#44 What Might Have Been 3

5th May 1961: J.V. Luce, who had been a driving force in the quest to build a new library for Trinity, wrote to Paul Koralek to tell him he had been awarded first prize. Here we have Paul rereading a copy of that letter in October 2017:

In it, Luce writes:

It would be most helpful if you could prepare a model of your design.

And indeed it was helpful in visualising the design – and some of the reasons it wouldn’t work. Constructed by the future architecture critic Kenneth Frampton, we still have it in storage in our Manuscripts & Archives Library, but over half a century has not been kind to it. Instead, let’s view the model in all its glory, in this sequence of images recently rediscovered:

A great design. But with issues, some of which the panel awarding the competition to Koralek noted:

The structural system, mainly precast concrete columns and trusses with in situ walls and floors, will almost certainly require much reconsideration. The general treatment is too ‘bony’ and over-complex. Search for refinement has led to a finickiness and lack of simplicity – faults which can, however, be corrected.

Looking at the model, and the plans and drawings available at Archiseek, one can clearly see that although it carries the DNA of the Berkeley-to-be, the final design is quite different and more “muscular”.

In the original iteration, the podium was to be finished in black slate to contrast with the granite of the library’s exterior walls, and a dark grey limestone on the ground floor walls. Internally the main core of the building was to be faced in a dark green marble. I find *that* hard to visualise. 

Also apparent, from studying the model and plans closely, was a plan for a pond on the podium!

When Koralek and his colleagues visited Trinity, he saw how compared to the bold, confident current Library building and the Museum building, his design did indeed need to be changed to be able to literally stand its ground with them.  He also learned that making a building out of pre-cast concrete was simply beyond the capacity of the builders that would be available to construct the library. 

Hence, a further iteration of the design was produced, in late 1961, and presented to College in early 1962, which is recognisable as the ancestor of the final design – the windows are very different, however, from the final version as built. But Koralek was no longer the lone architect working on the design at his kitchen table – Peter Ahrends and Richard Burton had joined Koralek, indeed were there from the first time he set eyes on the site in 1961 – and their influence was now coming to play. Koralek said in 2005, in a interview with John Tuomey:

The design as it now stands is very much, more than any other building I’ve done, the work of all three of us. Which is paradoxical, because I did the competition myself and won the competition. But the final design, we had very little other work at the time, we did start to get some other work, but this building was an extraordinary event and experience for us.

The final design, from our archives.