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REM KOOLHAAS' SEATTLE PUBLIC LIBRARY

June 01, 2014  •  1 Comment

Funding for the new Seattle Central Library building was provided by a $196.4 million bond issue approved by Seattle voters on November 3, 1998. The project also received a $20 million donation from Bill Gates.

The Seattle Public Library's Central Library is an 11-story (56 mtr.) glass and steel building in downtown Seattle. It was opened to the public on Sunday, May 23, 2004. Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus of OMA/LMN were the principal architects, Magnusson Klemencic Associates and Arup were the structural engineers and Hoffman Construction Company of Portland, Oregon, was the general contractor. The 34,000 m² public library can hold about 1.45 million books and other materials, has underground public parking for 143 vehicles, and includes over 400 computers open to the public. Over 2 million individuals visited the new library in its first year.

The library has a unique, striking appearance, consisting of several discrete "floating platforms" which appear to be wrapped in a large steel net around glass skin. Although the library is an unusual shape from the outside, the architects' philosophy was to let the building's required functions dictate what it should look like, rather than imposing a structure and making the functions conform to that. The "Books Spiral," is designed to display the library's nonfiction collection without breaking up the Dewey Decimal System classification onto different floors or sections. The collection spirals up through four stories on a continuous series of shelves. This allows readers to browse the entire collection without using stairs or traveling to a different part of the building. Other internal features include anAuditorium on the ground floor, the "Living Room" on the third floor (designed as a space for patrons to read), the Mixing Chamber (a version of a reference desk that provides interdisciplinary staff help for patrons who want to have questions answered or do research), and a Reading Room, with views of Elliott Bay, on Level 10.

The opinion of architectural critics and the general public has been mixed. Whilst the exterior is striking the interior seemed to me to be functional, the fixtures don't look the best quality and seem not to have worn particularly well. There seemed to be vast areas of open speace which might have been usefully employed. It will be interesting see what the building looks like in 20 years' time.

All photographs (c) Alan Ainsworth Photography 2014


Comments

1.Catherine Cooper(non-registered)
Thanks, Alan. I love the weather-beaten proud faces of the men and the compositions which direct our interest without concern for classic horizons.
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