Photo Essay: Seattle Central Library

by Tim Alatorre

Opened to the public on May 23, 2004, the Seattle Central Library by Rem Koolhaas quickly became a tourist attraction in Seattle, Washington.

The 362,987 square foot building features an underground public parking lot, hundreds of computers, an auditorium, and “the book spiral” that allows visitors to traverse the entire book collection all on one continuous “floor” that spirals over 5 stories.  I found the entire structure to be amazing in both form and function.  Practical details like having floor air registers and waterless urinals are complimented by having text embossed flooring, and vertical circulation identified with a consistent bright yellow.

During my visits on June 27th and 28th I overheard an elderly woman comment that being in the building was giving her an anxiety attack.  I would agree that the building as a whole can seem a bit overwhelming, it is very different from the traditional library.  However, I found the building to be exciting and invigorating.  The building draws you to explore it and discover.  I think libraries as a whole can be very compartmentalized, but the spaces in Seattle Central Library were very connected not just horizontally but vertically as well.  I was also surprised by the numerous intimate areas that were created on balconies, and in glazed niches.  There were many places that I could see myself sitting for hours just reading.

Overall I found the building very impressive.

(Photo essay after the break)


About the Author


Tim Alatorre