Seattle Central Library is the pinnacle of whimsy

YYou don’t have to look far to find evidence of the diversity of visitors to Seattle’s Central Library. Located in the basement, amid a DVD collection that spans the globe, is a work by artist Ann Hamilton that allows visitors to walk through the first 556 lines of books, carved on hardwood floors in Arabic, Chinese, and Chinese. National, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese. Yes, it’s a small detail in a large building, one that can literally get lost underfoot. But it’s embellishments like these that make the Seattle-Central Public Library the newest choice for The Daily Beastmonthly series, The most beautiful in the world Library.

Opened in 2004, the Seattle Central Library represents a landmark of Seattle. Funded through a $196.4 million bond measure, called “Libraries for All,” (With $20 million backing from Bill Gates), all libraries in regions may undergo some form of update or expansion. However, it is the Central Library, which has outgrown its former pits that first opened in 1972, eleven stories high and 362,987 square feet redecorated. Not to say that previous iterations weren’t impressive, of course. The library was housed in the former home of the city’s richest man, Henry Yesler, before it burned down, and the Carnegie Library occupied the site until the 1970s.

After fifteen years of her work, Valerie Wonder, downtown area manager, found the joy to have a working library giving back to the community. It’s the third place, aka hangout, not work or home, and where buying a coffee isn’t the price of admission.

“I think people have an incredible sense of pride in their public library system in a way that they didn’t have before,” she said. “I have lived in Seattle since the early 90s, it is different, I think because of this library.”


Philippe Ruault, Courtesy of OMA

Designed as a series of three rectangles stacked at slightly skewed angles by Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus, the building is a luxurious addition to a densely populated downtown office building. . Koolhas is, of course, the Pritzker Prize-winning architect behind the CCTV headquarters in Beijing and the De Rotterdam complex. With walls made of 999,996 panes of glass (in fact, Wonder shatters without hesitation), the library looks more like a conservatory than a library, where Seattle’s notoriously overcast weather has may be correct. Being able to look down from the upper floor down to the airy skylight, with areas demarcated only by carpets also gives the building a sense of larger space, as the clients have emphasized while lounging on multiple floors. the building’s couch and couch. This is a library that embraces social distancing before it becomes a preferred lifestyle choice.

Like most creative leaps, it took time for Central Library’s unorthodox design to be accepted. In 2008, a resident noted that, “the library is an affront to the great volumes of literature contained within it,” while another locality creatively notes that it is “a giant fist jutting out from the central land.” city, the digit between its 20 floors is raised to infinity.”

But there is something to be said for the novelty. Since its premiere, the crew for the 2019 comedy Cate Blanchett Where are you going, Bernadette and illustrious, iCarly Both were filming at the library. Likewise, a group of influencers dropped by. With more than 25,219 items under #seattlepubliclibrary and an endless stream of photos if you check the location tag, the Seattle Public Library is one of the most decorated libraries in the world. (Wonder recommends taking a few photos as long as visitors aren’t blocked in the process.) After all, why wouldn’t you want to snap a selfie inside a building? New York timeNS was called “Library put its fish net and hit disco?”


Philippe Ruault, Courtesy of OMA

The library stands out because Koolhaas and Prince-Ramus have rethought common elements. Like the Center Pompidou in Paris, the function of the building is not hidden from view, but highlighted. Bright. The hallway is washed in red. And traffic throughout the building is highlighted in other key shades.

“The architects intended that the staircase or escalator be this bright green,” said Wonder. “Elevators are yellow, the color of vertical movement… I think there are some people who are romantic when it comes to feeling their way through a building.”

This time, she laughed. “Signs were added later.”

Traditionalists will take comfort that the top-floor reading room has the usual aesthetic of a university library. On the whole, however, the building acts as a dramatic rethink of the library’s antics. (For proof, see Lynne Yamamoto’s “Of memory“, a sculpture of decommissioned card catalogs, hangs next to the Hugh and Jane Ferguson Room.) On the sixth to tenth floors, a large portion of the collection’s 1.5 million books arranged in a spiral pattern, accessible through a series of interconnected ramps.Although Dewey Decimal is still king, so you can really find what you’re looking for. The pattern allows for certain nerdy-friendly randomizations.

“The goal was to create a single, undivided sort of sequence, because we felt that one of the important points of libraries is that there are accidents and you find yourself in areas that you don’t want to be in. expect, and where you’re kind to look at books that aren’t necessarily the ones you’re aiming for, Koolhass said to Seattle Times in 2008. “So it’s to create an almost arbitrary pattern – or to create a kind of walking experience, an almost urban kind of walking.”

As Wonder pointed out, form – no matter how eye-catching – can never outweigh function. Since its inception, the Seattle Central Library has become an important hub and not just for those looking for books (or souvenirs from their well-stocked gift shop). Often she would watch from the library’s music rooms on her way to a meeting. And in response to the pandemic, with customers complaining they don’t have an Internet connection or a plug, a fast mobile phone charger has been installed on the 5th floor, which also houses the majority of the 400 computers. their.

However, her favorite element is the community programs, held in the Microsoft Auditorium with 275 people. Although these events include notable literary figures such as Anna Quindlen, Amy Tan, and John Green (and often in audio file form), the most notable events are those that capture the spirit of the community. Boards such as “Discovering black brilliance and black joy through storytelling” and classes on how to become a citizen are regularly scheduled and widely engaged. After all, great reason, a splendid building is nothing if it does not reflect the people who use it.

“It was the work the team did to create the voice of the community,” said Wonder. “Like any major metropolitan city, homelessness, has been on the rise for a decade and a half. We did a program to solve that problem, maybe five years ago. We’ve got a board in place and are always working to make sure that the people most affected by this issue are the voices of the platform. So we had a group of community members talk about their experiences with homelessness, to about 300 people. That’s the kind of spirit that creates a community, that’s what makes me feel proud. ” Seattle Central Library is the pinnacle of whimsy

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