Monday, May 24, 2004

The New Seattle Public Zaxxon

During the 80's, I lived the grad student life to the fullest. Part of the zeitgeist was hanging around bars playing video games. I was reminded of this part of my life when walking down 4th Avenue in Seattle, I had the Pavlovian reaction to laser the dickens out of the Zaxxon building I saw looming ahead of me. Alas no, the building was resistant to my virtual lasing.

The new library is definitely cool. I felt kinda giddy when I walked in - like you were discovering stuff as you walked. A lot of publicity has been written on how the library's form followed its function - and that is really true. You can tell that a lot of attention was paid to how it was going to be used - unlike say, 99% of modernism buildings' implicit message "Here I am. Deal."

There was one kinda major design flaw. The 6th-10th floors are connected by a very shallow sloped spiral of books, which is ingenious. However, you connect to the 6th floor by escalator or stairs in the *middle* of the spiral. This fact remains unnoticed until you are walking down and try to get to the bottom floors. You take the spiral down and hit the dead end at the south wall. The guy walking ahead of me said "They made a little boo-boo!" (which was hilarious because he of undeterminate ethnicity and we don't expect to hear such idiomatic English!) We turned around and went back into the stacks and there was a librarian in the middle pointing at the elevator/fire stairwell entrances to the hoards making the same mistake we just did. I kinda think Mr. Koolhaas did not envision a librarian devoted to being traffic cop (though the white gloves would be cool.) I think signage or other crowd control devices will soon be put there. My suggestion would be a bat-pole down to the 4th floor. Now that would be kick-ass architecture!


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