Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Cool House by Koolhaas

I had been meaning to get over to the Seattle Public Library for quite a while now. And no, I wasn't going to check out some books. I wanted to finally see first-hand what I had been reading about in the architectural press for more than a year—the new Seattle Public Library building by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.
This has got to rate as one of the coolest, most exquisite pieces of architecture ever to grace a major city. From the outside, the glass walls seem to fold up and over themselves, making the building look much smaller than its full city block size.


But on the inside, the building soars.
Yet, after briefly orienting oneself, it's quite easy to find one's way around.
Entering from the 5th Avenue (east) side of the building, you enter the "Living Room", the base of the atrium, which contains the reading room, fiction collection, a cafe, and the entrance to an auditorium. Escalators take you up to level five, which houses the "Mixing Chamber" where library patrons can meet with librarians to get answers to general questions or receive help with research projects.
But once you're ready to do any real work, you ascend to the upper levels. Levels ten through six form a continuous "Book Spiral" that allows the library's non-fiction collection to grow without having to move books to different areas. From level ten, you can spiral your way down through the stacks along a continuous ramp.

There's also an abundance of artwork, in particular an installation by Tony Ourseler projected on oval "eggs", which provide a running commentary as you move between the Living Room and Mixing Chamber levels on a bright yellow escalator.
I also absolutely love the floor of the Children's Center on the ground level. Designed by Ann Hamilton, the floor features polished wood planks with phrases in 11 different languages, but they're backwards to evoke type set to print the books housed in the library.

You can view more photos of the Seattle Public Library on my Flickr site.
Click here to view as a slideshow.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing the Koolhas slides and video. It sure beats your travel trials and tribulations by a MILE!