Saturday, April 5, 2008


The library at Oberlin is a looming concrete box with tall dark windows, heavy and gray; its name, Mudd, is all too apt. But inside--and I did not adequately appreciate* this until a few years later, when I was working at a design magazine--it is decked out in full technicolor '70s drag.

A row of Eero Aarnio ball chairs--which everyone there calls womb chairs--lines the east-facing windows on every floor.

(Top floor: orange.)

The centerpiece of the library is this sprawling rainbow configuration of soft blocks. Best nap zone in the world!

And color-coded study zones are planted everywhere--in the sprawling obvious places along windows and bookshelves, but also tucked in tiny pockets and dim out-of-the-way corners, some as still and untouched as empty movie sets.

What I later figured out were Aarnio "Pastil" chairs used to sit out on the roof all winter, pooling rain or humped with snow, like lawn furniture. (They're gone now--rescued, I hope, and not discarded.)

Dear Oberlin, please never renovate.

*"Adequately appreciate." I thought about this later when I was walking the dog. Why is it that to know the name of something--to be able to identify the designer, the market value, the vintage--qualifies as "proper" appreciation? In fact, as a student I demonstrated my great appreciation for the furnishings of Mudd Library by delightedly slinging my whole body onto them every day, even though I didn't know who Aarnio was or that a womb-chair is worth a zillion dollars. Really, it's a far more tactile and real enjoyment than skulking around the library taking snapshots of them. Fortunately, next year I can do both of these things.


Donal Mosher said...

Where is the space stewardess from 2001 walking on the ceiling and bringing tea to thirsty young students?

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