The Reviews Are In

Apparently everyone’s not universally thrilled with the new Seattle Public Library.

A blog called Caminothoughts opines:

Will it take half the electricity production of the Skagit River dams just to keep the greenhouse-like building at a tolerable temperature during a warm and sunny summer? This afternoon with a little sun and a large number of visitors, it was close to uncomfortable. Will the stench of the unwashed street people who will soon call the library home, several of them were walking around looking for a place to settle when I visited today, make the air all but unbreathable unless the library becomes a ventilation wind tunnel as its continuous floor plan will facilitate? Will the escalators work, and if so will they become a noise generator just like the escalators in the old central library? Will noise levels in the vast hard-surfaced spaces make the building an aurally uncomfortable place to be, let alone allow it to be a decent place to read, think, and do research?

A Live Journal user chimes in:

On a rainy day like yesterday—and Seattle has plenty of rainy days—the lighting was inadequate, the space gloomy, the area under the slab dim. Yet because it’s the floor that looks up on the vaulted enclosure it somehow manages to be uncomfortable to agoraphobics and claustrophobics alike. All that exposed glass, already covered with sticky children’s pawprints, must be a maintenence nightmare. And the escalators manage to combine the worst of airport sensibilities with creepy Disney-gone-horribly-wrong permanent multimedia “exhibits”. The floor is stainless steel plate held down with machine screws.

I can remember similar critiques of the new San Francisco Main building when it opened in 1996: sterile, cluastrophobic, cold, menacing, unpleasant, a magnet for the homeless. None of which is an invalid criticism.

But it’s a public building. A public library. What design features would have made the library building less enticing to the homeless? Are public libraries supposed to have homeless detectors or security guards at the front door to throw the bums out on their rear ends? Would it be better to have a sign on the front of the building saying “Seattle Public (NONHOMELESS) Library”?

Oh, and we can’t have “exposed glass” because it will attract “sticky children’s pawprints.” I guess we should just toss the kids out of the library while we’re at it. Libraries are supposed to be antiseptic, germ-free, humanity-free caverns of research and learning, after all.

Maybe the best library model would be one based on the Thatcher Memorial Library in “Citizen Kane.” Thompson, the reporter, has to get an appointment to use the library, in which no books are visible except the single one that Thompson has had to place a request to view. The stern, bun-wearing librarian, Bertha, informs Thompson that he is to read only pages 83 to 142 of the selected volume and tartly tells him, “You will be required to leave this room at 4:30 promptly.”

[First quote courtesy; second courtesy LISNews.]