Before we dive into the current flurry of the form vs. function debate regarding our Rem Koolhaas designed Central Library lets step back and take a look at the big picture.
The library is one of the many gifts of The 'Libraries For All' 1998 bond measure that passed by the largest margin of victory for a bond measure in Seattle history.
Seattle got a new Koolhaas designed Central Library, 5 other new branches and improvements to all 22 existing branches in Seattle.
The impact on our city has been profound:
-library usership is up citywide
- the Central Library has become a top tier tourist attraction pumping millions of dollars into the city
-each project has added something positive to the neighborhood. The latest library opening occurred earlier this month in my West Seattle neighborhood. A stunning addition.
In the Seattle PI on Tuesday Lawrence Cheek offered up his take on the Central library in his piece, "How the New Central Library Stacks Up".
An admitted cheerleader when the library opened Cheek is now ready for his "post-occupancy evaluation".
He dissects the building one feature at a time concluding that each of them "exist to draw attention away from the fact that most of its work and pleasure spaces are actually cheaply finished or dysfunctional...failing at fulfilling the promise of its stunning skin."
In 2002 Cheek did an article for the Seattle Weekly on the remodel of the stunning Suzzallo Libary at the University of Washington. In talking about the grandeur of the building he says "Few new public buildings of any kind today even try to provide big, dramatic spaces...The magic show is over...ALL GREAT ARCHITECTS eventually figure it out: interiors are more important than exteriors—they're why buildings are buildings and not just big lawn ornaments."
He's an inside guy.
He then does a bit of a flip-flop and admits:
"The Central Library hasn't stumbled in its iconic mission, not at all. It has energized our urban center more than any building in Seattle's history. It has launched both the image and substance of the Seattle Public Library into a new era."
That sounds like a positive function to me.
Towards the end of his Weekly article Cheek's ponders what the proposed reading room at the new central library might be like:
"the new Seattle Central Library promises a dramatic reading room on the eighth floor with nearly the footprint of Suzzallo's (50 by 200 feet) and a view of Elliott Bay. Judgment will have to wait until it's finished."
Judgment day has arrived.
Don't miss the comments or Soundoff section at the end of the article. There are 40+ and leaning negative
Seattle Public Library group on Flickr . Over 500 images
Natalia Ilyin's article in Metropolis "Why I Like the Seattle Public Library"
Rob Forbes, founder of Design Within Reach, article "Taking an overdue notice of a library"
Video of Architect Joshua Prince-Ramus, who was U.S. Director of Rem Koolhaas's Office of Metropolitan Architecture during the libraries construction, deconstructing the collaborative process of building the Seattle Public Library. If you want to know how it all came together the first 10 minutes of this video is for you.