Sunday, August 03, 2008

Don't judge this building by its cover

The Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas’ exterior cover for the Seattle Public Library doesn’t exactly make the 10-story, disjointed collection of trapezoids, parallelograms and triangles a building you’d like to enter — or an architectural book you'd like to read.

But once inside, you realize that you can’t tell a library from its cover.

Not nearly.

The place astounds.

All those dissonant exterior angles create an interior mesh for a wildly rhythmic yet oddly harmonious architectural symphony: the grid of patterned diamond windows (nearly 10,000 of them), the slanting beams and ceilings, the vivid colors (cherry red hallways, cautionary yellow escalators), the spiraling stacks of books. The airy openness of the place. You could spend a day here gawking — and never crack a book.

The folks behind this remarkable building took a $165 million gamble and came up with a monumental, visionary landmark. They, as much as Koolhaas, are to be commended for their bravery and foresight.

The next time you visit Seattle, forget the Seahawks, the Mariners and Pike Place Market .

Go directly to the library, and plan to stay.

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