John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
A Star Destroyer from George Lucas's fevered imagination, perhaps?
When Zaha Hadid envisions a building, she likes to go big on concept and design. Bow down before her "Watergate on steroids" in Beijing, for instance, or imagine the clouds parting under the nuclear thrusters of this Japanese stadium/mothership.
With a bossy bibliotheque opening in Austria, the architect once again shows an interest in structures that seem to have second purposes of ferrying probe-happy ETs across distant galaxies. It is called the Library and Learning Center and it squats on the campus of the Vienna University of Economics and Business; here's the first thing that pedestrians will see of it when drawing near:
Look at it peering around the corner, like a Truckasaurus thinking it's found a great hiding spot. That hovering black head is actually what holds all the books. Turn the bend and the foreignness of the thing reveals itself, with its gunmetal-colored facade, surfaces jutting at oblique angles, and curves and lines that suggest automotive racing streaks or cooling pipes at a power-generation facility. It would fit right in with a fleet of Star Destroyers blasting some unfortunate rebel ship with turbolasers:
The Learning Center is not as playful as the Seattle Public Library, but it's certainly as visually staggering. Its devotion to being monochrome should please Apple fans: Delve into the interior of the 300,000-square-foot beast, and you transition from dark, high-tech cladding to a brilliant pearly white that only the top 1 percent of New York dry-cleaners can achieve:
Rieder Smart Elements, the Austrian company that manufactured its sustainable paneling, says the building includes classrooms, offices, an auditorium and cafeteria. At full capacity, it will hold a sizable population of 24,000 students and 1,800 staffers.