Posts Tagged 'interior'

video: tourists on the fourth floor

Like the chartreuse escalator, the shiny red fourth floor area appears in many personal videos and photos, very likely for the same reason that, being a relatively intimate, narrow space through which one moves, it presents the visitor with a personal, cinematic experience of imagery moving past. This is not the overriding logic (or algorithm) of the Library itself however, so it is not surprising that this area is again a transitional space, not one in which the public is meant to linger. It is the “assembly” platform where computer training and meetings take place. The librarian on the video tour skips it entirely.

physical model: book spiral

model interior spiral

In this instance the Seattle Central Library is represented by a physical model of the interior of the book spiral, the four story high floating box between the 6th and 10th floors. This model was created to show the inner workings of this space, particularly the continuity of book stacks, the relation between the rising slabs and the work stations in between. The book spiral was envisioned to be a built manifestation of the digital database of the holdings of this library, as a response to the uncertain evolution of the book collection of this library, and as a way to make as many books as possible easily and directly accessible on the stacks. Therefore, the continuous spiral ramp is the epitome of compartmentalized flexibility, since it is prepared to expand and contract within its confines according to the changes in inventory at almost the same pace as the digital database. This original addition to the architectural vocabulary of spaces, exposes the back end of data container (and its structure) in the aesthetic exercise of the cultural implications perceived on the front end, as patrons find their books catalogued under the Dewey decimal system visible on the circulation section of the ramp.

collage: mixing chamber

collage mixing chamber

This collage depicts the mixing chamber on the 5th floor of the Seattle Central Library, on the top of the floating platform dedicated for meeting rooms. This sort of representations is usually devised not to transmit an actual impression of space, but an intention of experience and atmosphere in a certain space. In this case, we can observe how patrons and librarians interact in a constant flow of interdisciplinary information, creating a stimulating environment of exchange. Upon closer inspection, it is possible to read the dialogues between individuals, which create the basic structure and most important feature of this space, namely social interactions (which can seem odd, given that it is a library). Remarkably this impression is transmitted not only by the serious accumulation of several agents, but also by the creation of small disconnected narratives, which do not follow the traditional linear structure of several different pieces necessarily following one after another to constitute a whole, but the existence of all these parallel (and possibly interconnected) stories create and transmit the notion of diversity and fluidity intended for this space. Interesting analogies to other (familiar) spaces are also embedded in this collage, namely by the positioning of informational screens and bar stools, attempting to translate the innovative idea of a “mixing chamber” by approximation (or hybridization) of other existing spaces.

floating platforms physical model

floating platforms model

In this example, the Seattle Central Library is represented by the conceptual physical model of the organization of its interior spaces, namely the overlapping of the floating platforms of program. This model illustrates the duality of spaces created, particularly the enclosed spaces inside the boxes and the open spaces on top of them, generated by the notion of compartmentalized flexibility. Also evident is the vertical circulation system comprised of several escalators connecting the different floors. Functioning as a linear and sequential system, this sequence of spaces seems comparable to a landscape by the railway. While the train speeds by the surrounding landscape, patrons of the library are efficiently transported towards the top by the escalators crossing the different spaces, creating a similar dissociation between people and the traversed surroundings. However, the experience elaborated for the travelers on the escalators attempts to actively engage with our current mode of perception by offering several views of artworks during their ascent and descent, as well as some glimpses into the crossed spaces. This system of escalators also contributes to the creation of a hyper-connectivity or geographical space within this building, where importance is conceded to the connecting nodes and withdrawn from the spaces in between.

NY Times review

The Library That Puts on Fishnets and Hits the Disco

by Herbert Muschamp, published on May 16, 2004

“Quite apart from its strengths in structure, form and space, the building exemplifies Rem Koolhaas’s reliance on the architectural program: the organization of space according to use and function. Because of the clarity of this example, the Central Library’s impact on architecture could be profound.”

“Aesthetics have entered into the design of the building at the earliest stages of planning, in other words, before the purely visual decisions have been made. It is pointless, with this project, to separate formal and social organization. How people use a space is no less a matter of form than the most abstract visual composition. As such, a building program can be subject to aesthetic articulation. “

check the full version of the original review by the architectural critic of the New York Times here

This textual representation of the Seattle Central Library was written by the architectural critic of the New York Times (at the time), Herbert Muschamp. In this review, not only the specific physical spaces of this building are reviewed (and highly praised), but its conceptual framework is further explained. Moreover, in this article this architectural piece is also positioned in the current architectural discourse, in Seattle’s architectural landscape and in the architect’s conceptual ideas. This textual piece constructs architecture as an exercise beyond physical built space, as a discipline inhabiting several other dimensions. Here, the Seattle Central Library is described in a duality of solitary absorption spaces and crowd scenes arenas, where users become sometimes actors and some others spectators, but ends by arguing that it is in the delicate balance and fusion between these elements that art takes shape. In Muschamp’s praise of this building he also sees the importance of this structure not solely in the dramatic and pragmatic program rearrangement, but in the possibilities opened by it, much like the importance of computers not lying in their capacity for calculation, but in the fact that they enabled new generations of media. Like the computer experience, also this library displays a design based on a creative process and undertaken with the user in mind.

audio tour

An 18 minute audio tour of Seattle’s Central Library warmly guided by Diana from the SPL represents the library in this instance. This audio tour was intended to be downloaded by patrons to their mp3 player and used while visiting the library. Despite the listener being guided by the sound, where the narrator frequently gives indications and directions to follow the predefined route, this representation is complemented by the library vertical map available at the entrances of the building on a small scale, and by the actual spaces of the library on a larger scale. Without these other elements, the audio recording loses its meaning. Therefore, we observe in it a resistance to the creation of a single bubble of privatized space inherent to the delivery system of this audio file in personal mobile sound system. This audio track attempts to engage the listener with other people by featuring several “encounters” with librarians on different places, who explain the resources available and the underlying concepts of the spaces. It also aims at engaging the listener with the physical spaces by encouraging the listeners to pause the sound recording and explore the spaces on their own, at their own pace, which is demonstrated by the discrepancy between the actual length of the track -18 minutes- and the expected length of the tour -between 30 and 40 minutes.

cross section

cross section

Here the Seattle Central Library is represented by a cross section throughout the entire building. These documents are usually created to describe the vertical interactions between spaces, which combined with the plan drawings allows for a three dimensional perception and abstraction of the spaces. Considering the binary system of compartmentalized flexibility at play in this building, this technical drawing allows to better understand the vertical articulation and sequence of enclosed boxes and open spaces, but also the spaces connecting different horizontal planes, like the auditorium between the 1st and 3rd floor and the book spiral connecting the 6th and the 10th floor. Therefore, this document identifies the spatial interweaving between the different floors and rooms, and by doing so it traces the spatial ecologies at work in this building. Despite their different spatial identities, rooms of this library do not exist simply as discrete spaces, but are engaged in a process of mutual stimulation and visual interaction, and this cross section allows for a potential understanding of the compositional positioning of such spaces. Moreover, the cross section is not exhausted in the interior relations, but offers an insight of how this spatial ecology relates to the exterior world, specifically on the 1st and 3rd floors.