Built St. Louis > > MidCentury Modernism || Midtown > > Pius XII Library

Pius XII Memorial Library
Saint Louis University
3650 Lindell Boulevard - Midtown
Architect: Leo A. Daly

On the outside, it is unremarkable, a stock 1950s building, rigorously geometric with no apparent concessions to ornament, and a material palette of orange brick, blue metal spandrel panels, and aluminum window frames.

Gallery: Exterior

But exterior barely hints at what lies within: an interior marked by superb attention to design, from grand concept to tiny detail.

The first public space is now a computer room, dominated by a massive wall of polished ochre marble, veined in white. Beyond that is a reading room with mottled blue tile and a spread of vintage furniture.

Gallery: Ground Floor

Conference spaces are finely appointed, with concealed-hinge in-wall cabinets, some revealing stereo equipment untouched since the Beatles' time. Green-black marble sets the tone, along with brushed aluminum hardware.

Downstairs, the staff lounge brings several of the building's elements together with vintage furniture and a shocking floor palette, for a space that perfectly captures the interior design mindset the early 1960s.

Gallery: Service and Conference Rooms

The main spaces of the building are found on the second and fourth floors. The third and fifth floors are held back from the walls to create lofty double-height stack and study spaces, with rows of towering columns marching through them, illuminated by shafts of light falling through curtained two-story windows.

The interior is arrayed in a wonderful array of materials: red marble slabs, mottled blue tile, red brick, aluminium frames and railings, terrazzo floors. The unusual light fixture configuration reportedly reflects the school's logo at the time. Sleek, stylized aluminum railings surround the mezzanine levels and run through the four fire stairs.

Gallery: Reading Rooms and Stacks

The fire stairs are lined with the same mottled blue tile that appears in the reading rooms, floored in terrazzo, and trimmed with sleek aluminium railings.

Even the bathrooms show a diverse set of color selections, each different from the next.

Most remarkable of all is how intact it all is. The furniture and fittings -- desks, chairs, shelves, light fixtures, door hardware -- appears to be almost all original; the design aesthetic is carried through from the building's overall layout to the smallest detail. Toby Weiss has written a wonderful account of the space at B.E.L.T.

Gallery: Bathrooms and Stairwells

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