October 21, 2004
Koolhaas is the mastermind of Rotterdam’s OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture), which partnered in a joint venture with LMN Architects of Seattle. The dark, angular glass-and-steel exteriors of the library form an irregularly faceted jewel. The functions of the library were intelligently grouped to help establish the layering and massing of the 11-storied building. An innovative diagonal grid structural system allows for greater earthquake and wind resistance. The metal mesh within the bluish "smart glass" permits winter sun to enter the building while it screens out the unwanted summer glare.
Early on a Sunday afternoon, people were already clamoring to invade the exciting interiors at the 1pm opening time. As the library rests on a slope, the entrance along 4th Avenue meets the Children’s Center on Level 1, while the entrance at 5th Avenue leads to the "Living Room" on Level 3. Daily tours, some of which are special architectural tours, commence daily from the welcome desk on Level 3, which also includes a gift shop and coffee cart. There is a reading room on Level 10, though visitors may spend more time here gawking at some nice views of the city. Level 11 is reserved for the staff office spaces. Colorful furniture and whimsically conceptual artworks are dispersed throughout the library. Distinctive interiors and elements include boldly hued escalators and stairs. There is a parking level below the library.
The ingenious innovations of the user-friendly library start in the so-called Mixing Chamber on Level 5. This is the informational brain of the library, where staff members are empowered to help others thanks to wireless communication devices that let them roam around, freeing them from being chained to their desks. This space also supports a bank of computers for public use. The Books Spiral is a continuous ramp of nonfiction books that extends from Levels 6 through 9. The Dewey Decimal System is marked on the floors to help people find the volumes, and there are extra book stacks built in for future expansion of the collections (only a fourth of the materials are hidden in closed stacks). The ramp has a gentle two-degree slope, making it easy for one to locate books or just do some browsing. A dumbwaiter allows items to be easily transported from the Books Spiral down to the Mixing Chamber (these spaces have ominously diabolical names!), and advanced technology allow them to be automatically sorted with more speed and accuracy.
One hopes that Koolhaas’ idealistic plan fully flourishes in this central resource for the city. It is certainly off to a very good start.
From journal Bill in the USA - SEATTLE