I made a visit there just today, as I do on many Saturdays. It's a remarkable building. Even after a hundred or so trips there it remains a compelling locale——abundance of smelly hobos and paucity of comfortable seating aside. When I moved to Seattle and was first learning my way around downtown I passed it by a few times before I realized it was a library. There's this ugly courthouse across the street that I took for the library and I felt no immediate need to cross its threshold. It was only after I'd been in town a few weeks and my mom insisted that I check out the new Koolhaas-designed library that it dawned on me that the least library-looking building downtown was in fact the library. A great building in a city sadly lacking great buildings. Still, this oft-cited flaw really gets my goat:
The second design flaw concerns the connection between the Book Spiral and the “Mixing Chamber,” ie what in an earlier day was the card-catalogue and information section. Or rather the lack of such connection. You can take an up-escalator from the Mixing Chamber, and you can take stairs down from the top of the library where there is a reading room to the bottom-most floor of the Book Spiral, but then ….but then…”Hey, how do I get out of here?” There is no down-escalator and no stairs from anywhere in the Book Spiral to the Mixing Chamber. If the elevator are running slow, well too bad. The only other alternative, which was opened up for the library opening, is an emergency stairwell (“Alarm Will Sound”). This flunks a fundamental tenet of architecture 101: you have to be able to get from here to there.