Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives
The fiscal philosophy of building a library.

Wow. The new Seattle Central Library, designed by Rem Koolhaas, is scheduled to open on May 23. The place cost a whopping $165 million dollars. $165,000,000. That's positively inspiring. My question, though: is its bravely modernist architecture something that will stand the test of time? Check out this slideshow of the new building as it's being developed. It's beautiful, but also weirdly dated, just like those big crumpled-paper buildings by Frank Gehry.

Don't get me wrong, buildings like these are architecturally beautiful, but I wonder whether or not such great works of architectural art are best suited for public use. Do buildings so adamantly designed, not as a purely functional work but as something very clearly artistic, only bait the fiscal conservatives out there to rant and roar about the misuse of public funds? The populace of Seattle is a very liberal bunch, and they voted in the tax increase that paid for it, but I wonder about the ammo this provides to the opposition, all those people out there who snarl and snap about the NEA and the NEH. Should such artistic constructions be restricted to the homes and private buildings of those who are willing to pay for them, or are they better suited to be considered public works of art, which cannot be bought and sold?


oof. I think it's... fascinating.

Okay, no, I think it's dreadful. The odd angles make me uncomfortable, details like the numbers set in the floors make for little flexibility in the arrangement of space (what if they decided to move the 700s for some reason?), and it just seems... awkward. I don't like it at all.

I am admittedly not a fan of this type of odd modern architecture. But just... yuck. I think it is inacessible to the people, and as you point out, very likely to draw the ire of those who are prone to attack expenditures for the arts. How many books and art programs could have been provided with the money a more traditional design would have saved? Obviously, it's up to the people of Seattle, but it seems like a waste to me.

Its an interesting building, but one needs to ask if the building is more important than the contents? Wouldn't a better use of the public's money been to provide the services of the library rather than a cutting edge piece of art?

It looks like IKEA.

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