Peckham Library

Anyone For A Game of Funky Tetris?

On a Saturday afternoon, Peckham Rye Lane, the main shopping street in Peckham, is bustling, awash with Caribbean grocery stores, African women in glorious dress, men sitting on chairs outside shops, watching the world go by. Where Peckham Rye Lane finishes, if you hop across the road, you come to a pedestrian area – which is where Peckham Library, which looks like a funky Tetris block, sits alone, it doesn’t quite fit in with the South London African vibe. It’s like a stranger hanging around, wanting to be accepted, and being tolerated but never embraced.

Houston to Peckham: There Will Be No Take Off

On the Peckham Library web page, Peckham Library looks like a stunning beautiful shimmering building, a beacon of hope and modernism for Peckham, like a spaceship that was hoping to take off and reach for the skies and take Peckham with it. But on a September Saturday afternoon its shabby state looks much more in keeping with the local surrounds. Peckham Library has been harnessed, sedated, spoiled and is now resigned to being a slave to local circumstance and need.

The locals have stamped their mark on it mainly through the use of vandalism and graffiti (which has in return led to a number of sand blast cleans, the blotchy affect makes the building look like it has contracted measles). There is a giant spider’s web crack in one of the pain’s of glass. Someone has scrawled time on one of the panels.

Interestingly, someone has also carved into a cemented area surrounding the library, ‘Edwin, 15/3/98’ Brigith’. (Need to solve this mystery)

At the beginning of the 1990s it was decided that Peckham was a dump that needed a bit of regeneration. A budget of 265 million pounds and a seven year programme was created to regenerate the area in which the library now stands [what did it look like before?].

The high rise housing was demolished and new low rise housing was built in its place.

It’s like as if to say the building of a new library is like a way for the powers to be to tell the poor and needy ‘we still love you’, ‘we’re still thinking of you’. You’ve got no job, but go read a book on us.

The Design of Surprise

Everything in Peckham Library is designed to surprise. Whilst you can see common themes and patterns, everything is a variation, there’s little that is standard. It’s so healthy for the mind, as anyone who lives on a modern university campus knows, standardisation and regularity, taken to an extreme, stymie the imagination and creates mental stress. The supporting beams come down at different angles, no angle ever the same, the coloured panels built on to different parts of the building follow no particular scheme and are rude and shocking, the paragon shaped windows are all different dimensions and angles

Space Pods, Pea Pods, Peas in a Pod, Library Pod?

Floor 4 and most of its contents are bestrode by three large pods, which on first appearance seem to be made out of wood, but on second inspection, are actually coated in wood coloured panels made out of plastic. The pods look powerful and threatening – the bottom of the pods seem to dip in the middle, giving the impression that they are going to collapse spewing their contents on to the unlucky people working beneath. The middle pod is accessible via a spiral staircase, home to a circular study area in the sky. Blue carpet and white undulating walls, which you can look over to see floor 4. Study desks are located next to the wall, where lights shine down illuminating peoples’ reading.

There are loads of yellow signs with black borders, denoting the different books sections, which on first impression look modern and trendy – which give the library a modern feel – give it a sign that it’s trying to aspire to something better – to quality. But the modernism is betrayed, the sign’s are coming off, the signs are bent out of shape like a squashed cereal box, revealing their fragile card like nature, worse still you can see that they are stuck on with loops of cellotape. This really is Blue Peter stuff – making a library out of a cereal packet. A look around and you can see many of the yellow signs are popping out of their holders and deforming.

Warm Library - Hostile World

Its quarter to seven on a cold and blustery September evening – its getting dark and it feels like winter. There’s a feeling that everyone in the library is winding down, if not to relax, then through exhaustion. The orange brown carpet emits a warmth, like fire, and contrasts with the foreboding black clouds which obscure the dark blue sky, and pass in front of the huge windows built into the library’s wall.

Libraries are a strange mixture of the sterile and safe. The orange brown carpet of the Peckham Library provides a lovely warm glowing feeling – like a hearth – like a fireplace – which makes you wish you could stay there forever – it feels like a cave that you don’t want to leave – it makes you feel cosy and warm – transported from and oblivious to the disgusting, torturous, rainy, dirty, chilly night, which you know in the back of your mind you will have to, body hunched up and face with a grimace, have to return to, which will molest you once again.

The Great Chewing Gum Convention

Libraries are great places to leave your chewing gum. Chewing gum is a great aid to thinking. It stimulates saliva but also thoughts. After a while you need to stop thinking and rest – but you can’t do it if you’re still chewing gum – so you have to get rid of the gum – otherwise you’ll think forever. For this reason the library installed these marvellous hexagonal shaped tables for pieces of chewing gum to sit around and continue thinking on behalf of the chewer. Because chewing gum has marvellous sticking properties, the tables are built into the side of walls, leaving more space for the chewers, who are disabled, and can only sit on the floor. When I visited the library these pieces were taking a moment to silently contemplate the important issues of the day which they had no doubt been discussing before I had got there.

Tip: If you want to know what someone else was thinking a few hours ago all you need to do is pop one of their old chewing gums into your mouth

Dark and Foreboding Clouds

We want to talk to people who work, use and love libraries! No matter where you are from. If you would like to talk to us we would like to talk to you. Email Mike