Sunday, July 03, 2005
Destination: Seattle

Right now, I am blogging from the new Seattle Public Library. Back in the 90's, I worked here for almost five years. It was my first "real job" after college. Back then, the library operated from a dated library from the 1950s that was a little run down and way to small. The big focus of the whole institution during my time at the library was getting a new library built.

And here I am, sitting in the new SPL building. It's amazing. Designed by Rem Koolhaas, it is all angles and metal. When we arrived at the 4th Avenue entrance at 1:00 PM, we had to wait a few minutes before the building opened for the day. A large crowd was assembled, and I had a chance to get a look at the angles of the building up close. From the outside, the building looks like a stack of playschool blocks. The lines and angle head off in unexpected directions. But from the street level, it looked surprisingly familiar. It has a sort of ironic "midcentury modern" look about it. In fact, the metal and glass vertical lines around the entrance looked very much how I remember the old 4th Avenue entrance to look. From the ground view, the entrance gave me a sort of "deja vu all over again" feeling.

The surfaces of the building are fascinating. There are metal floors, wood floors, bamboo floors. The lines are very basic. Plastic and metal shelving. Open beams in the ceiling, grid-like railings and screens. We walked up the "spiral," the library's book collection is stored in a central part of the building that spirals up several floors. At the top, a dramatic reading room is poised under a slanted glass ceiling. The chairs and sofas have a 1950's flair--only they are made from foam. From a distance, it looks like the furniture is made of concrete, but when you sit on one, it is actually comfy.

The building is punctuated by a bright yellow and lime escalator. The workings of the elevators are encased in glass, so you can watch the moving boxes gracefully come and go. At the very top public floor, you can stand on a narrow balcony and look down at least five floors to the "mixing room" below. When I peaked over the edge, I gripped the railing to guard against a wave of vertigo.

Right now, I'm blogging in a huge computer lab. There have got to be over 100 computers in here. And the place is packed--on a Sunday. The computers and trim and black. The computer tables are sleek and black. The room is dimly lit, and overhead the black foam insulation and ceiling rafters are open to view. It's like walking into a set from the Matrix.

Seattle has all sorts of good memories for me. Living here, I got myself together and got through a divorce. I found a good job at a library. I finished graduate school. I married a nice guy. Coming back to visit the library is like peaking in the windows of the old family home. It's beautiful and I am glad I was a part it, and now it belongs to some other family.

We're off to Pike's Place Market and a late lunch. Tourism awaits!

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