Thursday, April 27, 2006

Let The ImaginOn Wars Begin

I made a short comment in my previous post about the design of the ImaginOn building, asking what people thought. (Architects, here's your chance.) One reply, from "Rebecca":

"IMAGINON is GHASTLY. The ugliest building I have ever seen. it makes me ashamed every time I pass it. It looks like something my kids built in the woods out of scraps of castoff crap they found laying around. ICKY.”

Several comments complained about what they thought was ineffective use of tax money on the buildings. Others defended the building’s use – as a children’s library and the new home of the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte.

Here’s my take: I love libraries. And the Children’s Theatre is a gem of a resource for the city. We’re lucky to have it, lucky enough theater folks are willing to work there for what I’m pretty sure aren’t great salaries. Our daughter has taken classes at the CT and loved it, so I’m happy that worthy organization has much better, larger and better-equipped space.

I mourn the loss of the old building on Morehead because its walls oozed memories and history. The stairwell wall from the dressing rooms up to the stage was layer upon layer of signatures of Children’s Theatre participants from over the decades. The history had seeped into the bones of the building and was palpable for even the youngest users, and I’m sad that all those memories were just turned into rubble in one day.

BUT – you knew a “but” was coming, right? – it’s dumb to segregate “children’s books” from the main library in a whole other building. That just further isolates young people from larger society. Kids need more places where they’re integrated with, and interacting with, people of all ages from the elderly on down.

In addition, it’s user-unfriendly for two rather large groups: 1. Adults who want to browse and check out books WHILE they take children to the library. Why make them trudge between two buildings several blocks apart? 2. Kids aged about 8-15 who are good readers and move back and forth between “children’s books” and “young adult books” and “adult books.” We should all be encouraging more kids to read more advanced literature if they’re interested, not putting obstacles in their way.

And I confess, I think the building is junky looking. I'm afraid that in 10 years it will look dated, and in 25 years will even be shabby. Our 14-year-old loves it, however. So who’s right? Let the debate begin.


Anonymous said...

This Blog is point less. ImagineOn is a fun and unique facility for children. This city needs more buildings that stand out.

Cowboy said...

"Rebecca", sorry the building wasn't beige

Anonymous said...

The building is bright, lively, and exciting, and it's apparent that the kids love it. It is exactly the type of building a modern and up and coming city should have. Once again, Mary keeps clinging to old buildings that have outgrown their use. Even 'old cities' like Boston keep reinventing themselves with some of the most daring acrhitecture I've ever seen. In an ideal world another theatre company could have bought the building on Morehead and brought more plays there, but that's life, things change. Nothing is forever.

I'm sure the kids in the Childrens Theatre are enjoying more room and state of the art equipment over at the new building. I bet they also like a place they can call their own. The adults are only a short walk from the Main.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Cowboy. The beige buildings in this city are boring. It's time for change and ImagineOn is the start of a new and vibrant beginning. Yes, the children love the new site.
Keep in mind Mary, the building is for the children and is admired by those who love new and creative architecture.

Gray Newman said...

Here is a question: How much is/was the downtown public library used by families at the same time?

The reason I ask is that Mary does make a good point about kids going to one building while the adults go to another. It has been my experience that few families use the downtown library at the same time. Kids come with their school classes and parents come during lunch hour or right after work.

One of the many good things about our public library system is that we have a great branch system. My family uses either Independence or Mint Hill and we don't have to go downtown. I have used the Carolina Room at the main branch but that is just about the only time I go to the main branch and I work three blocks away from it.

So, my point is, unless many famalies use the services at the same time, the fact that kids have to use one building and the adults have to use the other is moot.

An interesting fact: I believe the ImagineOn building is the first County owned building that is LEED certified. If you don't know what that is, look it up.

Anonymous said...

The concept of a separate children's library and the design are both products of the insanity that is our government.

Rick said...


What is the ROI on being LEED certified - environmentally and energy friendly? Will that cover the $10 million cost overun?

Anonymous said...

Although I like the ImaginOn building itself, the idea of removing the childrens books and activities from Main Library is terrible. The two groups Mary mentions are sure to feel the loss, but there's also a third: Adult readers who sometimes venture into reading Young Adult literature in search of the best writing. For example, the library classifies the award-winning How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff, as a Young Adult book, although I've seen it in plenty of bookstores in the adult section. It was one of the best things I've read in a long time.

David said...

I like the ImaginON building - it beats the blandness that is downtown Charlotte (thread spools as art, puh-lease!).

I like it that the youngest residents of our city have a place to call their own. The main library was no place for kids as evidenced by the dirty looks many adult patrons gave to young children exploring the joys of reading. This is not the 50s (the way we never were) with the scolding librarian shushing tose not acting in the "proper" way.

While I miss the old Children's Theater building on Morehead I love the new spaces for theater. They are both beautiful and along with the Children's Theater company are an asset to the cultural fabric of our city.

My only beef with the building is the incredibly horrible stick-on letters and numbers they used above the door to identify the building's address. They would look fine in an industrial area. For ImaginON it looks like an outhouse tacked on to a nice house. The identification of the building should match the building and I look forward to the day when somebody addresses that oversight.

rebecca said...

GEEZ. I check out for a few days and come back to discover I've started a firestorm. For the record, cowboy, I hate biege. Even my cielings have color at home! And while I did not mean to sound so strident, I still think IMAGINON looks like a hobo camp in the woods, or an overgrown chicken coop (there is actually corrugated aluminum on the side just like a chicken coop)
Since when are innovation and beauty oppositional ideas? I'm all for building something different, and colorful even -- but the building just looks cheap and tawdry. It is embarrassing.

Anonymous said...

I have been in ImaginOn. It's mostly empty space with a lot of books and some goofy computer games.

Why are there so many games that require TWO kids to play (forced social interaction perhaps?).

Other than the theatre, they have nothing a good sized Borders Books (minus good coffee) doesn't have.

You can take your kids to Borders Books at Stonecrest, hear live music or poetry, get some coffee or something to eat, and actually read adult books while your kids are reading kids books.

Of course we all know why this was built. Take tax money from rich white people and build useless tokens of equity in the inner city for the poor so liberals can feel good about themselves for a little while longer.

Any reason this was not built in Ballentyne?

evil twin said...

Do people in Ballentyne read? I mean except for their BMW owners manual? And the most recent Lily catalog? Just kidding...but it does beg the question about the marketplace -- if built with private funds it would not look like it does, or be where it is ...or cost as much as it did. OPM brings out the ugly!

Anonymous said...

I went to ImaginOn on a holiday (Martin Luther Kinng day, ironically) when there was no school, so you think kids would be free.

It was deserted.

I could go to Borders, park for free, and sit and read books forever and then stop in Harris Teeter on my way home.

Or I could go to ImaginOn, park in the scary underground garage, figure out the mystery behind getting my parking validated, then have to leave early so I don't get dinged on parking.

A word to the uptown cheerleaders, if you do not build LOTS of FREE, CONVENIENT parking, you can kiss your dreams of a vibrant downtown (please, rednecks, stop calling it 'uptown') goodbye.

ImaginOn = Families = Minivans = Mothers and Kids = Need parking spot where its easy to drag my small kids into the place.

Myra said...

Hmmm ... ImaginOn ... What to say?

Mixed feelings would be the best I can come up with.

I love that CTC has more space and is better equipped. They truly deserve it - and the shows are better than ever.

I like some of the ideas in the building: I love the "loft," which is the section purely for people 12-18 complete with Young Adult books. I just think that they should have those books at the main branch too.

As for the actual building, it's, well, atrociously overdone. And I miss the Morehead stree building (definitely the wall that Mary mentioned most - it was pretty awe inspiring).

Anonymous said...

The comment made by anonymous 5/2/06 @ 11:33:42 is typical of that "rooting for Charlotte to fail" mentality that is prevalent on these type of blogs. I mean, these people must have this perverted sense of wishing for everything that the city leaders do to help make Charlotte a better place for the future backfire so they can puff their chests out and tell everyone, "See, I told you so, we were right all along." What a sad existance they must live! My question to all the naysayers out there that think that Charlotte is so bad is, Why are you still there? If you're so miserable there, then why don't you leave, escape to South Carolina. I mean, Charlotte has gone to hell in a handbasket in your eyes! I think that it's time for Charlotte to drop that small-town mindset anyway and step up to big leagues. It's about time that Charlotte becomes a real city and not a bigger Greensboro. I might be off subject, but I just had to address that. Oh, and btw, I like ImaginOn, I think it does bring a uniqueness to the other buildings in uptown.