Seattle’s Central Library

I Can Gather All the News I Need on the Weather Report

I think the location that I enjoyed shooting most on my trip to Seattle last week was the Seattle Central Library. This library is a testament to contemporary architecture and design. I could spend weeks shooting just this one building — it is my most favorite building I’ve ever photographed.

The building is 11 stories high with dramatic interior ceilings and color splashed throughout to complement the design. Bold red staircases, glowing yellow escalators, an ocean of green chairs, everywhere you go in this library you find more and more eye candy.

Reflections, shadows, glass, lighting that transforms with the day. This building seems made to be photographed — seems designed for photographers. And best of all, not once in a very aggressive four hour or so shooting session there was I ever questioned about my photography in this very open and very public space.

Rem Koolhas was the architect who designed the space. A taxi cab driver that I met in Seattle told me that it cost the City $150 million to build it. According to wikipedia, in 2007, the building was voted #108 on the American Institute of Architects’ list of Americans’ 150 favorite structures in the US. And I can see why. It’s comfortable, functional, and absolutely beautiful.

An article from the Seattle Times on getting to know the library here.

I’ve just started uploading some of the photos I took of the building (I suspect I’ll have several hundred posted over time). If you want to follow my set of images of this grand structure you can check out this set here. The RSS feed for it is here. Seattle Central Library photos sorted by interestingness on Flickr here.

Update: thanks to Ole Begemann for referring me to this TED talk about the design of the Seattle Central Library.

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  1. Scott says:

    It’s definitely eye candy, but it’s not a particularly functional building. Just ask some of the employees to give you directions – they probably can’t. The complex and partially spiraling floor plan make finding items difficult. Long escalators separate several floors and completely bypass some, and some up escalators are not paired with down escalators, making it much harder to descend and exit the upper floors than to enter them. Views from the upper floors – which should be commanding – are quite limited for patrons, and the sloped window ceilings are festooned with bird droppings. Drinking fountains and restrooms are few and far between. Elevators serve floors which the escalators skip, but the spiraling upper floor plan makes them difficult to access quickly. And the $169M price tag only increased the floorspace of the previous structure by about 50%. All in all, the building was really designed to look great (which is accomplished, and the some), but it was definitely not designed for the library’s core purpose: organizing and presenting information logically and conveniently for easy access and public consumption.

  2. Celine says:

    Thomas, if you ever decide to give up your addiction, I know a needy home for your lenses (and camera). 😉