• U.S.

Architecture: The Ten-Gallon Stack

3 minute read

President Hoover’s library sits in West Branch, Iowa, Eisenhower’s in Abilene, Kans., Truman’s in Independence, Mo., and Kennedy’s will be located in Cambridge, Mass. Naturally, Lyndon B. Johnson has hankered to have the library housing his presidential papers built down by the Pedernales. But rather than make scholars beat a track to his door, Johnson will see his library go up on Austin’s University of Texas campus. In fact he has already called him self “a son-in-law of the university,” where his wife and daughters have been students.

The L.B.J. library, which will house papers recording Johnson’s career in public service since the early 1930s and serve as L.B.J.’s study after his presidency, had its first showing, in model form, last week in a presentation presided over by W. W. Heath, chairman of the board of regents. It turned out to be a ten-gallon colossus. The complex was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s Gordon Bunshaft, who also did Yale’s rare-book library. Situated on a 19-acre extension of the university, the $10,750,000 project (to be paid for by Texas’ oil-rich land-grant endowment fund) is actually two buildings: the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library—a 200-ft.-long, 85-ft.-high box on a podium—and a low-lying 935-ft.-long campus library and research center.

The L.B.J. library is monumental, with gently curved slabs bracing set-back façades that look a little like a drive-in movie’s screen. The interior will be a vast, uncolumned hall enclosing a freestanding glass-enclosed bookstack faced with red-leather-bound presidential papers. The podium beneath it houses a 250-seat lecture hall and a 1,000-seat auditorium equipped with permanent TV installations, the necessity for which Johnson observed when he held a crushed press conference at the Truman library a year ago.

Atop the Johnson library is a projecting lid with a loggia that looks out from a suite reserved for the President himself. Indeed, part of the bait that the University of Texas offered L.B.J., who says that after he leaves the presidency “there is no place I’d rather be than on the campus,” was the deanship of a new school of public service to be located in the ancillary building. The lid also contains studies that ring a sunken patio; scholars will descend into the bookstack from above while the public climbs up from below to see the showcases chronicling the Johnsonian era.

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