e. who we are (or think we are) and how we see the world.

For me, the Dunedin Public Library has and always will be about colouring books and felt-tip pens.

Acknowledgments and thanks to the staff at the Dunedin Public Library for allowing me to photograph inside.

D. Fincham


8 responses to “The concrete layer cake of my childhood”

  1. I can still remember the smell of the Taupo Public Library. Building product odours are more transcendent than those in the industry acknowledge.

  2. Monday Avatar

    Brilliant! I love this building for precisely these reasons. The odd elevated public spaces and intimate interiors accommodating and cultivating various moods/modes now strikes me as essential built elements for such a programme.

  3. Having not been to either, I wonder how it compares with the Colin St. John Wilson’s British Library, in the terms just described by Monday…?

  4. Xanadu Avatar

    I have been to the British Library, it has quite grandiose interior spaces.. the surrounding civic spaces are well treated with terraced courtyards, oddly similar in the way Monday described previously.

  5. The British Library is fantastic. Loved it – every minute – inside. Still not convinced about the outside though….

    …much the same as i am not convinced about the outside of the Dunedin library shown here. Spongey layer cake, yes. Nice bit of architecture, maybe not.

  6. Xanadu Avatar

    Regardless of whether one thinks it’s a nice bit of architecture or not.. I think this article is trying to say (and correct me if I’m wrong) that architecture has an experiential dimension, which encodes/makeup our own idea or impressions of how buildings work and have a role in our lives.

    I guess this goes beyond aesthetics or personal taste, unfortunately though I can’t think of or share any buildings I’ve had personal experience with of this nature.

  7. Not quite a layer cake, but a cake you may ‘lay’ on accidentally…

    Quite impressive really…

  8. Haha brilliant! That could be something straight out of a molecular gastronomy cooking show..

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