Oakland Media Library: Urban Communication Space
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As North American cities experience rapid changes in demographics, communication technology, and economy, how will urban libraries continue to hold meaning and usefulness to their publics? Investigating the position of the municipal public library in the multicultural city, the thesis focuses on how this civic institution can be a social gathering place and a venue that supports multiple forms of communication and cultural contestation. Oakland, California is the site for an exploration of these concepts and their application in a design proposal. Oakland is a diverse and segregated city which is currently undergoing a new wave of development. The city’s history reveals how the formation of urban communities has often been intimately connected with the uses and transformations of public space. The history also illustrates the ways that public life has been performed within and defined by the public spaces of the city. An investigation of the Library’s story and myths highlights the gap between the institution’s utopian self-conception and its less than egalitarian history. To develop new visions for the municipal library, theories about public space and urban life are considered in light of changing technologies and communication methods currently affecting the public realm. The juxtaposition of these concepts suggests that in order to improve the popularity and relevance of the Library, an expansion and diversification of its urban, social and practical functions is necessary. The design proposal for the Oakland Media Library integrates this broadened idea of the Library into the city fabric, and renews the Library’s meaning and usefulness by conceiving it as an urban communication space.