Friday, Dec. 17, 2004

Seattle Public Library

In the city where the Internet rules, here's a building that takes books — remember those? — into the 21st century. Folded like origami and covered with a diamond-shape latticework of structural steel, the new library is an exercise in dynamic thinking by the oracular Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, working closely here closely with Joshua Ramus, a partner in the Koolhaas firm, the Office for Metropolitan Architecture. Essentially it's an off-kilter pile of five boxes, one each for book stacks, administrative offices, meeting rooms, below-ground parking, etc. Those boxes alternate with vividly conceived open floors, one holding the vast atrium of the lobby, another, called "the mixing chamber," that offers the information desk and computer banks, plus an upper-level reading room with views of city and sky that the angled glass walls frame in unexpected ways. Step outside and it all amounts to something like a cubist sculpture that occupies an entire city block.