Seattle Public Library

Designers: Rem Koolhaas | City: Seattle, WA | Project Type: library
Date Visited: 12.30.12

Locations: 1000 4th Ave Seattle, WA 98104
Size: 362,987 sq. ft
Cost: $165.5 million
Official Opening Date: May 2004


Taking up a whole city block in the heart of downtown Seattle, Koolhaas’ stacked and staggered eleven-story glass and steel building makes for a striking and unique statement against the urban streetscape. Housing 1.4 million volumes of books, the Seattle Public Library has not only become a destination for bibliophiles, but its architecture has turned the library into a landmark destination as well.

From the outside, you see a series of five stacked and staggered boxes, sliced and manipulated to create irregularly shaped overhangs and indentations. The building exterior consists of a “continuous fabric of steel with inset four-by-seven-foot diamond-shaped windows that is actually a second structure, providing additional bracing against earthquakes and wind. The glass, itself, has a mesh interlayer that lets in light while controlling glare and heat.”

Open Model. Image Credit:

Inbetweens Diagram. Image credit:

The library’s interior was also designed with a funky, experimental twist, from the bright colors used to the materials selected. Bright neon chartreuse elevators carry visitors up from the living room to the mixing chamber; floral carpets line reading rooms; and the curving, blood-red hallways of the public meeting room floor.

The most unique element of the building’s interior architecture is the spiral book stack, a continuous four-story ramp that increases accessibility and makes book browsing a much more fluid and easy process.

Exploring the library is an experience in itself and with it’s large blocky letters, it actually brought IKEA to mind. There were quite a few people making the library rounds, checking out the unique architecture.

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