Page D1.1 . 20 April 2005                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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Seattle Public Library

by Robert Such

Were the architects inspired by sculpture when they designed the idiosyncratic form of the Seattle Public Library? Were they perhaps influenced by the angularity of the nearby street sculpture, Vertebrae, by Henry Moore?

Architect Joshua Ramus, partner at the Rem Koolhaas-led Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) replies: "Although the library is sculptural, it is not in any way an attempt to make a form. The library's appearance comes from pushing boxes around to stay within the height and setback restrictions and zoning codes."

Enveloping the angular, faceted Seattle Public Library is a steel, glass, and aluminum diamond-shaped grid, which has an expanded aluminum mesh sandwiched between the glass panels. The mesh reduces heat and glare in areas catching more sunlight.

From the outside, especially at night, the library is like something large and alien in the city. Climb up Madison Street, and the cantilevered top of the facade seems to float high above you. But move further up the hill and the library's sloping wall comes slowly into view.

Experiencing the Library

While exploring the library, I found myself momentarily unsure about which way to go when I arrived at the bottom of the Book Spiral. The path OMA had originally proposed would have provided a clearer route, but "the [library] board didn't think it was a valuable use of resources," Ramus explains. First-time users will need to explore the building to find their way around.   >>>

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ArchWeek Image

The Seattle Public Library, by Rem Koolhaas, the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), and LMN Architects, as seen from Fourth and Madison.
Photo: Courtesy Seattle Public Library

ArchWeek Image

The Seattle Public Library with sculptor Henry Moore's "Vertebrae" in the foreground.
Photo: David Owen, Artifice Images


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