Monday, 29 October 2007

Seattle Public Library

Whilst in Seattle it is almost compulsory to visit the Seattle Public Library. Opened in 2004 the architecture, (from the outside at least) is stunning. The building cost $165m, was designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and contains 1.4m books and 400 PCs open to the public. I thought the exterior of the building - all glass and steel, very angular, was spectacular. But, I really didn't like the interior - and that's not just because it's a library :-).

The central atrium is 10 storeys high, and for anyone who has any slight fear of heights or any tendency to vertigo, it's terrifying! I have no problem with the 4 storey atrium in our own Information Commons, but I really didn't like this. On the tenth floor I felt really unsafe and had to get down the lift as soon as possible. I didn't use the escalators because they were too steep as well - maybe I'm just a wimp.

Apart from that very personal view, there are some great features. Lots of public art including three video sculptures which talk to you as you come down the escalators, and 4 giant plasma screens at the back of the main helpdesk which displays an artwork based on what books are being checked out.

It's even got a book sorter bigger than ours! It used to sort books not just into bins, but onto trolleys. To do this it had to work out which way the spine of the book was. Unfortunately this didn't work too well, so they've turned it off. If anyone had told me a year ago I'd be interested in book sorting machines I wouldn't have believed them!


pj said...

a snip at $165 - a building that size for the price of about 50 IC coffees!

Chris Sexton said...

oops, seemed to have missed a million out somewhere - will correct!