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If Picasso ever painted a library, it might look like this.
May 20, 2004 7:08 AM   Subscribe

Virtual tour of the new Seattle Central Library. Built from a critically acclaimed design by Rem Koolhaas, this library opens Sunday. The design makes me want to paint my staircase bright yellow, or maybe move to Seattle.
posted by profwhat (29 comments total)

 
Absolutely gorgeous.
posted by GeekAnimator at 7:22 AM on May 20, 2004


agreed. gorgeous images...

*insert big butt here*

it looks like the acoustics are terrible... lots of relective surfaces, high ceilings with lots of reverberation. anybody from seattle to confirm or deny this?
posted by sunexplodes at 7:29 AM on May 20, 2004


The exterior appears to this viewer as anxiety-inducing.
posted by callmejay at 7:56 AM on May 20, 2004


Er, where are the books? Of the 20 pictures in the slideshow, only two have books in them. One shows shelving beneath a massive skylight (gee, that won't fade covers or anything), the other shows some ancient books on the floor of the kid's room.

If you hide the books (or even the computers) behind whoppers of architecture, folks will forget what a library is for.

But I just got my MLS this weekend, so maybe I'm just bitter. But, would you rather sit and read in this library or in your local Borders?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:06 AM on May 20, 2004


Nice design. Kinda reminds me of the Le Centre Pompidou, turned inside out.

But deluxe library spaces always strikes me as a collossal waste of cash. The height of form over funtion.

The local library where I used to live is a prime example. Beautiful structure with atriums and fountains etc. But hardly any materials.

Just another example of why librarians are out-of-control freaks.
posted by Fupped Duck at 8:09 AM on May 20, 2004


Always a critic, theStranger lobs a spear with several barbs.
posted by roboto at 8:13 AM on May 20, 2004


Of course the sad thing here is that in Seattle for the last year or so we've been closing libraries at random for periods of a week each and not paying librarians but here we've spent-- I don't know-- a lot of money for a brand new library. I don't get it, but then again nothing King County does makes any sense. And the Mariners suck, too.
posted by xmutex at 8:28 AM on May 20, 2004


"Print is dead."-Egon
posted by ColdChef at 8:29 AM on May 20, 2004


Damn that's ugly.
posted by silusGROK at 8:30 AM on May 20, 2004


It's not actually open yet so us Seattle folks can neither confirm nor deny that there are any book inside.
posted by falconred at 8:40 AM on May 20, 2004


anybody from seattle to confirm or deny this?

Unfortunately, it doesn't open until Sunday.

The exterior appears to this viewer as anxiety-inducing

It's actually surprisingly pretty. I despise this kind of architecture, but having seen it in person I vote this building is kinda cool. I mean hell, could it be any uglier than the EMP building? (which many locals have described as a piece of chewed gum barfed up.)
posted by evilcupcakes at 8:52 AM on May 20, 2004


That whole red reception area looks slippery.
posted by ColdChef at 9:01 AM on May 20, 2004


I'm fascinated, and I know what I'm doing the next time I'm in Seattle ...
posted by carter at 9:04 AM on May 20, 2004


The exterior appears to this viewer as anxiety-inducing.

It fairly looms over one when biking down Fourth Avenue--not unlike the wineglass stemmed base of the Rainier Tower, around which the owners built a shopping center when they realized how many of the public would find it very alarming to stand beneath or near it on an open plaza.

There is this local journalistic obsession about Seattle being considered a world class city--a collective character flaw not commonly found in actual world class cities, mind you--so you can imagine the local hype about the library. I still can see why people are excited by this, and for a fact, they didn't tear anything down cool to put it up.

My favorite unbuilt architectural addition to the local landscape was Clas Oldenburg's suggestion back in the 70's that the Kingdome be turned into a giant hamburger with a pickle on top. We could have gone world class Googie and postmodern right there.
posted by y2karl at 9:05 AM on May 20, 2004


I think the new library is the gustiest thing this city has done in the 13 yrs. I've lived here. Finally someone had the balls to do something interesting.

This is from SPL's site.
BOOKS AND MATERIALS
The new Central Library will have a capacity for more than 1.45 million books and materials (compared to 900,000 in the old building).


TECHNOLOGY
The new Central Library will feature more than 400 public computers. The old building had 75.


And something that their fact sheet doesn't say. In the old building, the people in the cataloging, processing, etc. departments had to use the cardboard boxes their computers and printers came in as furniture for that very equipment. For patrons, the old building was a warren-like hovel with little room to sit. Plus some scary-ass dead ends where I ran into some creepy activity a few times.

xmutex--not sure if this is what you meant, but Seattle Public Lib. is separate from King Co. Library Sys.

To those of you with issues with your library sytems, I'd urge you to look at the director of the system. They are the ones who make the decisions and set policies, not the librarians.

There was an interesting interview on our NPR station with the author of a book on the history of the Seattle Lib. I couldn't get the RealAudio to work, but maybe you can. Here's the book.
posted by lobakgo at 9:09 AM on May 20, 2004


This is going to look horribly dated in a few years, if not now.
posted by corpse at 9:31 AM on May 20, 2004


I'm in the camp of people who don't like it much. I've always been of the "cathedral of learning" persuasion, so I like my libraries gothic, somber, and stone. It also seems like a colossal waste of space to have a gigantic atrium. Sure, they put a million and a half books in there, but they could have fit more in if they hadn't wanted to get all fancy.

I keep trying to imagine what Borges would say if you showed it to him. I think he would say, "what, I'm blind you eediot, I can see nothing!" (Borges in my mind sounds a lot of like Ren, I guess.)
posted by Hildago at 9:33 AM on May 20, 2004


I was just reading about this in The New Yorker yesterday, and it made me want to return to Seattle (where I regularly visited four or five of the city's libraries 20 years ago). The photo (apparently not online) was spectacular; the reviewer was very impressed.

I think he would say, "what, I'm blind you eediot, I can see nothing!"

"Hi, I'm Borges, I'll be here all week. . . ." I think he would really say, "Nice, but nothing will ever be as grand as my library."
posted by LeLiLo at 9:42 AM on May 20, 2004


Hildago--I think the weather here is gothic and somber enough most of the time without the buildings being that way too. The idea of a Seattle building that lets in light and lets you look out at the the city and sky(I don't know if you can see the Sound from the building) is a nice change.
posted by lobakgo at 9:47 AM on May 20, 2004


One shows shelving beneath a massive skylight (gee, that won't fade covers or anything)

According to the article the windows are reflective during the day and transparent at night.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:58 AM on May 20, 2004


This is going to look horribly dated in a few years, if not now.

You're right, Corpse, who needs that garbage, when we could have had a timeless library building like this one? Bah, who needs architecture and the arts.
posted by tomplus2 at 11:03 AM on May 20, 2004


Gorgeous.
Long live king Rem.
Koolhaas, obviously, not Stimpy.
posted by signal at 12:30 PM on May 20, 2004


The idea of a Seattle building that lets in light and lets you look out at the the city and sky(I don't know if you can see the Sound from the building) is a nice change.

I'm sure it is, but the angles on this building... I look at it and all I can think is "You'll put your eye out, you'll put your eye out!" Couldn't it have been softer and sleeker and more naturally-shaped to go along with the lovely aesthetic idea of letting in light and giving a view of city and sky? Are curves passé? This reminds of the LRDC at the University of Pittsburgh, and not in a good way.
posted by Dreama at 1:56 PM on May 20, 2004


Who needs that garbage, when we could have had a timeless library building like this one? Actually, tomplus2, that little Samoan library in the photo you link to looks like a library you could kind of love. I happen to live in another city with a brand new, grandiose, post-modernistic main library, and it happens to bite the big one. I would like the Rem Koolhaas building for almost anything but a library. It's complete disdain for the intimacy of the act of reading and searching through the stacks, and the one-on-one interaction with books is nihilistic and anti-literate.
posted by Faze at 2:00 PM on May 20, 2004


as much as i like the spirit of what rem was thinking... its seems very cold and uninviting - kind of horrible actually - something softer that acknowledged the pacific northwest and the beautiful surroundings and geography of seattle - i think would be much nicer. at least in my opinion...

something tells me william mcdonough would have produced something much less techy and more user friendly
posted by specialk420 at 2:06 PM on May 20, 2004


I drove past the library the other day, but haven't been inside yet. I like that it lets in so much light - it really is dark around here especially in winter when it's dark by 4pm - that is if you ever see the sun through the clouds. Luckily during summer we have sunlight until ~9:30pm.

As for the EMP, I was disgusted by the EMP design when it went up, but this library I like. Although the EMP's amazing interior makes up for the outside technicolor-vomit motif.
posted by humbe at 2:29 PM on May 20, 2004


in Seattle for the last year or so we've been closing libraries at random for periods of a week each and not paying librarians but here we've spent-- I don't know-- a lot of money for a brand new library. I don't get it

If you don't get it then maybe use the library to find out an answer? They are not closing libraries "at random" - all of that has been planned out. Some of the branches have been temporarily closed for upgrade purposes. And, as you stated, the entire SPL system has been closed for a week several times in the past year to save money.

From here:
"Seattle voters overwhelmingly approved the $196.4 million 'Libraries for All' bond measure to upgrade The Seattle Public Library with new facilities, technology, and books. The bond money, which can be used only for construction of libraries, is funding a new central library and new and improved branches.
That bond money can't be used to pay for things like employee salaries. And that's why there have been several week-long closures in the past year even though a costly new library is going up."
posted by gluechunk at 4:35 PM on May 20, 2004


Aw, gluechunk beat me to it. Yes, we approved the bond measure when times were flush, and now that they aren't, that money is still there, but restricted to building/remodeling libraries. They can't use it to fill in budget holes.

I am excited about the new library but reserve judgement until I see it in use.
posted by litlnemo at 5:44 PM on May 20, 2004


wonderful. but they'll have to close it due to budget shortfalls. after all, we gave all the money to a bunch of rich guys.
posted by muppetboy at 8:35 PM on May 20, 2004


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