Worst building ever. It's a complete disaster, and the SPL should be ashamed for blowing all that public money on it. Totally irresponsible of them.
And no wonder you need homeless people to talk about it. It's full of them. It might as well be a homeless shelter and open toilet. Great project for being emblematic of all the failures of modern society, but not much else.
It's a major, shameful failure of both architecture and urbanism. The day it opened, the librarians had to tape up photocopied direction signs everywhere because people kept getting lost. They're still up. Now, a few years later, all the finishes are worn and tired. The whole thing looks ratty and cheap, inside and out. The only interesting thing about it then and now was the structure. But that's pretty much it. It's actually a very unpleasant building to spend any length of time in, even without the legions of bums who call it home. Its internal acoustics are legendarily bad. The "public" spaces around it at street level are very inhospitable and uncomfortable to be in. Its sloped glass roof reflects the sun directly into my office every afternoon, so I've got a couple pieces of cardboard taped on the window to block the view of it and let me still see the rest of the city.
It was wasteful, arrogant, and irresponsible to have built it. But that pretty much describes everything about Koolhaas, doesn't it.
one of this homeless verbally assaulted me before on the top reading floor. every time i visit the top floor , they are sleeping everywhere that the library had to remove all the couch in the top floor and replace them with a wood chairs ! if u thinking about using bathrooms their just don't. level 7-9 which joshua prince ramus called it parking garage for books its actually looks and smells like parking garage what a disappointment .
I visited Seattle and spent around three days walking through, exploring, and examining the building. I found the Library to be a pretty amazing place. Complaining about the "Bums" is a wildly misdirected criticism. I would argue that the presence of the "Bums" is a badge of the building's great success and our Society's dismal failure. It's not the building's fault that the society treats certain of its members like garbage.
Oooooh, "Verbally Assaulted" by the guy who has to pick his food out of a trash can? In most other places you would have had a konk on the head and been dragged behind a dumpster. If you had the gut churning fear of being homeless greet you everyday -all day- when you slip out of your slumber in the morning - you might be a little aggressive and angry too. Again that's the fault of our society. Not the building.
The space (the actual stuff that's not there) is incredible. Where, in the last umpteen years, have you walked into a building and been able to look up into open space for 6 or 7 stories? And you get to engage and experience that grand space from all levels - bottom to the top. Some would argue that such an arrangement is energy in-efficient. But there's a plaque somewhere in the library that indicates the building contains more floor area and uses 40% (or 60% or something) less energy than its predecessor on the same site.
The building has great open public areas and then there are numerous little small places where you can pull a book away and sit and study. This building is the real deal. If they built a place where our friends "The Unfortunates" could go and wash and wash and have a toilet and maybe wash again, would that improve the building? No that would just be a waste of money.
The Seattle Public Library is an amazing light in the vast, brown shitscape of what passes for "architecture" in these United States. The Greatest Country in the World - unless you have some sort of misfortune that forces you to have to live in a damn library.
Rem/JPR/OMA : + 1
USA: - 633,782 (the # of homeless in 2012 - thank you Wikipedia)
Obviously, you all don't go into your public libraries during the day - they are strong community centres and every major city I have ever been to the libraries are where homeless men/women and the elderly find some self dignity.
By "self dignity" I have to assume you mean "looking at hardcore porn on public computers, harassing people, laying down and sleeping wherever, and urinating on floors."
It's interesting to me how the word "public" has gone from denoting grandeur, social connection, and civic pride to filth, corruption, waste, ugliness, and squalor in only a few generations. The Seattle Public Library is a classic case of that trend of debasement in the public sphere.
Also, it's not aging well at all. The materials and colors are looking very worn out and cheap now. The structural frame has rust streaks all over it. And the architecture is looking very dated already. In another ten or twenty years, it will be an expensive embarrassment slated for demolition.
Great post, Menona. It's a gorgeous building, not like anything I've ever experienced, and I was very skeptical of it but when I visited I absolutely loved it.
We can't get mad at homeless people for surviving. If we were a better society we'd help them more than we do. And if you want to live in a city, you have to deal with people who do, and want to, live differently than you do.
gwharton, werent you the one who was waxing poetic about some shit NBBJ tower down the road from the SPL? If your idea of urbanism is a gated castle, then perhaps you are right, you will never "get" the SPL. Duh.
It is a beautiful building, the people that work there love it, the homeless and other visitors love it too.
its not a gorgeous building; i mean its not a previous kind of building. on those grounds, its very casual. i really really liked it after visiting it...but not because of its "detailing" and visual allure and not inspite of the detailing and visual allure. I mean its not a Zumthor building (personally, I don't really care for lush and overtly conscious detailing and materiality that goes to a fetishistic extreme ).
It marries things that I would find perhaps contradictory: it is an "anonymous" sort of architecture (the envelope, its vocabulary, is really a modification of an International Style glass building) of which that part of Seattlle seemed to me to have plenty; it is an external outcome of the internal manipulations (i.e. it is not an expressive architecture really, this is not expressionism at all); it is a vertical array of floors, yet you are so involved in navigating it horizontally and diagonally that you lose this sense of vertical sandwiching of floors typical to such buildings; it is extremely unpretentious and preciousness in how it interfaced with the pavement level on whicever side of the slope - this gives more emphasis to the aspect of the envelope as a casual byproduct of the spatial arrangement from within; the mysterious colour coded in-between floors, organically sculpted, that seem like a secondary system of entrails between the big open levels adding complexity and richness, contradicting the International Style generic chop-chop horizontal parceling of space.
Quite simply, it struck me as most interesting and invigorating, yet at the same time a most laissez-faire and ironically contextual perhaps one can also call it contextually ironic - the deliberate manipulative play on generic glass high rise spatial layout what with so many in that area of Seattle). I didnt give a crap about how pretty or unpretty the functional details were. This was besides the point. But its kind of obvious that this aspect is besides the point, no?
Gw, public means public period. A public space should not (IMO) act to encourage or discourage an idealized sterile public realm of our utopian wishes but rather should be a neutral platform where the realities of "public" can manifest. If those realities don't reflect some Norman Rockwell perfection then that's because it doesn't exist. We should not create public spaces to act as puritanical filtration systems. It is unfortunate that this issue exists, but its not the failure of the space but rather the society at hand. That said, I can't speak on the building itself...never been there.