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What's the architectural name for the canyon-like space between two spaces?
June 6, 2008 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Architecture geeks (particularly those in SF).. what's the name for the canyon-like space between two spaces?

At the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library, there's essentially a box within a box. The inner box is where people are usually studying and where the computers are. The outer box houses the bookshelves. In between the boxes is an open space that extends from the basement to the top floor and there's a bridge that connects the inner and outer boxes. What's the name of that space?

I do have a photo, but would rather not self-link publicly. PM me if you want it (as we're all visual folk).

Thanks.
posted by hobbes to Media & Arts (11 answers total)
 
Lightwell?

Can you load your photo up at Imageshack? People link to their own photos all the time in askme.
posted by hydrophonic at 11:24 AM on June 6, 2008


Good call on the Imageshack, here's the space in question.
posted by hobbes at 11:45 AM on June 6, 2008


That looks like an atrium to me. If they don't call it that, the building code sure does.
posted by LionIndex at 11:52 AM on June 6, 2008


Are atriums just open spaces, or are they open spaces located in the center of the building? I always thought it was the latter.
posted by hobbes at 12:03 PM on June 6, 2008


I'm going to second atrium, and have heard similar called that. 'Atrium with even more complex fire issues' might cover it.
posted by carbide at 12:34 PM on June 6, 2008


I am not an architect (but I studied to be one and I now work with them) and yes, that is indeed an atrium. An atrium is typically an enclosed open space within a building, whereas an uneclosed open space within a building is called a courtyard.

Ancient Roman homes were designed around a central open space (the atrium), the center of which had a shallow pool sunken into the floor to catch rainwater. The enclosed rooms opened into the atrium.

As an aside, the atrium at the SFPL is an excellent example of using a beautiful design in the wrong place. The floor is stone and the walls are glass and metal, so voices and footfall noise are amplified and echo throughout the building. The lighting is beautiful, but the atrium robs the library of floorspace for shelving. It's a gorgeous building, but it's the wrong design for a public city library.
posted by optovox at 12:46 PM on June 6, 2008


Wikipedia sez:
"In modern architecture, an atrium (plural atria) is a large open space, often several stories high and having a glazed roof and/or large windows, often situated within an office building and usually located immediately beyond the main entrance doors. Atria are popular with companies because they give their buildings "a feeling of space and light", but have been criticised by fire inspectors as they could allow fire to spread to a building's upper stories more quickly."
posted by misterbrandt at 1:02 PM on June 6, 2008


Atrium it is.

My own definition has always been something like a wide-open receiving space, which is why I was so hesitant to use atrium for this side space.

optovox, I haven't studied there enough, but personally I haven't noticed the sounds of footsteps as you move away from the atrium. And in the end, I feel the spirit of the space outweighs any cons 'cause the few times I go there, it always makes me feel really studious.
posted by hobbes at 1:24 PM on June 6, 2008


Ancient Roman homes were designed around a central open space (the atrium), the center of which had a shallow pool sunken into the floor to catch rainwater. The enclosed rooms opened into the atrium.

If an atrium is a closed space, per your definition in the previous paragraph, then how did it catch rainwater? Don't you mean Roman courtyards?
posted by desjardins at 2:37 PM on June 6, 2008


No, I meant atrium. Roman atriums had a roof with a large opening. Modern atriums are typically fully enclosed.
posted by optovox at 3:08 PM on June 6, 2008


Atrium it is.

My own definition has always been something like a wide-open receiving space, which is why I was so hesitant to use atrium for this side space.


That makes sense, since that's normally the function that an atrium serves in a building--usually some kind of grand entrance hall. But in generic terms, it's pretty much as optovox and misterbrandt describe.

My reference to the building codes ties in with misterbrandt's quote referencing fire officials' dislike of atria. In the building code, an atrium is defined as any open space that connects more than two levels, whether there's a skylight or not, and there are a number of fireproofing and smoke containment measures that need to be installed if any space in your building meets the fairly loose code definition. It's enough of a pain in the ass that you try to avoid having openings between levels unless you *really* want an atrium.
posted by LionIndex at 11:21 AM on June 9, 2008


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