The new Seattle library – a few gripes

Lot’s of praise from architecture critic’s regarding Seattle’s new flagship library. I’ve been watching the library go up over the past several years and from the first time I saw it, I was not terribly impressed. But aesthetics is pretty subjective. So, I won’t go into my gripes there. The things that bothered me most about the project were the following:

  • Choosing a fancy out of town architect, Rem Koolhaas over a local architectural firm. Sure LMN Architects is the project architect (handle the actual construction phase which is at least 60% of the work). But for projects using local tax dollars, local firms should do all the work IMO.
  • They put the project on “fast track” which means cost overruns were very likely. Well, that came true to the tune of $8.4 million. What does that mean for the public? More temporary library closures and delays in neighborhood library projects.
  • Fancy designers do crazy things that only the critics seem to like. For example, in the web design community, I routinely see the most unusable sites garner accolade from critics. Same thing is happening with the new library. Keith Pleas Blog writes an interesting take on some of the silliness from a software architects perspective in “Brutal” Architecture.

All that said, if money is going to be spent on something, I can’t think of a better thing to spend it on than a public library. For all my gripes, aggressive architecture is a good thing. You want a city with contrast. If Seattle looked like one big “northwest style” designed city, it wouldn’t be a very dynamic place to live. Better believe I’ll be visiting the library when I’m back in town next week.

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One Comment on “The new Seattle library – a few gripes”

  1. jana says:

    All these gripes and you haven’t even visited it yet? I’ll be interested to hear if your opinion changes after next week.
    Question: what is the name “Rem” short for? I love that name and think it would go well with Kleitsch. 😉