The Palace of the People

As I was touring the Providence Public Library yesterday, one of the things that struck me as I was admiring the vaulted ceilings and ornate trim in the space was how this space had many characteristics of a palace, and yet its purpose was very different from most of the palaces that we have studied over the past months. The architecture of the part that was not under construction was awe-inspiring but unlike many other palaces, the space’s purpose is not to inspire awe in a ruler or spiritual being, rather the library is a space to hold knowledge and celebrate culture. This was a space for the public to inhabit. The purpose of this space was further solidified during the hard hat tour where our guide explained the many ways that they were modifying the space so that it was more enjoyable for the public, such as creating larger, open spaces, raising the ceilings, making spaces for children and teens, even adding a wine bar. The purpose of the Providence Public Library is in many ways similar that of the Palace of Zakros that I am examining for my final project. In determining the purpose of spaces within the palace, it has been said that “Communal dining, and public communication and decision-making, are more consistent with the architecture of the palace and they layout of the town than elite exploitation and control” (Reid 2007, 32). The Palace of Zakros is thought to house space, not for one all-powerful ruler, but rather a more communal one for the people in the area where decisions regarding the region of Eastern Minoan Crete. The Providence Public Library is a useful modern example of a palace-like space for the use of the general public and is an interesting parallel to the Palace of Zakros.


Reid, J. (2007) Minoan Kato Zakro a Pastoral Economy. Tempus Reparatum