seattle’s beautiful room
The main hall in Seattle Public Library by OZinOH.
OMA set out to make a beautiful city room and this picture shows it so well.
Beside awe, I had a sense of something very new happening when I went to visit this fantastic space while working on a project in Seattle two years ago. It stuck me that the architects would be so bold to present a four story concrete wall to the public immediately upon entry to their new library – people want baubles, not abstraction. But there it is, directly in front of the front door, looming, menacing and slipping into that night sky ceiling. It’s Kubrick’s 2001 a Space Odyssey, or the Kabbah in Mecca – silent and mysterious.
That is it’s success and I think the success of this project for OMA. They tell you right away – we aren’t producing this experience for you, no literalisms or references, no hand holding, no spectacle to lull you, or pull you in. We’re giving you the goods straightup, some boxes, pushed and pulled for light and views, wrapped in a taut mesh bag. Here’s a concrete tower that soars and a night sky that floats, and a conference space that feels like you’re in a beating heart. We’ll decorate it with concrete and steel and street graphics to bring the best of the public life of the city into your new building. We believe the honesty will freeze you in apprehension; will make you stop and think and slowly overwhelm you in its refusal to manipulate.
So, say thank you now because there is almost noone not willing to saccarine spectacle crap it up for your little fix anymore. But these guys will; they’ll slow you right down to frozen and you will see, in blinding clarity, just how much snake oil you’ve been forced to swallow, and how much better this option is. And then relax and enjoy! I know I did.