New York Times architecture critic, Herbert Muschamp rhapsodizes about Seattle’s new Central Library in The Library That Puts on Fishnets and Hits the Disco:
At a dark hour, Seattle’s new Central Library is a blazing chandelier to swing your dreams upon. If an American city can erect a civic project as brave as this one, the sun hasn’t set on the West. In more than 30 years of writing about architecture, this is the most exciting new building it has been my honor to review.
Strong words indeed.
The spectacular new building opens with great fanfare on May 23rd. I have not yet seen the building interior, but my wife and I often drive past it. During its construction (admittedly not the best time to form a judgment of a piece of architecture), I thought the Library looked like an attempt to create a building as a pure geometric form. The steel mesh of the facade looked so cool as to be almost frigid. I couldn’t detect much life or warmth in the design (again, at least from the exterior). I remember telling my wife, “I can’t tell what to make of this building. I just hope that the interior is far better and different from the exterior.
Putting all my early negativity aside, after reading Muschamp I’m prepared to say I was wrong. When I visit the interior on or about May 23rd, I will go in with an open mind and I am sure it will win me over completely. Merely based on viewing the images below, I’m fully prepared to cede my earlier judgment.
Clearly, this is a cool building, but not in the sense of being frigid; rather in the sense of being catchy, jazzy, breezy and, well cool. The colors are bold and loud. The lines are clean and angular. The surfaces are shiny and smooth. It’s big, it’s bold, it’s of the new. Seattle will love it.
Unfortunately, there is little like it here in Seattle, which almost prides itself on its stolid, workmanlike architecture. I would agree with Muschamp characterization of Frank Gehry’s Experience Music Project (EMP) musuem as “looking like something that crawled out of the sea, rolled over and died.” Well, I wouldnt’ quite go that far. But the interior spaces of EMP look like a dank old warehouse, especially if you take a look up at the ceiling.
In addition to its limited architectural diversity, Seattle is a town with a big case of boosterism. Towns with this affliction usually have an inferiority complex derives from their envy of big cities like New York, Los Angeles and even San Francisco. This is precisely the case here. So when a big, bold, beautiful new edifice goes up, the local papers pull out all the stops. And they won’t disappoint with their coverage of Koolhaas’ Central Library.
Below, you’ll find various links that describe the project along with two photo galleries full of images from which the above were taken. Photo credit goes to the Seattle Public Library website, the Seattle Times’ Benjamin Benschneider and Lara Swimmer/ Esto.
Celebrate! Central Library Grand Opening: the Seattle Public Library’s overview of the new Central Library
Seattle Central Library’s slideshow
Seattle’s new library: Striking from any angle: Seattle Times article on the building opening
Getting to Know the New Central Library: more data from the Times about the Library
Seattle Times’ Central Library photo gallery
Pacific Northwest Magazine’s Meet Your New Central Library: the Times Sunday magazine feature story