One For The Books

Bob Cox writes Time Magazine (!) has this story on the new Seattle Public Library.

"If you expect a public library to sit quietly with its hands folded, the new Seattle Central Library is not for you. It has a lunging, irregular exterior wrapped in folds of glass covered with a honeycomb of steel. There are hook holes all over it, so the window washers can scale the angled surface like rock climbers. As buildings go, this one manages to look both precarious and enduring, headlong and immemorial. If Picasso ever painted a library, it might look like this."


There seems to be a heavy emphasis on futuristic design for libraries. I think people work under the erroneous impression that the reading public is looking for toys to play with more than intellectual growth. Technology is a partner in librarianship and information retrieval it is not a supplanter. I haven't seen the total destruction of the book publishing industry, Have you? Hasn't anyone learned from the San Francisco public library debacle of several years ago. There are still many people who want a comfortable library setting. There was a Star Trek episode where the attorney who still consulted with books won the case. Does this new design presuppose that books will eventually be obsolete? Are we headed to more technology and less reading and use of brain power and at the same time compromising our freedom?

Rem Koolhaas, the influential Dutch architect-thinker and hipster-polemicist.


You can see a brief clip of the Star Trek that has Kirk using a book loving attorney at The scene shows Kirk walking into a room full of books and asking, "What is all this?" It is a fun clip to watch. It is about 30 seconds long.

Huh? If you read the article, you see that the library is very much a building for books and reading--but also for new media and technologies.

I'm as much a book person as anyone, but public libraries have been about more than books for a very long time, and there's very little question that some new ways of providing resources simply aren't predictable. That seems to be the idea here: Not to get rid of books, but to design in such a way that additional resources can be added non-disruptively.

Seems to me you're reading an awful lot into the article. Innovative external design and flexible spaces inside don't equal the presumed obsolescence of books.

And, for that matter, what the heck does "compromising our freedom" have to do with any of this?

Have you seen the interior designs? I haven't and I'd like to see them. The description of the general stacks sounds amazing. A gentle spiral encouraging people to browse through the subjects. If that's not what the interior design of a library should be, I don't know what is. Libraries should be designed so that they are not only comfortable but that they invite exploration. If the outside happens to be futuristic or funky, so what? It could bring more people into the building. The funky exterior of Seattle's building makes me wonder what the inside looks like, I hope that others have the same reaction but are able to go inside.

Subscribe to Comments for "One For The Books"