Friday, May 28, 2004
The Truth Is Out There — Koolhaas in Seattle
You expect the architecture critics to rave about Rem Koolhaas's new Seattle Library. I'm interested in what others think too. I liked Koolhaas's IIT Building (and hated the Congrexpo in Eurolille*), so I was interested to see that both David Sucher (City Comforts) and a guest have commented on the building at the City Comforts blog (here, here and here).
Here's an excerpt from the blog clew's reviews: a book log
What specifically don't I like about it? From the outside, the pompous, looming approach on 4th, in which the entry has all the appeal of a pore. Seattle doesn't need to shade its streets, and the high overhang won't protect that door from much rain. (Next visit, I'll start on 5th and see if that feels better.) Then the navigation is hideously, hilariously bad, so that the librarians have already taped up (tidy and color-coördinated) copier notices explaining where to go and how to get out. There's all this whooptedo about the easy navigation and the spiral of books, but (postponing the question of whether the Dewey line is really how we access books) you don't walk in and meet the books, you walk into a sort of distant-concierge hotel lobby on 5th or a crowded industrial arrangement of dead ends on 4th.*Atlanta-sur-Deule: Koolhaas brought many of the worst aspects of American sprawl — cheap object buildings, giant shopping malls and roads for the car that alienate the pedestrian — to a typical European city. Why?
If more students saw Eurolille, more students would reject his clever urban design polemic.
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» The new Seattle Public Library from Klintron's Brain
Donald F. Padelford's review of the new Seattle Public Library I've only been there for about 15 minutes. That's because I went there 15 minutes before it closed (6 pm on Fridays). I don't understand why libraries close so early.... [Read More]
Tracked on Jun 6, 2004 12:32:51 AM
» The Truth Is Out There II from Veritas et Venustas
David Sucher, the author of City Comforts, is going to organize the swarm for a visit to Rem Koolhaas's new Seattle Public Library. Should be interesting. Contact him. UPDATED June 29: David Sucher has posted his notes at the City [Read More]
Tracked on Jul 2, 2004 12:03:00 AM
Tracked on Jul 8, 2004 1:42:10 PM
The new Seattle Library is a perfect example of style over function: Floors with escalators that only go up, no easy access on or off several of the floors, areas on the upper floor (example, #9) which have little space for actual research work, the floors that are not numbered - chaotic. If you want to know how kids who have learning disabilities feel, visit this library: what you learn to do to navigate one floor cannot be applied to the others.
This building would have been a better art museum than a library.
Posted by: Marty Gale at May 28, 2004 9:00:12 PM
I think they should sell it to people who want to turn it into a disco. A disco would make more sense than a bloody library.
Posted by: lindenen at May 30, 2004 6:58:11 PM
A good set of photos on the Seattle Times's website does make the library look like an alien mother ship that's landed. There's very little humanity in the exterior images (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/news/local/library/photogalleries/spl1.html), and it's hard to imagine finding the reception desk very welcoming.
Posted by: John Massengale at Jun 6, 2004 11:42:04 AM
Actually, walking next to the new library does NOT feel uncomfortable. It's really not that different from walking next to any other large downtown building. That first photo was taken from the east side, from 5th Avenue. Look at that overhang carefully. It doesn't extend over the sidewalk. The wall up to the overhang leans away from you, so there's not a feeling of the building hanging over you. On the north, south, and west sides, the building is separated from the sidewalk by greenery and wide plazas, and the eye level walls are vertical, so the library does not feel imposing at all. The library is surrounded by larger buildings, so as you approach it on foot from any direction, you never really get the full view of it.
I thought all those angles were a little odd, at first, but from the inside, they make sense. The whole building is filled with natural light, as if every spot on the floor was next to a window - perfect for reading.
I love the new library - except for the lack of down escalators.
By the way, that is NOT the library's reception desk. The "red floor" is all meeting rooms.
Posted by: Paul at Jun 11, 2004 12:18:43 PM
Naturally people's opinions will differ on any subject, but especially on a building, like the library, that is such an extreme departure from the (rather staid) American convention.
I would agree that circulation is an issue. The elevators are slow and having an escalator that goes up, but not down, from floor 5 to 10 is confounding. However, it should be noted that two escalators were originally planned but the down one was sacrificed during value engineering. Who knows how much of the building is a result of budget trimming?
Considering the budget, zoning codes, and moreover, the capitalist-driven idea of "architecture" that exists in this country, OMA/LMN did an amazing job bringing something that is both functional and a work of art to fruition for the enjoyment of the public.
Yes, there is shade on the sidewalk of 4th avenue - a direct result of shifting floors to maximize views and interest. Where else in Seattle, especially downtown, can you go into a building for free and access downtown sightlines to Elliot Bay, Mount Rainier and the heart of downtown? Worth some 4th ave shade? I think so.
Lastly, someone commented on the navigational challenges of the library creating the experience of being a child with learning disabilities. I agree. Americans do have a learning disability as a whole and it's natural from them to feel hurt and disoriented when they're challenged to think a little. Atypical graphics and intuitive wayfinding through consistent color use is too far out of the big-ugly-sign-situated-at-eye-level box that we're used to. We're used to big arrows, drive thrus and gigantic x markers where we're supposed to sign. We like to be spoon fed and we like to complain. The wayfinding measures are not meant to be exclusionary, that is why there are welcome and info desks prominently located near each entrance, that's why there's a literal elevation of the building with floor numbers on them in the elevators. The library was designed for people who like to discover and explore and who actively don't want each floor to look the same as the last and the next.
Posted by: mahalie at Jul 8, 2004 12:02:50 PM
Looks like a bit like a personal computer from the outside and feels like what being trapped inside a PC might be like: vast empty unusable atrium space next to cramped, low-ceilinged stacks like the spaces between a PC's circuit boards with all the visual interest of a mid-20th C American public school basement; nonbiological poisonous escalator colors well-designed for helping colorblind electrical engineers keep track of which wire is in which circuit; noise everywhere, including moaning from the librarian's office; in the reading room, unyielding plastic objects of vile shade and unpleasant surface texture to which temporary paper signs with the word "furniture" have been affixed; a paucity of work tables, traffic routes with bottlenecks suggesting that patrons are sheep about to be dipped: in sum, a building dedicated to controlling its users rather than facilitating its own use. The staff wears walkie-talkies that bark at them like something out of Orwell and tell them what to do. A better automobile showroom than library, in twenty years it'll be on the critical heap next to Venturi's art museum.
Posted by: joe g. at Jan 2, 2005 6:12:42 PM
could not disagree more w/some of the above [negative] comments. we think it a success. the shifting figure as you move around the building and through the city is very friendly, and although @ first glimpse it does seem a bit foreign, we think it fits very comfortably.
Additionally the public space [lobby +] is one of the best urban spaces we have ever been in, very dynamic and light.
Posted by: riptide at Apr 11, 2005 3:27:37 AM
I'm a librarian. I work there. Form meets function? PuhLeeze. Any library the size of ours is bound to be somewhat confusing, but this one is about 3X more confusing than it needs to be. A wonderful place to wander, wonder and gawk, but lord (& a librarian) help you if you came to use the thing.
Posted by: Anonymous at Jun 4, 2006 6:24:19 PM
The Emperor's New Clothes. That fable has a lot to do with pretentious architects of the deconstructivist style, particularly architect Rem Koolhaas. Everybody (at least the so called intellectual architects) praise his work but do the buildings really work for the average person? Are buildings designed just for Dutch pseudo-intellectuals with a fetish for cheap shock value or for the people who actually use these spaces? Perhaps because we live in the age of poseurs, where people with very little real talent (Paris Hilton, Britney) become Prada-wearing celebrities and have replaced people at least known for having actual talent. Rem Koolhaas reflects that age. He professes to come up with urban solutions while actually making conditions worse in his urban designs (Seattle Library). He professes to embrace technology but probably does not even know the cost of all that technology and its implications. In this age of posturing, where being cliche means being with the in-crowd, is the perfect time for Rem Koolhaas. His books, self-conscious and self-congratulatory, contain convoluted diagramming strategies which increase cost and time with methods that simply do not work. Besides, ripping off Corbusier, Philip Johnson and Richard Neutra for his Villa D'all Ava house does not merit anything, the space looks uncomfortable for the tenants not just the neighbors. Self congratulatory is the approach for much of Koolhaas writings as he tries to outdo Le Corbusier and Mies with his essays, which ultimately, his work does not live up to. If he can't do it by quality, he'll do it by volume. Do you really need 1600 pages for SMLXL? Perhaps it's a matter of time when people realize his deconstructivist and post modern architecture for what it really is: pretentiousness. Just as when the boy in the story of The Emperor's New Clothes discovers that the emperor's clothes are really non-existent, just a lot of rhetoric.
Posted by: archinetics at Oct 24, 2007 8:14:01 AM
I have not been there, so I dont know how many heavy-duty researchers use it regularly etc. but when i read that there is no elevator down I was delighted! People should get used to exercising more and not be so sedentary or reliant on other things to do the work, as it is the average American drives around everywhere to get anywhere.
Posted by: joy c. at Nov 16, 2007 2:21:22 AM
I like the design, it's not an eye sore like a lot of other places.
Posted by: Seattle Accountant at Mar 11, 2009 6:08:06 PM