Architecture: One For The Books

A new public library by REM KOOLHAAS is surprising and bold. It comes just in time for the troubled architect

If you expect a public library to sit quietly with its hands folded, the new Seattle Central Library is not for you. It has a lunging, irregular exterior wrapped in folds of glass covered with a honeycomb of steel. There are hook holes all over it, so the window washers can scale the angled surface like rock climbers. As buildings go, this one manages to look both precarious and enduring, headlong and immemorial. If Picasso ever painted a library, it might look like this.

Actually, it's the biggest U.S. project of Rem Koolhaas, the influential Dutch architect-thinker and hipster-polemicist. "For...

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