Posts Tagged 'video'

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.

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video: music video clip

Here the Seattle Central Library is the setting for indie-rock band Peaches’s music video. Like the library spaces, the music is also composed of a distinct duality of elements, namely smooth electronica sounds alternated with strong beats combined with the human presence of the vocals. There is a striking proposition in this piece, where the space-time continuity of the action is only allowed in transitory and dynamic spaces like the escalator or the highway, and other static spaces like the meeting room floor, the mixing chamber or the reading are flashed through in rapid succession. Also shown in rapid succession are several different notorious floors of the library, where the presence and stagnation of the human subject is suggested by the immovable image of tennis shoes and trousers while the floors rapidly flicker through. A possible reading to this situation could be, initially, an insinuation to the problematic of the rapid changes of contemporary society to which the human subject must quickly respond and adapt to. The solution seems to lie not in a change of the subject, but in a change of its view, suggested by the zooming out of these views visible in the end of the video.

The video presents another case of a syntagm (narrative) constructed from the paradigm of the SCL. This narrative again emphasizes a singular and subjective point-of-view and an embodied experience of the space. Although we never see his face or hear his voice, we know that our narrator is also our protagonist, as we see, from his point-of-view, his feet, against the various floor textures as he navigates through the space. The soundtrack, the jump cutting, and the reduced frame rate imply a playful, pop-culture subjectivity. Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, the story that unfolds has nothing to do with books, computers, or librarians. It involves a young woman in a beige trench coat whose face we never see, although we – via the protagonist – follow her. This narrative is a romance with an air of mystery or visa-versa, for which the building is but the setting, or perhaps even a secondary character.

video: chartreuse escalator

The escalator is the most popular setting for home video (as seen on YouTube) and personal photo (Flickr.com) depictions of the Library.

This might have something to do with the elevator being a modernist-era technology which relates to space and architectures in a very linear, narrative, cinematic way. It moves individuals up through space, freeing their eyes from watching their step, to look out at the passing, ever-changing view. This embodied, cinematic effect is enhanced by the SCL escalator’s glowing chartreuse color which emphasizes one’s movement through a special space, and by the sculptures of Tony Oursler — themselves both cinematic (moving images) and embodied, gazing back at the traveler.

video: sign-language tour

This video shows the surprising way the Seattle Central Library can be represented by sign language. Due to the specific nature of the language employed, there is a fragmented conversation between subject and object, as the building and the narrator do not appear simultaneously on screen.

Even though this representation (and sign language itself) uses only the visual medium, it is far from limited. The difference between oral and sign language is comparable to print and digital formats, where one is sequential and linear (print and oral language) and the other has the potential for simultaneous information transmission (digital and sign language). In sign language information can be loaded into several channels and expressed simultaneously, by the specific motion of the hand, body posture and facial expression. This inherent potential of sign language is widely used throughout this tour, as the narrator expresses his views and experiences on the library while guiding the audience through the main public spaces: the living room, the reading room and the long escalator in between.

Following Lev Manovich’s description of a database as both “a structured collection of data” and a collection of “choices from which narrative is constructed” — we can consider the library as the paradigm from which this individual has constructed his personal narrative, his “tour” of the space.

Realizing the innumerable experiential choices that the library presents to any given individual, and also the innumerable choices available in representing an experience of the library with a video camera – it is particularly worth noting that this individual consistently frames himself, not the building, in the foreground and in medium close-up. This narrative’s purpose is not to document the building but to document this fellow’s emphatically embodied experience in and of it.

The personal videos, photos and blog posts, as narratives, stand in stark contrast to the conceptual documents, which concern themselves not with individuals but with operational functions and processes, in which individuals might be supposed to be agents, if supposed at all.

video: SCL dance

This video documents a playful dance by two girls on the meeting room floor of the Seattle Central Library. Either inspired or disoriented by the surreal smooth shapes and the intense color of the fourth floor, the girls appear to enjoy themselves. Their shadowy dancing figures are created by the natural light passing by the netted glassed façade, visible in the distance, and echoed on the glossy floor and walls. The unscripted interaction between the two figures occupies the space in a manner unforeseen by the architect. However haunted by the ever present human user in his design process, the architect can by no means anticipate all the ways a space will be occupied, utilized and appropriated, but can only design for the most frequent uses. Nevertheless, in this instance, the space seems to have inspired these girls to express themselves through a frolicsome dance, tied perfectly to the space by the smooth electronica music which accompanies this video, amplifying the pleasant feeling conveyed by this spontaneous play. This short dance serves as an ephemeral ode to the surprising new building, which houses and reveals a wide amplitude of singular spaces, inviting perfunctory, mechanical functions, but also inspiring surprising new uses.

video tour


This virtual/video tour is lead by the Seattle city librarian and main supporter of the architectural project, Deborah L. Jacobs. Throughout the design and construction process Miss Jacobs was instrumental and a strong supporter of this innovative design. Intriguingly this representation is called a tour, implying an exploration or a visit around the building, where relations between spaces can be understood, but despite showing several images of both the exterior and the interior of the library, no coherent space-time continuity is illustrated, but rather different spaces are shown without almost any relational content, except for the information on which floor they are. Balance the lack of physical space continuity in this tour, there is an interesting interrelation between different mediums, such as photographs, diagrams, facts described and even a direct quote of the review by the New York Times architectural critic, Herbert Muschamp (also in this blog). Also significant in the context of our seminar, and explained in this tour, is the combination of print media, digital media and technology in this library, where books are tagged with RFID tags, and most processes are automated. Notoriously some detractors of the library criticize the abundance of computers in the children’s area. For these critics, children already have too many digital distractions in their life, and in a library should be focusing on encouraging children to read and use print material. This discussion is associated with the issue of different modes of perception, already debated in our seminar, where digital technology prompts a new mode of perception and understanding of the world, or a different “wiring” of the brain, particularly for children immersed in this media from a very tender age. Also in this children’s area the transition between print and digital media is not seamless.

video: lecture on Seattle’s Central Library design

This video documents a lecture given in February 2006 by Joshua Prince-Ramus, current director of REX Architecture and architect in charge of the construction of the Seattle Central Library during the conference TED talks. Adopting what he describes as a hyper-rational approach to architecture, Joshua Prince-Ramus explains how logic can act as the catalyst for extraordinary buildings, taking rationality to an almost absurd level and ending up with something amazing and unexpected. In this public presentation the role of teamwork in this design process is also emphasized, finding a suitable parallel in the endeavors of electronic literature and its multiple authors. Like in electronic media, the architectural design also relies on cooperation between different agents. Electronic teamwork has been a driving force in the recent developments of computer assisted drawing software, illustrated by the development of Building Information Models (BIM) by the major software houses. BIM is a model-based technology linked to a database of project information, encompassing geometry, spatial relationships, geographic information, quantities and properties of building components, and attempting to articulate the different agents (design team, engineering team, construction team …) in one model. Like electronic literature, BIM attempts to take advantage of the capabilities and context of networked computers.