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Los Angeles Central Library: a history of its art and architecture

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Declared one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, Los Angeles Central Library is a monument to fine architecture and artwork, its renowned collection of the written word, and its world-class special collections. The Central Library and its history are as fascinating as any of the storied volumes found on its shelves. City leaders fought for decades to build a land Declared one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, Los Angeles Central Library is a monument to fine architecture and artwork, its renowned collection of the written word, and its world-class special collections. The Central Library and its history are as fascinating as any of the storied volumes found on its shelves. City leaders fought for decades to build a landmark structure and later battled to demolish it, yet generations of Angelenos have watched the building stand tall, survive fires, and endure into the twenty-first century, ready to face a high-tech society that thought it could live without books.Year after year Central Library proves its essential place in the heart of Los Angeles. Its beautiful building, paintings, murals, sculptures, decor, and storied tile work are captured by the lens of photographer and graphic designer Arnold Schwartzman. And its remarkable story of dramatic visuals and civic involvement is chronicled by architectural historian Stephen Gee.


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Declared one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, Los Angeles Central Library is a monument to fine architecture and artwork, its renowned collection of the written word, and its world-class special collections. The Central Library and its history are as fascinating as any of the storied volumes found on its shelves. City leaders fought for decades to build a land Declared one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, Los Angeles Central Library is a monument to fine architecture and artwork, its renowned collection of the written word, and its world-class special collections. The Central Library and its history are as fascinating as any of the storied volumes found on its shelves. City leaders fought for decades to build a landmark structure and later battled to demolish it, yet generations of Angelenos have watched the building stand tall, survive fires, and endure into the twenty-first century, ready to face a high-tech society that thought it could live without books.Year after year Central Library proves its essential place in the heart of Los Angeles. Its beautiful building, paintings, murals, sculptures, decor, and storied tile work are captured by the lens of photographer and graphic designer Arnold Schwartzman. And its remarkable story of dramatic visuals and civic involvement is chronicled by architectural historian Stephen Gee.

27 review for Los Angeles Central Library: a history of its art and architecture

  1. 4 out of 5

    LAPL Reads

    Last Friday, April 29, 2016 was the 30th anniversary of the fire at Central Library. The remembrance of that day, and its significance in the history of the library, was admirably covered by the Library Docents, and by Christina Rice, Senior Librarian, Photo Collection. Last week also marked the arrival of a significant new book about the Central Library’s history. If you use the Los Angeles Public Library, then you must read this book. If you love a story filled with intrigue, determination, pe Last Friday, April 29, 2016 was the 30th anniversary of the fire at Central Library. The remembrance of that day, and its significance in the history of the library, was admirably covered by the Library Docents, and by Christina Rice, Senior Librarian, Photo Collection. Last week also marked the arrival of a significant new book about the Central Library’s history. If you use the Los Angeles Public Library, then you must read this book. If you love a story filled with intrigue, determination, persistence, mishaps, serendipity, indecision, unexpected luck, sadness, and joy about idealism at last realized, you will find all of it here in the history of Central Library. The original library building did not appear without a long gestation, so long that herds of elephants were probably born during this time period. From the beginning in 1844, the concept and realization for a downtown library was often contentious: the location, the design, who would be hired to design the building, how much money and where would it come from, and who would make the final decision about all of this. The city librarians came and went, some voluntarily, and others were asked to leave. When the new Central Library finally opened on July 15, 1926, it marked,“... the end of an eighty-year journey.” Forty years later, as the city and the library grew, there were new major problems and issues to be resolved. One idea was to demolish the building and start over. This well-researched and compelling history of the Central Library was written by Stephen Gee and illustrated with Arnold Schwartzman's exquisite photographs. Implicit is the history and feel of Los Angeles, a city growing in spurts with few pauses to allow for reflection. Not all history books are interesting, but Gee's gift for accurate research and excellent writing results in an outstanding history about how the political and social leaders of the city, the library staff, and the economy influenced Central Library's creation. He faithfully documents the contributions made by architects and artists to the original building, and to the Tom Bradley addition. The personalities, knowledge and ideas of some individuals make for juicy reading, and Gee never shies away from what has been researched. The photographs are superb: older ones are finely reproduced, and current photographs by Arnold Schwartzman allow all of us to see up close what none of us will ever be able to see in person. Attentive lighting and camera angles show the details in many parts of the library’s building. Finalized dimensional drawings are displayed side by side with photographs of the completed architectural features or objects. Stephen Gee and Arnold Schwartzman have filled a missing link in Los Angeles history and Los Angeles Public Library’s history. At the Central Library and the 72 branches, all the staff will be able to answer patrons’ questions by using this book. For those of us who work at the library we appreciate the hard work and difficult decisions that went into the creation of a long overdue book which is historically correct and fascinating to read. Thank you Stephen Gee, Arnold Schwartzman and Angel City Press. To Scott McAuley and staff, please do not allow this book to go out of print. Reviewed by Sheryn Morris, Librarian, Central Library

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ziyad Khesbak

    A beautiful book about a beautiful building, melding history with its artistic and biographical counterparts to tell the story of a building pieced together in agonizing fashion, beloved for a time, then nearly swallowed whole by elements and apathy before establishing itself firmly as one of the centerpieces to a downtown renaissance. Also I really, really hate 1990s aesthetic. It ruins everything.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tina

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kat

  6. 5 out of 5

    JJ

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mahmoud Elrefaay

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sue

  10. 5 out of 5

    Matt

  11. 5 out of 5

    Elise

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chris Go

  13. 4 out of 5

    James

  14. 5 out of 5

    Connie

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

  16. 4 out of 5

    Julissa

  17. 5 out of 5

    David Trilling

  18. 4 out of 5

    AudryT

  19. 4 out of 5

    Liz

  20. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Mckelvy

  21. 4 out of 5

    rêveur d'art

  22. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jenna O'Neal

  24. 4 out of 5

    Madeline Pena

  25. 5 out of 5

    Paras Nanavati

  26. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Scordato

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joanne

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