In David Kertai’s paper, The Architecture of Connectivity, different architectural and decorative aspects Ashurbanipal II’s Northwest Palace are described. An integral part of the decoration in the Northwest Palace and many Neo-Assyrian palaces, are the entrance-flanking lamassu and wall reliefs which portray the king, his military campaigns, and apotropaic figures. I previously thought that the reason for these types of adornments were to intimidate and impress foreign and Assyrian visitors. However, they also have a different purpose. The colossi and apotropaic figures seem to be directly correlated with the king (Kertai 2012, 344). These figures seem to face the direction from which the main flow of people was expected. This direction is predominantly toward the throne room (Kertai 2012, 344). This directionality implies that the reliefs and lamassu were not just purely for decoration, but they had an additional function, namely that they served as indicators of where to travel within the palace. This also indicates that the reliefs were intently paid attention to and not just walked by without a second glance.
Additionally, reliefs portraying life-sized images of the king were placed to provide clues about the use of spaces in the palace (Kertai 2012, 346). Reliefs of the king surround the two thrones in the throne room where he would have sat and received visitors. However this type of representation was not limited to the throne room. Most large reception rooms showed the king behind where he most likely sat when present (Kertai 2012, 346).
While the king was the main focus in the Northwest Palace, books are the main attraction in the Providence Public Library. During the hard hat tour of the portion of the building under renovation, the tour guide pointed out to us that in the past, the books were completely hidden. Because the stacks were not visible to the passing eye, visitors to the library would often walk in and ask where the books were, completely lost. As part of the renovation, they are adding a glass wall next to each floor of the book stacks, making the book the new focus of visual attention. Similar to the lamassu and reliefs, the glass walls will guide visitors in the right path through the library and indicate where the target is. The glass walls are effective because they, like the lamassu, provide direction, but they also, like the images of the king, describe the use of the building’s spaces.
Kertai, D. (2012) The Architecture of Connectivity Die Architektur des Weges, 337-346.
Images taken from Kertai paper, Google Images, and by me.