Rem Koolhaas, aged 76, is a world-famous architect who has been recognised by the world for his modern and out of the ordinary designs and architecture marvels. These designs stood out from the rest in an era when others in the field were compromising their style for a little more money. 

He broke the bars and created a name for himself in the field of architecture with a long list of famous structures built all around the world. Despite switching fields from journalism to architecture he managed to achieve more than people who start in the same field. 

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Caption: Rem Koolhaas, Dutch architect Image Credits: ©https://oma.eu

One of his more famous designs, a stately structure in the bustling city of Seattle, Seattle Central Library, helps to remind the people that along with the ever-changing world, the ability to process information has also developed. Not only does the library host books, but also other forms of digital media. The architecture of the building is in such a way that it enhances the ability to access the information with ease. 

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Caption: Evening view of Seattle Central Library Image Credits: Photography: Philippe Ruault. Image: ©Courtesy of OMA

Space Allocation

The library designed, from 1999 to 2004, was a very specific method. The architects, Rem Koolhaas along with Joshua Prince-Ramus have combined the similarities into sets of clusters based on the programs and media – five based on stability and four on instability. 

Different floors of the library function differently and are designed in such a way that provides maximum productive fruition. The library provides a wholesome experience to intake knowledge in varying forms of media and the unending supply of books known as “The Book Spiral”. 

The programs are arranged through the library across five platforms and four “floating” planes which make the building more cohesive and give the building its charm. As described by the architects at OMA itself they identified five “stable” programmatic clusters which include parking, staff, meeting, Book Spiral, HQ. These five are arranged on overlapping platforms. 

On the other hand, the four “unstable” clusters which include kids, living room, Mixing Chamber, reading room occupy interstitial zones. Each area is defined and equipped in a way that ensures productivity with varying size, pliability, spatial movement, palette, and structure.

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Caption: Diagrammatic Representation of Space Allocation Image Credits: ©https://oma.eu

Movement between Stable & Unstable Clusters

The Mixing Chamber, as the name suggests is an area to “mix”. The interaction between the librarian and patron happens intensively in this area. It is created to fulfil the need for expert help if somebody needs this essential service. The 132 computers situated in this area provide a good backdrop for the transference of information. 

The librarians manoeuvre curious readers through architecture. They lead them to The Book Spiral which can hold around 14,50,000 books without adding to the 6233 bookcases in the future. The ramps in The Book Spiral flow from one to another very gradually with coexistence between the 2 consecutive ramps. This highlights an important principle of design – rhythm – in the space. 

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Inside the Library Image Credits: ©https://oma.eu
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Inside the Library Image Credits: ©https://oma.eu
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Inside the Library Image Credits: ©https://oma.eu

Aim to Create 

The main aim of Rem Koolhaas, as an architect was to not make the Seattle Central Library a cliché bookstore but an information hub. He wanted it to be a complete experience for the old and new; where the scent of old books and flipping of pages would meet the scent of technology and the clattering of keys on a computer. He wanted all different forms of media to be under one roof for people of all ages to be able to access any information as they wanted. 

Critical Understanding 

The library, although made with the best intentions to keep all forms of media aware and alive, there have been a few questions raised or comments passed by bloggers and even revelations by Rem Koolhaas himself. 

Bloggers believed that through the regular followed methods of spatial architecture, security and privatising technology, the public funds would be better utilised. Rem Koolhaas himself accepted that the lack of signages and the social service solutions for the homeless were utilitarian critiques which should have been taken into consideration while creating this diamond-shape faceted piece of architecture. The exterior of the library is a large blanket of a common structure – unity – to cover up the multifaceted insides of the information media. 

It is a structure specific to Koolhaas’ designs away from the paradigm of a regular library.

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Juxtaposition of the library against rest  Image Credits: ©https://oma.eu

The library is one of Koolhaas’ famous designs which encompasses a vast idea for a vast range of people under one roof. It fits the idea of something different and away from the regular normed library looking structures created by various other architects. 

The exterior is muted but iconic and one has to go inside to understand the complexity and the way the architects have played with the flow and rhythm from one level to another. There is balance seen by having the unstable programs sandwiched within the parts to form a composed space which is accessible to everyone and combines eras of the past and takes into consideration the future at the same time. 

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Unusual Paradigm of a Library Image Credits:©https://oma.eu
Seattle Central Library by Rem Koolhaas: Flexibility through contemporary - Sheet9
Unusual Paradigm of a Library Image Credits: ©https://oma.eu
Sakina Mandviwala
Author

A 22-year old introvert who loves reading, creating and watching new shows as her escape from the real world. She is an enthusiastic and eager learner, the Monica Geller of her friend group and one is who is usually giving sage advice to her family members.

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