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Seattle Public Library and Permanence

posted by DL Byron on June 08, 2004

Wood Mesh at SPL During my first visit to the new Seattle Public Library (an earlier, related post), I was initially taken aback by what I called “upscale Ikea-like furniture and fixtures.” Later I realized that the interior is temporary, made to be flexible, movable, replaceable. It makes sense when understood as a whole, as explained here, but at first it’s uncomfortable to be in a library and not see permanence. Instead it’s bare concrete, steel, glass, plastic, and shiny surfaces. There’s decorative wood in a few places, as indicated in the photo.

Also, I don’t think Rem would approve of computer print out signage that tells patrons to, “push on doors ” or arrows that point, “this way.” Either the signage didn’t arrive in time, there was a cutback, mistake, or a librarian couldn’t take all the requests for directions anymore. It’s definitely not Schiphol signage. Crowds of people were lost, including me.

I’ll return books later this month and experience more of the library. Why does this matter to a web designer? It’s form and function, information architecture, and evidence that design is everywhere. The exterior is a modern wonder and something you must see to believe. I’m still thinking about the interior.

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