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I Hate the Beacon Hill Library, and You Should Too

A Journey to Seattle’s Heart of Darkness

I Hate the Beacon Hill Library, and You Should Too

photos by malcolm smith

BEACON HILL LIBRARY This celebrated building makes my soul crinkle every time I pass it.

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You have seen this before. An immigrant is having a drink by himself at a bar. He is enjoying his day off. He works so hard for his money. He is giving himself a little treat by not ordering the cheapest beer. He is dressed in some of his best threads and wears with pride a hat that's a bit fancy—it's a safari Panama straw fedora. Suddenly, a group of drunken white men burst into the bar. They are loud and laugh at anything that falls from their mouths. As one of them requests a bucket of beer (it's party time!) from the bartender, another begins to show great interest in the immigrant's exotic hat. "Man, that's really cool," the white man says to the immigrant. The immigrant smiles weakly and continues drinking. "Can I try it?" asks the white man. But before the immigrant even gives him an answer, the man grabs the hat, puts it on his own head, and begins to move his neck back and forth like a funky chicken. "Man, I should buy one of these. It's so cool."

You have seen this sort of thing before. You have seen it and felt your soul cringe, felt it crinkle like tinfoil. Oh no, he didn't. Oh yes, he did—and he just won't stop doing his jive thing with the rim of the hat low on his eyes.

Keep that image in your mind and now think about the Beacon Hill Library. The core inspiration of this 10,800-square-foot building, which was designed by Carlson Architects—a firm that's no longer with us (it did not survive the Great Recession)—and completed almost a decade ago (2004) at a cost of $5,358,990, was to reflect, capture, and express the diversity of one of the few neighborhoods in Seattle that has a white minority. But what we ended up with was nothing about the community and everything about that white man jiving in that exotic hat. This is why the building makes my soul crinkle every time I pass it. I know it's trying to be cool, trying to be dynamic like immigrants, with their spicy foods, sensual rhythms, and colorful ways.

Just look at it. Where does one begin with all of this inspiration? The exuberance of the rooflines and roof forms? The quarry stones with the haikus? The suddenness of the tall, modernist windows in the reading nook? The tiles that are seasick green? The tiles that are rocky red? The tiles that are earthy brown? The sheet-metal tiles on the east? The boxy and bulky parts at the front and sides of the building? That scupper that opens its birdlike mouth and ejects rainwater on the courtyard? The "dream ship" that punches a hole through the dramatic awning and tries to soar above the neighborhood? It's all a bit much, as you can see. Yet this cringe-worthy building was greeted with lots of praise and back-patting. The Seattle Design Commission saw it as "not only a library but also a gathering place, cultural center, landmark, and gateway for Beacon Hill's diverse population." Metropolitan Home saw it as one of the 100 most "extraordinary objects in the world of innovative designs." From Friends of the Seattle Public Library: "Beacon Hill is very diverse, and there are few places where all the different populations can mingle. [This] library is a great place for that."

On top of the praise, the planners of the ceremony for the library's opening went out of their way to force the real multiculturalism of the neighborhood onto the phony multiculturalism of the design. For example, after Trio Los Latinos performed their music, the white sculptor from Pullman, Miles Pepper, was scheduled to explain his kinetic boat thing rising from the roof. After that, there was taiko drumming beneath the expressive awning.

What was this really about? The fact that Beacon Hill is diverse, and the conflicting fact that the power structures in Seattle are not. These two facts generate tension. So it is not implausible that the white architects Donald Carlson, Mark Withrow, and Jim Hanford attempted to resolve it by designing a building that's all over the place, that has a little of everything, that has no center, no gravity, that is restless, bold, and creative, like powerless immigrants. The exact same thing that's wrong with the Beacon Hill Branch is wrong with City Hall, which was designed by Peter Bohlin, the man behind Bill Gates's high-tech Xanadu. Both are cut from the same bad intention: inspired multiculturalism. It's architecture trying to heal. Architecture as a hospital for social ills.

The Marxist cultural critic Fredric Jameson discusses this sort of thing in his important book The Political Unconscious. What he points out is this: In French cultural anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss's memoir Tristes Tropiques, there is a chapter about a Brazilian tribe, the Caduveo, that wore elaborate facial paintings that weren't found, to the same excessive degree, in other neighboring tribes. The reason for the elaborate decorations, concludes Lévi-Strauss, and Jameson, is the Caduveo have, unlike the other tribes, great and unresolvable social inequalities that result from its rigid hierarchical class structure. So this tribe resorts to elaborate face painting to compensate for the lack of a more meaningful social mechanism that could actually address or ease class tensions. The Beacon Hill Branch and City Hall are much the same as this face painting. The buildings are expressions not of a multicultural utopian ideal but the city's persistent failure to make meaningful political progress in racial and cultural affairs.

Have I gone off the deep end? Am I just being mean and saying things that have no basis in reality? Look at the other library branches that, like the Beacon Hill Branch, were built in the mid '00s with the $196.4 million that voters approved in 1998, a year Seattle felt it was on top of the world. There is the Montlake Branch, designed by Weinstein A|U, which is functional, orderly, compact, and done with. There's the Ballard Branch, designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, which takes some risks (it has a sweepingly huge green roof), but all of its experimentation is kept in control, all of the parts of the building fit together nicely. Then there's the Capitol Hill Branch, designed by Johnston Architects and Cutler Anderson Architects, which has no features that can be described as "vibrant" or "vivacious" or "voluptuous."

But let's think about the Capitol Hill Branch for a moment. Imagine if the architects had decided that it would be a great idea if they tried to capture the "gay culture" of Capitol Hill in the building's design. Imagine they felt this way because they saw gays as underrepresented and economically disadvantaged in this society. Now, instead of really doing something about these perceived social problems, the architects could have designed a building they thought celebrated homosexuals by saying to the public: "Look at me, I have lots of waterfalls, Doric columns, and unicorn sculptures—I'm so gay." If you can imagine that soul-crinkling mess, you can see exactly what's bad about the Beacon Hill Branch. It's trying ever so hard to be diversity.

Carlson Architects, a firm that got its big break designing Larry's Markets in the late 1980s, has also done solid and serious local work, such as the addition at the School of Social Work at the University of Washington and the Ballard Lofts. But judging from that work, and the work in their book Carlson Architects: Expanding Northwestern Regionalism, it's hard to believe they ever took a serious interest in diversity. That was not their thing. What they did well, what dominated their projects, was the industrial aesthetic. And so what did Carlson Architects fill this lack of experience with multiculturalism with? Please be prepared to weep, as this is really the tragedy of my story: They filled it with quirkiness. The boat in the sky like a weather vane, the upside-down hull-like roof, the scupper that's shaped like a beak, the poetry on the stones—all of this is quirky.

So what exactly is wrong with quirkiness? First, it has nothing to do with diversity. It is instead that white guy in the bar jiving with the immigrant's exotic hat, or Donald Rumsfeld with a chopstick balanced on his upper lip, or the wacky people who flash-mob the light rail in their underwear, or whatever enters and exits the mind without a thought. Secondly, even an arrogant warmonger like Rummy can be quirky. It's fun to be quirky because it means nothing to be quirky. And something that has no meaning is striving for political neutrality. And political neutrality is the desired result of projects funded by those in positions of power, like developers and pro-business associations. Political neutrality promotes the idea or illusion that there are things in capitalist society that are universal, natural, that can be shared or enjoyed by all with no consequences. Those in power want us to believe that such neutral social spaces and practices actually exist within the limits of the market, as this shows that the market is only about itself and is wholly outside of the sphere of daily social struggles. And why do those in power want the public to see the market as neutral? Because if you fail in the market (fail at getting a job, fail with the credit agency, fail at keeping your home), you will have to conclude it has nothing to do with the market but everything to do with you. For the neutral market to reward you, you need to work harder, do more, invest more time and energy. This is what the emptiness of quirkiness provides the system. This is the beak of the scupper opening its mouth. This is also, by the way, the architecture of Frank Gehry.

There is one last thing I have to point out. It's what you realize when you walk into the Beacon Hill Branch for the first time: It is designed like the hull of a ship. The critic at Architectural Record was impressed by the boldness of this quirky feature: "Resembling an upturned canoe, the building's roof is composed of two curving sections that jut out from the facade at an off-axis angle from the surrounding streets: forming an instant landmark and beacon for the neighborhood. This hull-like form is echoed by an abstract sculpture of a boat that rises on a pole at one end of the building, puncturing its roof."

The inside does not look like an "upturned canoe." The beams and bolts are too huge for the canoe in one's imagination. What it resembles instead is the inside of an old cargo ship. Now let's think about this for a moment. What if Carlson had made this building for the black American collection at the Douglass-Truth Branch? Do you get my drift? The interior of a ship might be about adventure, spontaneity, and excitement for one group of people but mean something completely different to another group of people. Such are the dangers of quirkiness. What's fanciful here is historical there. The first thing I thought when I walked into the Beacon Hill Branch: "Why, I'm in the hull of a slave ship." But instead of whips, there are books; instead of chains, there are computers; instead of pirates, there are librarians. This is a postmodern heart of darkness for sure.

I do not want to leave this short essay with the positive note of a solution. How do we prevent something like the Beacon Hill Branch from happening again? By being vigilant and keeping in mind that social problems need to be solved by politics and not architecture. recommended

 

Comments (169) RSS

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1
I wish I could say I stopped reading here:
But what we ended up with was nothing about the community and everything about that white man jiving in that exotic hat.
But unfortunately I read the whole pathetic whiny thing.

What I take away whenever I visit this library is that it's a beautiful building with some really interesting spaces.

But then, I'm not looking to inject "political correctness" and self-hate into everything.
Posted by Arthur Zifferelli on April 17, 2013 at 9:05 AM · Report this
2
What the hell was that piece of shit?
Posted by Arturo Bandini on April 17, 2013 at 9:17 AM · Report this
3
Seriously, you're still going on about this? Give it up bro. It's a fucking building and not that terrible really.
Posted by jns on April 17, 2013 at 9:31 AM · Report this
4
I'm not even gay but I would LOVE it if the Cap Hill public library "lots of waterfalls, Doric columns, and unicorn sculptures." Bring it.
Posted by Actionsquid on April 17, 2013 at 9:31 AM · Report this
5
The first thing I thought when I walked into the Beacon Hill Branch: "Why, I'm in the hull of a slave ship."

What a sad man.
Posted by Ignatz Mouse on April 17, 2013 at 9:46 AM · Report this
6
"But instead of whips, there are books; instead of chains, there are computers; instead of pirates, there are librarians. This is a postmodern heart of darkness for sure."

I do not follow this last bit at all. What is all "heart of darkness" about books, computers, and librarians?

Also, if there is any institution that exists to be a neutral social space, it's the library.
Posted by eve d on April 17, 2013 at 9:55 AM · Report this
growler 7
yikes, I figured that because this article was on the top main page of the Stranger site, it must have some teeth to it.

nope. just rubbery old man gums.
Posted by growler on April 17, 2013 at 10:07 AM · Report this
8
Wow, let's rant about a building 10 years late... slow news week much?
I don't suppose you might have found one single nice thing to say about the building should it have been built by, say, anyone else?
...and a slave ship this far up north? are you really dumb enough to think that any large wooden ship in the world is related to slavery? If anything my first guess would have been about Russian and Mexican traders who owned this coast after the Native American and before US Americans, but that's just me, guess I studied a little bit of PNW history and not enough about the Slave trade that so obviously happened this far north...
Posted by RussianMexianSlaveTrader on April 17, 2013 at 10:28 AM · Report this
9
Fuck. I'm so sick of reading this bullshit. Will someone from The Stranger please send Charles on his way and replace him with a real journalist.

This article was so fucking stupid, second only to the cloud article from last year.
Posted by whothefuckisthis on April 17, 2013 at 10:31 AM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 10
Bonkers. I love you, but this is bonkers. I hope it's as far as you plan to take this.
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on April 17, 2013 at 10:32 AM · Report this
11
I love the thing. I will just always think it should be in Ballard. Vikings did that ship roof for reals.
Posted by zimtschnecke on April 17, 2013 at 10:42 AM · Report this
12
Like the guys entering the bar, clearly the author had one too many to drink while writing this piece of wasted words.
Posted by Mexican with funny hat on April 17, 2013 at 10:45 AM · Report this
gcm 13
I enjoyed this article and I am enjoying all of the disgust thrown at it in the comments. Double win!
Posted by gcm on April 17, 2013 at 10:54 AM · Report this
dude in blue 14
WTF? What a piece of crap article. I've lived on BEHI for over 16 years and love this building. Our library is the coolest place to hang out on our hill. Get a clue, Mr. Mudede.
Posted by dude in blue on April 17, 2013 at 10:56 AM · Report this
15

Charles,

The Beacon Hill Library is a Rorschach ink blot test.

Thanks for playing.
Posted by hiller on April 17, 2013 at 10:59 AM · Report this
16
I don't know what you guys did to Charles Mudede, but this year he's like 10 times more entertaining than usual.
Posted by joelgrus on April 17, 2013 at 11:14 AM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 17
Reading this "article" I can speak for the vast majority of Seattleites that the Beacon Hill Library must now be the template of which ALL future construction in Seattle..no Washington State, must emulate.

Clearly it is a work of art that rivals anything the Greeks ever built!
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on April 17, 2013 at 11:38 AM · Report this
MacCrocodile 18
If there's one thing I hate about Seattle culture, it's the architecture of the '90s and beyond. Quirky is the essence of Holly Golightly, the worst thing to happen to American literature.

The Beacon Hill Library (and, while we're talking about Cap Hill libraries, that one, too) is a hideous space that pretends to be About Something. No. It's just ugly.
Posted by MacCrocodile http://maccrocodile.com/ on April 17, 2013 at 12:20 PM · Report this
MacCrocodile 19
Oh, and Frank Gehry. That guy. Ugh.
Posted by MacCrocodile http://maccrocodile.com/ on April 17, 2013 at 12:22 PM · Report this
20
I was going to offer some nuanced commentary on this article, but on second thought, no. I'll just stick to this:

I agree on all points. Nice work.
Posted by rca on April 17, 2013 at 12:26 PM · Report this
21
No. It's just ugly.
Interested in your view of "not ugly"... A brick shit-house? "Post-Modern" in the Communist style? The EMP?

It's a fucking library with a cool wood-framed roof structure.

Now go back to your offic at Microsoft Red West.
Posted by Arthur Zifferelli on April 17, 2013 at 12:28 PM · Report this
MacCrocodile 22
@21 - The EMP is the worst of all.
Posted by MacCrocodile http://maccrocodile.com/ on April 17, 2013 at 12:30 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 23
My son always loved this library, and so did I.

Charles is projecting his own feelings onto it.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on April 17, 2013 at 12:30 PM · Report this
24
I guess Chris Rock was right, books are like kryptonite to "black people" (well, that's not the words he used, but you know what he used….).

By the way chuckles, the only time I've seen immigrants being hassled in Seattle it was blacks teens making Asian eyes and calling an old Korean shop keeper a chink at a store in the rainier Valley. Ask any immigrant in Seattle who they fear more, whites or blacks.
Posted by Ian Smith on April 17, 2013 at 12:31 PM · Report this
25
I think Camille Paglia was right in her assessment of Marxism as useless in the context of criticism of any creative endeavor.

I dislike the building too, but this article said nothing of substance about space or functionality, and the issues of form were being parsed at about an 8th grade level.

Art crit, of which architectural crit is an offshoot, is a pretty (self) serious discipline. Maybe dabblers are not the best bet, as I'm sure there are dozens of qualified writers in the field who would be happy to contribute for little to no pay, and produce a superior and more readable piece.
Posted by Chris Jury http://www.thebismarck.net on April 17, 2013 at 12:31 PM · Report this
26
Oh, and Frank Gehry. That guy. Ugh.
Ah. A 20-something rube. Glued to your "smartphone" and perhaps your game box, you have bypassed any cultural exposure.

Skinny pants and boxers, right?
Posted by Arthur Zifferelli on April 17, 2013 at 12:32 PM · Report this
Space Sausage 27
Thank you. I'm very glad you got around to actually writing the critique. This is a good angle. I'd like to see you develop it more relating to other buildings. I would also like to hear what you think successful examples might be.
Posted by Space Sausage on April 17, 2013 at 12:35 PM · Report this
28
I thought this article was great and very thoughtful. Even if you don't agree with it. I would love to keep reading pieces like this in the Stranger. Thanks, Charles.
Posted by parkerl on April 17, 2013 at 12:40 PM · Report this
MacCrocodile 29
@26 - Oh man, you sure got me pegged alright. You're a genius. The police should hire you for their profiling/psychic programs.
Posted by MacCrocodile http://maccrocodile.com/ on April 17, 2013 at 12:41 PM · Report this
30
I appreciated this article. Don't know about the library as I haven't visited it, but the take on quirkiness, the market, and design made me think. People complaining seem to only want to read articles that say what they already think they know.
Posted by Jude Fawley on April 17, 2013 at 12:45 PM · Report this
31
I would also like to hear what you think successful examples might be.
Given the theme of Mudede's little story, probably a building built to resemble a slave ship where there are bigger-than-life bronze sculptures all around of white Europeans whipping black slaves, and to check out a book, you have to "assume the position" with your hands tied to a post while a librarian gives you 20 lashes with a leather whip.
Posted by Arthur Zifferelli on April 17, 2013 at 12:45 PM · Report this
BostonFontSnob 32
Shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up
Posted by BostonFontSnob on April 17, 2013 at 12:46 PM · Report this
33
Jesus Christ Charles! Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. It's a nice building trying to have a little fun, not a rerun of Roots.
Posted by sheaftosser on April 17, 2013 at 12:53 PM · Report this
34
Come to think of it, the building even looks like it's trying awkwardly to fit into an inappropriate hat.

There's the slightly tilted, slightly sideways brim in the front. And that pointy fishing-tackle thing sticking up from it is the Sunday-hat flair.
Posted by d.p. on April 17, 2013 at 12:57 PM · Report this
Catalina Vel-DuRay 35
The only way to keep the Beacon Hill library from ever happening again is to stop "community design reviews"

Not that I hate the library by any means. I actually like it quite a bit - especially compared to what Beacon Hill had before - but the amount the city spends on community meetings is ridiculous, in that it only reflects the values of that peculiar subset of people who choose to attend those sorts of meetings. And as we all know, whoever talks the loudest, and for the longest amount of time, gets their way at those meetings.

And I do wonder about the wisdom of building a collection of quirky, eccentric buildings for a system that has perpetual budget woes. For instance, we were told that the old Central Library was "too far gone" because of deferred maintenance and changed building codes, yet it was only about forty years old. How will these buildings stand that test of time?

Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay http://www.danlangdon.com on April 17, 2013 at 12:57 PM · Report this
36
The genius of Mudede is that he has been able to take a tired Stranger meme, and in combining it with this rag's readers' perpetual petulance, he was able to present some very complex social criticism. This is a clever way to present things that can only enter the consciousness through an emotional channel where the routine equilibrium is altered, and where otherwise conventional constructs rule the day (e.g. OMG not this again, or OMG what *is* his problem anyway?) The form is fucking brilliant.

The unfortunate down side is that Mudede's content is completely full of cliches based on social theories that cannot be proven in the most rudimentary rational or logical framework, whose applications have been completely disastrous from a historical perspective, and which have been rejected by the vast majority of people who are claimed to be the heirs and beneficiaries of such ideology by those promulgating such faith-based materialist garbage. He hides these in a web of self evident proclamations that, God forbid, people ought to be treated like human beings, which is not a particularly radical concept.

None the less, the reader is tricked into accepting the underlying ideological hogwash if he/she sympathizes with basic humanistic values; that is, a reader who wants to be seduced by the more-radical-than-thou box 'o chocolates.
Posted by hmmmmm on April 17, 2013 at 12:59 PM · Report this
37
Zifferelli is the very essence of the easily-awed, complacently middlebrow, self-satisfied Seattle stooge that makes me hate this city sometimes.

Let me guess, I bet you find SIFF "culturally important" and the discourse on KUOW "scintillating", don't you?
Posted by d.p. on April 17, 2013 at 1:03 PM · Report this
zivilisierter Wurm 38
All these years and I still can't believe the Stranger pays to keep a troll on staff. Jesus, Tim - you realize people will troll for free, right?
Posted by zivilisierter Wurm http://peregrinari.tumblr.com/ on April 17, 2013 at 1:08 PM · Report this
39
The fact that the Stranger has such a pitifully small staff to adequately cover this great city -- and wastes one of those positions on one who produces this kind of self-absorbed, masturbatory ramblings -- is a crime.
Posted by bigyaz on April 17, 2013 at 1:11 PM · Report this
40
I wouldn't hate this if I hadn't been subject to a barrage of contentless Slog posts about the awfulness of the library.
Posted by ASchultz on April 17, 2013 at 1:14 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 41
Did you try to talk to Don Carlson? Doesn't seem like it.
Posted by Max Solomon on April 17, 2013 at 1:16 PM · Report this
42
@26- I think Architecture, as a form that requires so much 'overhead' in terms of capitol, aesthetic momentum, design reviews, etc, is really the trailing edge of art. Gehry is functionally an Abstract Expressionist, which hasn't been a vital form for about 50 years.
Posted by Chris Jury http://www.thebismarck.net on April 17, 2013 at 1:22 PM · Report this
tabletop_joe 43
I agree with the article.
Posted by tabletop_joe on April 17, 2013 at 1:23 PM · Report this
44
Geeze. My kids love it. It works well enough for me. And it beats the hell out of the storefront library that Beacon Hill got stuck with for decades. THAT library was not politically neutral and it was a horrible piece of shit.
Posted by Beacon Hiller on April 17, 2013 at 1:30 PM · Report this
45
I love this. So much. I understand the hate, because it is hard to look at something as seemingly benign as a beautiful library building and instead view it as an ugly representation of what is wrong with our world. But, just because that is difficult, does not mean that the author is "wrong." While the article stretches beyond what most people will associate a ship-like building with, the author is certainly correct about the pervasive ideas of us failing capitalism, instead of the reality of capitalism failing us. Bravo.
Posted by evforija on April 17, 2013 at 1:31 PM · Report this
Cornichon 46
Brilliant.
Posted by Cornichon http://cornichon.org on April 17, 2013 at 1:33 PM · Report this
s.maxim 47
Is balancing a spoon on my nose the same as Rumsfeld balancing a chopstick on his lip?

That is all I care to know after reading this piece.
Posted by s.maxim on April 17, 2013 at 1:35 PM · Report this
48
What a stupid article!
Posted by fancy on April 17, 2013 at 1:50 PM · Report this
49
I agree with Charles.

The Beacon Hill library makes me feel like I am the victim of a fictional racial incident involving a hat and buckets of beer. I also make connections between the library and Marxism and stuff.

I have to look at the library every day because I work on Capitol Hill and live on south Beacon Hill, just past the golf area.
Posted by elstongunn on April 17, 2013 at 1:53 PM · Report this
50
@37 - Hit a sore spot did I? You look like an idiot in your skinny jeans with your trendy boxers showing. Grow up.
Let me guess, I bet you find SIFF "culturally important" and the discourse on KUOW "scintillating", don't you?
I listen to KOMO mostly, I can’t stand 60’s beat jazz, so get off my fucking lawn.

Interestingly, you will probably die of stupidity long before I die of old age.

But I do like interesting architecture, and despise "political correctness" like Mudede's vomit.
Posted by Arthur Zifferelli on April 17, 2013 at 1:58 PM · Report this
51
i'ts just more random crap from some architect who ignores beauty, and who thinks any random set of angular forms is great, woo hoo. Completely abandoning proportion and human ness of pattern language. the homage to the fish cannery shed.

and grey walls, blank walls facing the street? woo hoo, is this to be reminiscent of a prison yard, or perhaps the form known as "a garage"? we get enough grey in seattle. and random swooping metal and glass? what is this, a building designed by a computer builder, and no I don't mean at apple, I mean like a 1985 mechanical engineer who thinks a computer should look "cool" in nerdland? wtf?

all over seattle we see this total crap being built. we should put up a website called Ugly Crap in Seattle and post pictures because apparently people are shamelss in their lack of taste and in desiring to prove their authenticity by abjuring beauty -- their faux authenticity.

buildings should look like...buildings. proportion. symmetry. a clear entrance. it's not rocket science. but no, no architect can build anything that looks like a classic form today, they don't even teach it. architects today if you said ionic would think you meant ironic, and by doric they'd think "relating to the door" and if you said corinthian they'd say "yeah, the Corinthian School of ARt in Seattle, my friends go there!"
Posted by proportion rules on April 17, 2013 at 2:02 PM · Report this
52
Beacon Hiller said:
Geeze. My kids love it. It works well enough for me. And it beats the hell out of the storefront library that Beacon Hill got stuck with for decades. THAT library was not politically neutral and it was a horrible piece of shit.
Clearly you need re-education. The old Beacon Hill Library was a fucking PALACE of Marxist elegance, and the fact that its message was lost on you shows only your shallow shallow life that is - INDEED - in slavery to THE MAN.
Posted by Arthur Zifferelli on April 17, 2013 at 2:04 PM · Report this
53
Hey "proportion rules" (@51), lost your Shift Key?
Posted by Arthur Zifferelli on April 17, 2013 at 2:05 PM · Report this
MacCrocodile 54
@50 - You've hit all the sore spots! ALL OF THEM! A-BLOO-HOO-HOO! My skinny jeans, trendy boxers, and modern communications technology are a shameful burden on my soul!
Posted by MacCrocodile http://maccrocodile.com/ on April 17, 2013 at 2:06 PM · Report this
55
@53 -- quibble much?

btw "Shift Key" should not be capitalized. Forget your grammar rules much?

Also, the (@51) is redundant. You could have written,

"@51, did you lose your shift key?"

and that would have been shorter and sweeter. Like the beacon library, your work is cluttered with things that add nothing and a return to classic forms, in this case strunk and white, omg I didn't use an ampersand there, yikes, would behoove u.

capisc? now, got anything to say on substance?
Posted by the other golden rule on April 17, 2013 at 2:29 PM · Report this
56
Looks like a cool library that I plan on visiting. The pricetage seems outrageously steep, but I bet it is serving the purpose and that is for reading, gathering, and serving the community. Too bad that you find money in Beacon Hill so offensive. What should it be, a series of run down shacks with handpainted signs ir signs worn off? It would certainly fit in but we want more.
Posted by okaybyme on April 17, 2013 at 2:58 PM · Report this
57
You've hit all the sore spots! ALL OF THEM! A-BLOO-HOO-HOO! My skinny jeans, trendy boxers, and modern communications technology are a shameful burden on my soul!
@54 - Glad to know I pegged your WHINY SELF INDUGED SELF - you are the poster child for why people just shake their heads.

By the way, I sense you have some sort of obsession with me. I'm used to it, but I don't go for guys in skinny jeans with their underwear showing, much too immature for me. But if you send me an email, I'll forward you a picture of me that you can masturbate to.

As they say, Fuck You Very Much...
Posted by Arthur Zifferelli on April 17, 2013 at 3:03 PM · Report this
Chelydra_serpentina 58
Does anyone know how well this building functions as a public library? Or is appearance the only thing worth considering when evaluating the success or failure of a library's design?

I'd love to hear from people who actually use or work at the library.
Posted by Chelydra_serpentina on April 17, 2013 at 3:06 PM · Report this
59
@58 -

It functions well.

It's layout is functional and the structure itself is inviting and pleasant to be in. The building is unique, and the wooden "super-structure" is interesting to look at.

It is MORE than purely "functional", it is a nice place to read a book or magazine and drink a coffee - at lunch, after work...

It's a very nice building. Perhaps not to everyone's architectural style sense, but it's more than a concrete block.

And, contrary to this “story”, it does not scream “Slave Ship” in any way.
Posted by Arthur Zifferelli on April 17, 2013 at 3:12 PM · Report this
60
Oh, sorry, Zifferelli. Turns out you're not the uncritical middlebrow Seattle dipshit I thought you were.

You're actually a right-leaning, reactionary, total-asshole dipshit.

My bad.

(For the record, if there's any "political correctness" in this story, it's the library's silly and superficial nods to assorted "cultures". Charles' criticism is the precise opposite.)
Posted by d.p. on April 17, 2013 at 3:26 PM · Report this
61
You're actually a right-leaning, reactionary, total-asshole dipshit.
Nope, wrong again. Bleeding heart liberal, from a long line of bleeding heart liberals. Never saw a Democrat I didn’t like (except for Rodney Tom). I assume you’re a pathetic “Ayn Rand” Tea Bagger…

I don't fit into your "clique" of over indulged immature assholes, for sure.
Posted by Arthur Zifferelli on April 17, 2013 at 3:38 PM · Report this
62
Erm... yeah. Because at any point I said anything that would make you think I was remotely on the right.

Also, you're the one who has spent this thread spewing quintessentially right-wing buzzword accusations about "political correctness" and "Marxist" architecture.

And you never met a Democrat you didn't like? That's fitting, because Washington politics is a petri dish of the most pathetic, most ineffectual, all-around dumbest specimens ever to align themselves with the Democratic party.

Turns out I was right the first time. You're an aging, complacent, self-satisfied moron without fifteen brain cells to his name. Sadly, Seattle is full of you.
Posted by d.p. on April 17, 2013 at 4:13 PM · Report this
MacCrocodile 63
@57 - Oh god please stop putting me in my place with your well-observed and completely coherent insults! It hurts so much!
Posted by MacCrocodile http://maccrocodile.com/ on April 17, 2013 at 4:21 PM · Report this
64
I tried to come up with some crit but to no avail. good poetic piece CM; I like how you didnt force an alternative solution [still might be an interesting angle to explore though]. MORE fearless ART CRIT PLease!
Posted by ry coolage on April 17, 2013 at 5:15 PM · Report this
65
how is this a newsworthy piece? This might have been interesting when it opened, but it comes across as whiny. I can't believe I used those minutes of my life reading this.
Posted by carebear98122 on April 17, 2013 at 5:33 PM · Report this
66
@63
Oh god please stop putting me in my place with your well-observed and completely coherent insults! It hurts so much!
It's clear to me, "MacCrocodile", that you are infatuated with me. But I need to let you down now, I'm not into immature teenagers. True, I like a "hot young guy", but I'm really not into the kind of drama that a boy of your age and / or maturity brings to a relationship. We will not be having sex. I'm sorry.
Posted by Arthur Zifferelli on April 17, 2013 at 5:55 PM · Report this
67
@62
Turns out I was right the first time. You're an aging, complacent, self-satisfied moron without fifteen brain cells to his name. Sadly, Seattle is full of you.
The typical prattle of a self-indulged moron who can't see beyond their on hubris. Congratulations, you should read this: http://www.salon.com/2013/01/19/ayn_rand…
Posted by Arthur Zifferelli on April 17, 2013 at 6:06 PM · Report this
ScienceNerd 68
I am only here commenting because I couldn't comment on Christopher Frizzelle's post about this post. I make it a point not to ever read a post written by Charles. He just pisses me off, and not in the good way, in the bad way.
Posted by ScienceNerd http://stanichium.tumblr.com/ on April 17, 2013 at 6:15 PM · Report this
69
Considering Beacon Hill is mostly Asian, I think he should take it up with them. I'm sure Mr. Mudede appreciates that Asian culture in general (as I am lumping them all together) have many types of canoes and boats that are used for fishing and I think once he has done some thorough research on how it is important to the Filipinos and Chinese in the area and how the library makes them feel, he can get a fuller picture of what the library really does for racial diversity. It would be such a shame to write an article touting the dark effects a public building has on racial diversity and not once to have asked anyone else their opinion - particularly from the groups in the area that the library he was disparaging is supposed to represent.

(Beacon Hill: 51% Asian 20% White 13% Black 7% Latino/other)
Posted by happy time on April 17, 2013 at 6:36 PM · Report this
70
Please Charles pleasepleaseplease write about MoMA's decision to demolish the Folk Art Museum? I'm eager to hear your take on it - my mind is made up but you might cause me to rethink it.
Posted by architect on April 17, 2013 at 6:58 PM · Report this
71
I'm so fucking tired of terrible HDR photography.
Posted by Ikelleigh on April 17, 2013 at 6:59 PM · Report this
72
I've visited and spend time in all but one or two of the SPL's 23 or so branches, and like Beacon Hill best of all. Moreover, the Capitol Hill branch the author praises is my least favorite: It's cramped and entirely undistinguished, and has but a few self-service checkout stations; in consequence the librarians are harried and impatient. If I recall correctly, the Capitol Hill branch provides zero parking. And it's small. It already looks as though it urgently needs a makeover.

Mudede is imposing a peculiar aesthetic/political template entirely his own on the Beacon Hill building and its architects, and I suggest by extension the branch's likely patrons; he is, in a word, patronizing.
Posted by Cheonast on April 17, 2013 at 7:01 PM · Report this
73
@58

I like the Beacon Hill branch. I was prepared not to. But when I went inside I thought "cool." (If you want to date me.) Pleasant. Calm. And hey even some great little quirky details.

I don't like the overall program but that is from the Library Board and Librarian, not the architect.
Posted by David Sucher on April 17, 2013 at 7:31 PM · Report this
74
Hey, Ziff, what part of "you're the crusty conservative in this discussion" are you having trouble with? Your ass-backward rhetoric betrays your claim of Democratic affiliation.

Indeed, you're such a dipshit you will accuse the same person of being both "Marxist" and "Ayn Rand-ian". That's some Fox News level of stupidity, there!

Posted by d.p. on April 17, 2013 at 7:33 PM · Report this
Catalina Vel-DuRay 75
Beacon Hill: 51% Asian 20% White 13% Black 7% Latino/other

What decade is that from? And what classifies as "Beacon Hill"?
Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay http://www.danlangdon.com on April 17, 2013 at 8:01 PM · Report this
deerwhistle 76
That's not writing, it's trolling. Please hire someone with enough skill to create an interesting article without having to resort to petty, inaccurate free-association. Thank you.
Posted by deerwhistle on April 17, 2013 at 8:14 PM · Report this
77
long live the beacon hill branch library.

not because it's good or bad, but because it keeps charles awake at night and forces him to sweat and gnash his teeth every time he walks by it. it's mere existence poisons his soul. his children fear it. he'll never have a sober night, knowing it's out there... housing books.

charles can live anywhere on earth, but that building will most certainly outlive him, and possibly everything he ever loved.

the fucking gall of that building... it lives to shit on one man's hopes and dreams. and to prevent books from getting rained on. but mostly, to shit on one man's hopes and dreams.

Posted by deepconcentration on April 17, 2013 at 8:32 PM · Report this
78
@71 is right, those photos are horrible, they are post processed too much.

Decent article though, CM has a way of pissing me off but once I get over myself I realize he has an interesting take on things.

Talking about horrible architecture, whomever designed the new condos across from Kings Hardware in Ballard should be ashamed. Their building kills the vibe of the whole street and looks cheap as shit next to all the stone buildings.
Posted by j2patter on April 17, 2013 at 9:04 PM · Report this
79
@74 - Hey "d.p", in ten or 15 years, you will grow up. Until then, spew on, it's "entertaining".
Posted by Arthur Zifferelli on April 17, 2013 at 9:12 PM · Report this
80
Lmao at the teabagger pretending to be human. You ain't foolin anyone ziffer.
Posted by S T on April 17, 2013 at 11:16 PM · Report this
81
@79 - Hey "Zifferelli", in ten or 15 years, you'll still be a fucking moron. Until then, spew on, it "makes me weep for humanity".
Posted by d.p. on April 17, 2013 at 11:23 PM · Report this
82
Brilliant critique.
Posted by PennyLane on April 17, 2013 at 11:23 PM · Report this
83
This article is a disgrace, and The Stranger should be embarrassed. It is morbidly self-indulgent, overwrought, and full of baseless hate. I have long avoided reading Charles's work: it makes my soul crinkle every time I glimpse at it, at how actually poorly written and self-trumped it is. Charles Mudede's "work" is a pock in a publication I otherwise love. It looks like I'm not the only one. And now he really has gone off the deep end with his subject matter - correct, Charles, you have. He should be dismissed.
Posted by joos on April 17, 2013 at 11:38 PM · Report this
84
This article is a disgrace, and The Stranger should be embarrassed. It is morbidly self-indulgent, overwrought, and full of baseless hate. It is full of assumptions; it disparages the whole library as if the library IS the building (false, of course); it compares the library to Donald Rumsfeld. So ludicrous - I mean, is this even real? What a gross act of attention-seeking.

I have long avoided reading Charles's writing: it makes my soul crinkle every time I accidentally read it. How actually poorly written and self-trumped it is! Charles Mudede's "work" is a pock in a publication I otherwise love. It looks like I'm not the only one - not by far. And now he really has gone off the deep end with his subject matter (correct, Charles, you have). He should be dismissed, or take a very long hiatus.
Posted by joos on April 17, 2013 at 11:47 PM · Report this
85
@75/Catalina Vel-DuRay

I received my information from the census that the Unites States Government takes every 10 years. When was the last time you where south of Jackson street? Also, if you don't know what constitutes Beacon Hill, be a big kid and look it up. There are many fine maps online.
Posted by happy time on April 18, 2013 at 12:07 AM · Report this
inquiastador 86
This white guy likes it. A very nice building that doesn't try to look modern with just different colored portions but a nice take on mid-century modern updated for the now. What would you have preferred? A shanty with a concrete roof and electricity that only ran sporadically a few hours a day?
Posted by inquiastador on April 18, 2013 at 12:22 AM · Report this
87
God forbid anyone build a nice, interesting building. Why not make it a square brick windowless prisonesque monstrosity so we can make sure no one isn't confronted buy the ugliness of this world. I see racism and sexism in lots of places and ideas, but Charles is a freaking ghost hunter. 'did you hear that?, sounds racist!'
Posted by Lisa808 on April 18, 2013 at 1:18 AM · Report this
Canadian Nurse 88
This is great
Posted by Canadian Nurse on April 18, 2013 at 2:28 AM · Report this
89 Comment Pulled (Trolling) Comment Policy
90
I hate that library Charles. I hate it. I hate it because you told me to hate it. Now what are we going to do?
Posted by racistwhitemanwithouthat on April 18, 2013 at 4:28 AM · Report this
91
I hate the downtown library too. It is full of homeless people washing their feet in the sinks in the bathroom. The other day I saw a chinaman wearing a coolie hat that was so big it took up the entire aisle. I couldn't get around him so I challenged him to a karate match. You should of seen it. He got a couple of good moves in but luckily I watch the UFC, so I know some good moves too. I hate that library. Everyone should hate it. Hate hate hate hate
Posted by racistwhitemenwithouthats-youknowthetypes on April 18, 2013 at 4:36 AM · Report this
92
Have I gone off the deep end? Am I just being mean and saying things that have no basis in reality?

-yes chuck, you have.

-yes chuch, you are.

-and also fuck you.
Posted by more_chuck_trolling on April 18, 2013 at 5:22 AM · Report this
93
This article had something for everyone - the Mudede haters, the Mudede fans and the folks like me somewhere in the middle.

Ridiculous analogies? Check!

Pretentious, pathetic references to Marxist philosophers? Double check!!

A reasonable point hiding underneath layers of horrible, horrible writing? Ding, ding, ding!!!

If he'd just written this as a first person account of what it's like to be part of a racial minority living in a predominantly minority neighborhood and how he feels about white architecture that is imposed on that neighborhood and that he views as being informed by a spirit of misguided liberal do-goodism, this could actually be a good article.

He's got a point. This is one of the most segregated and most liberal cities in America. There is something intellectually dishonest about that city celebrating diversity with a Caucasian caricature of that diversity without actually doing anything to help minorities become a part of the divided city.

Unfortunately, there's also something intellectually dishonest about using Frederic Jameson and Claude Levi-Strauss to make some desperate plea to validate your emotions (which, as emotions, don't need external legitimacy - just enough research to make sure the facts they're in reference to are accurate).

Seriously, editors, Charles could use just a little of your help.
Posted by Centrists Rule the World today on April 18, 2013 at 8:41 AM · Report this
94
Additional thought - a lot of the comments here have an ugly racial undertone, more or less overt. This article seemed to make people uncomfortable, so kudos to Charles for that...exposing us for the hypocrites we really are.
Posted by Centrists Rule the World today on April 18, 2013 at 9:02 AM · Report this
95
This article is bad. Like high school essay bad.
Posted by DetroitAndy on April 18, 2013 at 9:12 AM · Report this
JF 96
When old enough to date, I hope Mudede's daughter walks into the living room one evening and says "Dad, I want you to meet my boyfriend" as the Beacon Hill library reaches out to shake Charles' hand.
Posted by JF on April 18, 2013 at 9:50 AM · Report this
97
Seriously, Charles? Okay, I'm not black, so I'm not going to quibble with your first impression of the roof as the inside of a slave ship (way to go nuclear by the way) but this article smacks more of elitist highfalutin condescension than anything in, on or floating above the Beacon Hill Library. I know you're into fancy prose and Marxist cultural critics, but we the people of Beacon Hill are a little more low-brow than that. Do you live in Beacon Hill? I've never seen you at Tippe & Drague or The Station or any of the other great community haunts that makes Beacon Hill such a great neighborhood to live in (where, by the way, that little scenario with the Panama hat would NEVER happen). I frequent the Beacon Hill Library three to four times a week with and without my five-year old and every time I am there I see a clean, well-tended, well-run library with, yes, a quirky architectural design, where kids and adults of every shape, size, color, religion and ethnicity are gathering to read, look for a job, have lunch in the breezeway or attend the sundry events the library hosts. Did you bother to actually experience the library rather than just look at it from high up on curmudgeon hill? Being well read and educated doesn't give you the right to shit all over everybody's day. Regardless of who designed it, the Beacon Hill Library IS multicultural because it is a community. PEOPLE make a community, not blueprints and wood. Life as a grump has got to get old after a while, Charles. Chill out. Be happy. Try it. You might like it.
Posted by TuesdayWoman on April 18, 2013 at 10:03 AM · Report this
98
Some interesting discussion about quirkiness, though what is quirky to one person is poetic to another.
Also, I'm not sure Carlson Architects even intended for the building to reflect the diversity of the neighborhood(as if you could do that in any meaningful way).
I've visited the library many times, and found that the library seems committed to serving their diverse constituency, which is the important thing.
Posted by Klickitat on April 18, 2013 at 10:08 AM · Report this
99
What the fuck? Do you actually get paid to write this shit?
Posted by JimmyCap on April 18, 2013 at 11:27 AM · Report this
100
I hate that I wasted my time reading this article. What a negative piece of shit.
It would be one thing if the Architect(s) had acquired design techniques from multiple cultures (ie those many cultures that make up the people of Beacon Hill) and completely fucked them up.

It is another thing to represent a quirky and upcoming neighborhood with funky design. Seeing as this neighborhood is on the uprise and in need of some quirkiness, creating a unique feel for Beacon Hill is important to establish community. I don't feel embarrassed by this design at all. I live and on BH and feel proud to be a part of such a diverse community as it is represented in the flesh, not in wood or concrete.
Posted by LoveBeaconHillLibrary! on April 18, 2013 at 11:27 AM · Report this
101
There's something wrong with you if you immediately think of slave ships when you walk inside a wooden building.

This article literally reads like a Sociology essay written by a college freshman.
Posted by Anonymustache on April 18, 2013 at 11:58 AM · Report this
102
This is the worst and most pointless article I've ever read. We should be happy that libraries still exist and are a hub for forward thinking...next are you going to comment on how schools shouldn't exist because they aren't visually appealing to YOU? Get a life man.
Posted by Writebettershit on April 18, 2013 at 12:17 PM · Report this
103
Such a terrible writer... Can someone else in another city hire this man?

Seriously Stranger, you have plenty of engagement. A robust comment section of mockery is just not worth it. He's dragging you down guys.
Posted by marxiano on April 18, 2013 at 12:45 PM · Report this
104
Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.
Posted by DetroitAndy on April 18, 2013 at 12:54 PM · Report this
105
Wow, so what are you saying, that multiculrural neighborhoods don't deserve nice, new, modern buildings? Are you just trying to stir up racial tension where none exists?
Posted by woofy on April 18, 2013 at 12:59 PM · Report this
106
Please kindly refrain from lumping the experience of minorities originating from Asia with those originating from Africa. Make no mistake, both groups have been historically brutalized. But over the past 30 years these two group's economic and social trajectories in America and in the world could not be more divergent.
Posted by ct on April 18, 2013 at 1:08 PM · Report this
Pridge Wessea 107
I like it, but I think this article speaks more about the person writing it than the library itself.

I'm sorry the library gives you the cold pricklies Charles.
Posted by Pridge Wessea on April 18, 2013 at 1:23 PM · Report this
108
Wow, that's a really concentrated sample of Seattle douchery. How do you get such a purified version? Is there some kind of centrifuge?
Posted by Let's look forward on April 18, 2013 at 1:23 PM · Report this
109
i have no real opinions on the library, but i hate the over-processed hdr pictures of it that you used.
Posted by tone mapping is evil on April 18, 2013 at 1:31 PM · Report this
110
@93 - Please explain: What is "white architecture"?
Posted by LikeItIs on April 18, 2013 at 2:32 PM · Report this
biju 111
As soon as I read the title of the piece, i just knew id be coming online to check out the comment thread. Impressive. Almost fell out of my seat reading comments #96, #77.
Posted by biju on April 18, 2013 at 3:10 PM · Report this
112
@58
My daughter and partner and I use it almost everyday. It functions absolutely beautifully, thank to all the productive input from the community. Maybe if Charles had a beautiful library like this near his home growing up he would have become a real writer or a real somebody who does positive work in the world instead of tearing down anything other people love except him. Might have taken more than that to fix his sorry soul however.

Posted by libraries are always cool on April 18, 2013 at 3:35 PM · Report this
Catalina Vel-DuRay 113
Happy Time, Dear, the last time I was south of Jackson was about six hours ago. I have lived in the vicinity of 18th ave S and S. College street for ten years. Prior to that, I lived in the vicinity of 17th Ave S & S. College street for five years (Both house, by the way, I bought from elderly Asians who were moving to the east side).

The city sometimes regards "Beacon Hill" as the entire area south of South Dearborn Street down to the Boeing Access Road, bounded to the east by Rainier/MLK and on the west by Airport Way. Other times, it divides it into "North Beacon" (Dearborn to Colombian/Alaska Way), and "South Beacon" (anything south of Columbian)

There is also a school of thought that subscribes to a "Mid Beacon" That would Be Colombian/Alaska down to Othello, or even Cloverdale.

I suspect that North Beacon Hill - which is where the library is located, by the way might be better reflected in the demographics for Zip Code 98144. Not that it matters, but if you are so dead set against getting out of the house, and so dedicated to the "many fine maps" of the internet, you might as well expand your horizons a bit.
Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay http://www.danlangdon.com on April 18, 2013 at 3:53 PM · Report this
114
Charles is arguably Seattle's most visible public intellectual, and as such he's a target for all sorts of anti-intellectual flaming.

As a black public intellectual, he's also a target for all the overt racists and defensive white folks out there.

Tough beat. We are lucky to have him. Brilliant piece.
Posted by emmaz on April 18, 2013 at 5:17 PM · Report this
115
I also hate that library. And I love this article. Totally agree with it. Thanks for writing it!
Posted by Snowbunny on April 18, 2013 at 5:56 PM · Report this
116
I found this article extremely annoying. It might be just what I needed to convince me that reading the Stranger is no longer worth my time. Don't get me wrong - I see the absurdity in tokenism-in-architecture, in using "quirkiness" to send a "multicultural" message - but Mudede just comes across as whiny and angry. He rants and rants and doesn't even consider other viewpoints. Can we please not read racial undertones into a beautiful building just because it's in a non-white neighborhood? As 105 states: "multicultural neighborhoods don't deserve nice, new, modern buildings?"

Mudede states that "social problems need to be solved by politics and not architecture." I disagree: while architecture cannot SOLVE social problems, it can remind us of social inequalities, it can represent underrepresented populations, it can be political - if it's done right. And obviously Mudede thinks the Beacon Hill Library wasn't done right. But it's absurd that he draws such a drastic conclusion - discounting all architecture in the processes of social change - just because he hates one library. Who is this guy?
Posted by Seattle23 on April 18, 2013 at 6:14 PM · Report this
117
Looks like good ol' Charles can use all the support he can get. But who am I......

As a lover of all things Marxist and what is often termed pretentious, I just want to say I love this piece. I don't know if I agree with it in thatI just don't know the building well enough. Though I do drive by it often enough. But who the fuck cares. To go and shit on this upside down boat is beautiful. It is like waving the red sheet in front of the bull....watch them charge! I thought the comment made by hmmmmmmm, in itself, proves the merit of the article. I know I got something out of it. What a great debate! Someone needed to talk about this building and not with a ohhh it is so wonderful kind of way. Thanks again Mr. Charles.
Posted by Ms. Klein on April 19, 2013 at 12:02 AM · Report this
118
Charles there is plenty of real slavery going on in the world. The International Labor Organization speculates there is 10-30 million in bondage currently on planet Earth. Other organizations such as Polaris, Not For Sale, and Humanslavery.org state a flat 30 million people world wide.

I see you monopolizing the race issue for your own gain. It is a never-ending source for you to use as subject matter and write lazy uninspired pieces whining about a library of all things.

Why don't you do something in the here and now about slavery instead of whine about the architectural significance of a public library? In addition, I call BS on your fictitious Panama Jack character. That is just stone cold absurd. Nevertheless, what do you expect from a nonsensical excuse for journalism. This paper is comparable to Mad Magazine, except The Stranger takes itself seriously.

I also find it ridiculous that a publication that occasionally makes up stories to mock its readers would ever bother to censor an anonymous post, but then again nothing surprises me from a bunch of cause monopolizing pseudo-intellectuals.
Posted by pc vs. pc on April 19, 2013 at 7:02 AM · Report this
119
How's the book selection? Are there a lot of guys yanking it to porn on the computers?

This is how a library should be judges IMHO.
Posted by edgardiazrocks on April 19, 2013 at 7:02 AM · Report this
120
Charles there is plenty of real slavery going on in the world. The International Labor Organization speculates there is 10-30 million in bondage currently on planet Earth. Other organizations such as Polaris, Not For Sale, and Humanslavery.org state a flat 30 million people world wide.

I see you monopolizing the race issue for your own gain. It is a never-ending source for you to use as subject matter and write lazy uninspired pieces whining about a library of all things.

Why don't you do something in the here and now about slavery instead of whine about the architectural significance of a public library? In addition, I call BS on your fictitious Panama Jack character. That is just stone cold absurd. Nevertheless, what do you expect from a nonsensical excuse for journalism. This paper is comparable to Mad Magazine, except The Stranger takes itself seriously.

I also find it ridiculous that a publication that occasionally makes up stories to mock its readers would ever bother to censor an anonymous post, but then again nothing surprises me from a bunch of cause monopolizing pseudo-intellectuals.
Posted by pc vs. pc on April 19, 2013 at 7:06 AM · Report this
121
@120 - white architecture is architecture produced by someone who is white.
Posted by Centrists Rule the World today on April 19, 2013 at 8:45 AM · Report this
122
Oops - I meant @110.
Posted by Centrists Rule the World today on April 19, 2013 at 8:47 AM · Report this
123 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
124
To counter the monumental pretentiousness of this sad excuse for journalism I have one thing to say....... PENIS FART
Posted by Josh L on April 19, 2013 at 9:50 AM · Report this
lawdog 125
Maybe Kwekwe needs some help explaining their racially insensitive architecture.

I see the General Hospital looks like a roadside fruit stand. Probably intentional though.
Posted by lawdog on April 19, 2013 at 10:47 AM · Report this
lawdog 126
"DAT LiBary is RACIST!"

(tired of the "color-blind" ideology being contorted until whites are the enemy. So there ya go, that's what you sound like to me.)

Posted by lawdog on April 19, 2013 at 11:09 AM · Report this
127
Well, at least they didn't get a brick box like we have in Skyway.
Posted by cantrolio on April 19, 2013 at 12:44 PM · Report this
Texas10R 128
It's just plain ugly in a pretentious way that makes its design obsolete prior to birth.

Mudede gets it right.
Posted by Texas10R on April 19, 2013 at 4:47 PM · Report this
129
If you look a gift horse in the mouth I hope it bites your face.
Posted by you_are_stupid__really on April 19, 2013 at 7:40 PM · Report this
inquiastador 130
"Charles is projecting his own feelings onto it."

Yes, which he does do a lot of. Funny thing is, he is truly African. Yet, he time and time again seems to think that he has his finger on the pulse of what it is like to be "black" in the USA. He does not have the baggage of being African-American in the sense of having being descended from slaves, but it seems like he thinks he knows what it is like. He never can know what it is like because well, he can't. He immigrated here of his own accord. He wanted to be here. Now, all he can write about it seems is how a library looks like the inside of a slaveship (I do get that BTW. It's too bad that this and the Ballard branch couldn't be swapped) And what gas station serves the best fried chicken and gizzards. Whats next, where to find the best watermelons in town?
Posted by inquiastador on April 19, 2013 at 10:18 PM · Report this
inquiastador 131
I guess I am most bothered that Mudede can obviously be a very good writer, he thinks deeply about things others might not, It just seems like he has an identity crisis partly of his own making.
Posted by inquiastador on April 19, 2013 at 10:22 PM · Report this
132
sounds like this person is way to board and wanting to bitch at anything
Posted by passingby on April 19, 2013 at 11:08 PM · Report this
133
Ha ha, I get it. A complaint about library architecture when half of the nation is illiterate. Hilarious!
Posted by MacGruber on April 20, 2013 at 1:01 AM · Report this
134
it's almost $500 a SF, and this is outrageous. a library should be less per SF than, say, a condo building. condos are "denser" with more kitchens, baths, etc. a library includes lots of ...just space. sure it needs to be finished. and it needs walls and such. but really, $500 a SF is like outrageous, I guess the city has tons of money to throw around like a drunken sailor these days.

then, it's a meaningless melange piece of crap, architecture wise, it's in the current school of thought which seems to be "for gosh sakes make sure it looks nothing like a traditional building! put together random swoopy shapes, that way we can get the per SF cost up higher! and justify a total architecture bill that's higher, too!"

there's nothing wrong with the traditional entry of rising broad steps, normal reading rooms with high windows, just a normal design, and yes it could have been copied from 1,000 other library designs to hold costs down. But no, we need architecture that makes a statement, though no one can figure out what it is. To show we "value making statements!" or some such crap. In seattle this usually means something with timber, or a reference to a salmon or a boat, but in the end, it's a BUILDING and it's not a fishing boat or any kind of boat and it's not a stream (see: city hall) and there's more to seattle than boats nad salmon anyway and good god, why not a building that just ....looks like one and....looks good and ....creates some sense of public awe the way a traditional public library does? instead of ugly concrete block gray walls, like we need more gray, swoopy shapes that mean nothing and won't be replicated by anyone in any pattern language anywhere. it's just babble is what this building's pattern language is. I wouldn't use the panama hat analogy, id's say it's like when White Peope buy some Putamayo album with all kinds of foreign language chanting on it and it turns out none of it is a real language anyway it was all faked for the white guy with the recorder.
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Posted by count me "anti" on April 20, 2013 at 11:02 AM · Report this
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Mudede = Troll
Haters responding with rants and personal insults toward each other = Suckers
Libraries = Good
Books = Good
White architects = Bad
White architects designing in minority neighborhoods = Satan
Stranger = Lame

BTW this BH resident likes the BH library, uses it, finds it inoffensive and unthreatening and usually has better things to waste my time on. Back to real life now. Thanks for the memories.
Posted by BH rider on April 20, 2013 at 7:19 PM · Report this
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What other kind of architect is there.
Posted by you_are_stupid_no_really on April 20, 2013 at 10:07 PM · Report this
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At least we know you don't want buildings any more.

Thanks guys!
Posted by you_are_stupid_no_really on April 20, 2013 at 10:10 PM · Report this
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Good stuff, Charles. Seems like you've struck a nerve with the white, liberal Stranger readership based on the comments. Strike away.
Posted by Tent_Liberation_Army on April 20, 2013 at 10:47 PM · Report this
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preaching hate?
Posted by come on really? on April 21, 2013 at 1:23 PM · Report this
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I think you're just a douche.
Posted by 404504210 on April 21, 2013 at 2:26 PM · Report this
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Mr. Mudede is so blinded by "THE NARRATIVE" it's hilarious. Everything he encounters is shoehorned into a predetermined framework. Open your eyes you dumb commie.
Posted by Wank Tillman on April 21, 2013 at 3:31 PM · Report this
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You should get a job with Fox News. This piece is a beautiful example of creating controversy and outrage without the slightest basis in reality. Just like the folks at Fox, you project your own political reality on something (or someone) and rail against the straw man that exists only in your imagination. Given the many very real issues that exist in our city that you could have shed light on, this is only a distraction that encourages people to see actual prejudice as the result of someone being overly sensitive. Maybe you really do work for Fox, as de-sensitizing people to real issues would be something they would laud.
Posted by Mirandaw on April 21, 2013 at 5:22 PM · Report this
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As a lifelong resident of Beacon Hill, I agree with most of Mudede wrote. However, why single out this library? Whitey has embarrassed minorities all over town. Be glad there is no wheatgrass bar in honor of Cesar Chavez.

However, the average patron will not know of the intentions of the architects anyway. They will see a bigger and better space than the old one. The old one was small and used by Asian kids mostly. This new one is more spacious and holds all kinds of people. You have white people sleeping in the magazine area, Muslim kids screaming and running around while their parents can't be bothered, blacks talking on their cellphones, Asian kids hogging the computers. Heck, I even had a Mexican man yell at me for taking 'his' chair and tell me I'm the reason why this country is going to Hell.

So, even if you don't like the design, it achieved its purpose of a large communal kumbaya oasis even if the races don't really talk with each other, unless you're some Asian woman looking for someone to marry for citizenship. The library is not that bad, at least, not worse than the EMP. There's lots more computers than before and a meeting room. And there's a feature near the magazine area where the whale opens its mouth to let out collected rainwater. It's really cool. Thanks, Whitey!
Posted by Beacon Hill Resident on April 21, 2013 at 7:33 PM · Report this
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Don Carlson was probably not thinking about any of the stuff you mentioned in your article when he was designing the Beacon Hill library. Your obsessive social hand wringing strikes me as the kind of re-interpretive intellectual wandering that critics always write up after an artist has completed something and moved on. Writers need to make a buck. Writing about someone's work that has already captured wide public attention makes it easier to get published, I suppose.

I can't say for sure what Don was thinking about, but I am pretty sure it had a lot to do with the scale, materials and colors of our neighborhood, the civic and cultural importance of free access to knowledge in the commons, and the unusual juxtaposing of things that artists do to make you open your mind a little wider than you are used to doing.

That last thing in particular is characteristic of Don Carlson's architectural work throughout his career. It strikes me as a remarkably good thing to do to prepare a visitor for getting the best use of his library.

I also imagine that Don was thinking about way finding and workflows, convenience, discovery, the social experience of research, and the solitary experience of reading, the value of unexpected encounters, and land marking and displaying the social capital formation that our civic commons and meeting places enable.

Beacon Hill is a diverse community. Architecture on Beacon Hill can be free to be about many things, because we are the monument to our own diversity.
Posted by George Robertson on April 21, 2013 at 9:40 PM · Report this
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I love this article, and its point is apt -- the power structure always exercises terrible form when "celebrating diversity." I actually like the look of the Beacon Hill library superficially, but when I look for too long, I feel discomfited. It's that same shiver I used to get as an adolescent when decrepit adults (far gone into the nethers of their forties), tried to be "cool." The Capitol Hill library succeeds in a sense because its only ambition is to be a library: a repository of media and community resources. The Beacon Hill Library is like the over-eager, hyper-progressive parent we all cringe at. The library seems to say "TAKE A CLASS IN SWAHILI IN ME! AND READ A BOOK ABOUT NORWEGIAN LESBIANS! AND HAVE A CUP OF SHADE GROWN COFFEE UNDERNEATH MY KOOKY OVERHANG!" Now, you could say these things about a lot of places in Seattle, but usually not all at once, and so loudly.

The Central Library is the natural antithesis -- as uncompromising and ethereal as a Rothko painting. It's a cathedral: it doesn't invite you in, it doesn't care if you stay. You choose to enter a space that demands your silence, and at least a little bit of reverence. The reason I love it is its rejection of human scale, it's willingness to, as gingerly as possible, remind you of how small you are. It's a place to sit and watch the eons rolling by. Not exactly the mission of a community library.

I like community libraries, but when I think of them I think of the rickety old library in Langley, Washington, with flowers blooming in the summer, and the chipping paint (always some preposterous, gay combination -- purple and beige, green and blue). Trying to bridge the gap between the organic rhizome of a great community library and the efficient coolness of a moneyed city enterprise is nigh-impossible.
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Posted by chaseacross on April 22, 2013 at 12:44 AM · Report this
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This is a fucking brilliant article. I've read some things that Charles has written that I didn't get or I thought were off, but this is incredible. Also incredible: the ridiculous comments. Anyone else get the feeling that everyone who's pissed is white?

'jeez, it's just a BUILDING. Stop PROJECTING on it.' How dense can you fucking get? Anyone else headdesking at all of the comments that start off with "well I'M white, but MY opinion on the minority experience is more valid than yours because..."Awesome article, Charles.
Posted by waytogo on April 22, 2013 at 5:24 AM · Report this
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Gehry's monstrosity, the EMP, looks like a 747 crashed into a roller coaster. It's hideous.

According to the art critic Hal Foster, Gehry's Walt Disney concert hall in Los Angeles is a "media logo" and his style of architecture, in general, is a "winning formula" for "any corporate entity that desires to be perceived, through an instant icon, as a global player." In short, it's absurd to propose that because someone is critical of Gehry's slop he must be a corporate drone (working at Microsoft), when corporate entities are in large part the biggest Gehry cheerleaders.

Although I think Charles' slave ship critique is a reach, I'm completely in agreement that Seattle needs to step up it's game when it comes to quality of public art and architecture. Our seemingly ubiquitous preference for all things cute, quirky, and whimsical makes us look like the dim-witted, parochial cousins of more sophisticated cities. (Just look at the "art" on the Ballard Bridge). We have amazing artists here but we always pick the flashy/trashy crap for our public works. It's embarrassing. Can't speak to the Beacon Hill library--never been there since I love my Ballard branch.
Posted by TBne on April 22, 2013 at 2:19 PM · Report this
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yup - our art and buildings suck. "the unusual juxtaposing of things that artists do to make you open your mind a little wider"is the pat answer, so lazy, it justifies anything no matter how crappy; it denies that quality exists. So yahoo. so in seattle we see these constant references to the sea. a fish tale on a light rail pole, or a salmon. woo hoo. it's like the public art of schoolchildren who paint murals; once you've seen oh about 12 primitivist pieces, um, you've seen them all - you don't really want an entire city of them. ditto with the express references to salmon, boats, ships, vikings, salmon streams bubbling through city hall, do we not realize that MOST major cities are on the sea? or are connected or were connected to the world through...ships? hello, yes boston does not have cod artwork on every bridge and we'd think it silly if they did. but no, in seattle, anything quirky goes, another way of saying "we're not confident or intellingent enough to know true quality when we see it; artists and architects must not be questioned or else we would have to actually defend them." so much pitiable public art from bergen place monstrosities of mushroom bubbles on what look like telephone poles (an hommage to what, piers?) to fish shapes on the ballard bridge. it's just childish. our buildings look like a random jusxtaposition of swoopy shapes, with the pattern language being "babble" ....there's no particular reason for this degree of curve here and that there, only that we're goddamed if we're going to put a golden rectangle into anything anymore. and this library monstrosity at $500 per sqaure foot? what? just copy a greenlake library. really. broad steps and a big entrance facade speaks "hello, I am a welcoming public building. reading is importnat" then some rooms with big windows. really, it's not rocke tscience to manage the flow and use and functions and we need to stop celebrating architects who are said to somehow master functions without art. or with what it a "the unusual juxtaposing of things that artists do to make you open your mind a little wider" which is simply another way of saying "I don't know what art is; I don't know what beauty is; I don't know what grace and charm are in a buliding." if you want unusual juxtapositions you will find lots in the landfill. really unusual juxtapositions. but just piling together random shapes is not architecture, though it is what we call architecture today, sadly.
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Posted by unusual juxtaposition = crap on April 23, 2013 at 6:08 AM · Report this
151
Does everyone else have that moment when you get to the last page of the Stranger and you're like...dammit I just read that whole thing and I am so much dumber.

BH Library...has books and internets and computers and bums and Asians and stuff...it does exactly what it should. don't hate. it also has cute chirpy librarians
Posted by nwfordays on April 23, 2013 at 1:41 PM · Report this
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This was compelling work. Perhaps most of you have never had that soul cringing experience. You have never had to. To you a cigar is a cigar and a building is a building. You have never had to be bare bones looking into the thing as the other.
I appreciate how it exposed art/architecture as means to dull the realities of race politics.
thanks Charles
Posted by yonnasgetahun on April 23, 2013 at 6:38 PM · Report this
153
Immigrants are often 'white' and non- immigrants (that are classified as 'white' in this article, Americans established here for generations are often black, or other non white colors...

America is not just 'whites' and 'immigrants'.
Posted by Fanculo on April 24, 2013 at 7:58 AM · Report this
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WHITE MEN ARE THE ENEMY!!
Posted by FredL on April 24, 2013 at 1:52 PM · Report this
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I don't give a shit if the building looks like a white penis with KKK tattooed on it. It's bright, everything in there is new. I'd take that over old dump with torn up chairs and shit-stained carpets any day.
Posted by meb on April 24, 2013 at 2:08 PM · Report this
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Libraries are racist.
Posted by excitablerooster on April 24, 2013 at 7:40 PM · Report this
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part of the problem of the writer's initial analogy (guy grabbing the hat) is that even though such attitudes exist (and the attitudes exist amongst people from many cultural backgrounds)... Mudede seems like he assumes the readers are mostly from a similar, narrow cultural range. Also, it just doesn't match what's going on with the library architecture either.
Posted by Hildegard on April 25, 2013 at 6:40 PM · Report this
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Have never been to the Beacon Hill branch (I'm a black person living in Fremont - de libertas quirkas!) but now I want to go. The article is thought provoking, puts its finger on a true and real phenomenon. Will BHL *feel* as hollow to me as it does to him? I don't know yet. But those who argue that a building is just a building and is devoid of cultural context - that must be an interesting way to move through the world! As a lover of art and architecture - yes, I walk down the streets taking photos of random buildings and reading guide books - and wannabe member of Seattle Historical Society - this is exactly the kind of discussion people ought to be having about our neighborhoods and (especially contemporary) art.

Architectural firms are quick to tell you what their designs are designed to make the occupant/patron/passerby feel. Okay. But what do you actually feel? And if you feel nothing at all about it, that says something, too.

Posted by Hsofia on April 27, 2013 at 7:58 AM · Report this
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Never use the word "hate" with books or libraries or immigrants
Posted by maddietom on April 27, 2013 at 9:45 AM · Report this
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don't use the word "hate" with books, libraries, or immigrants.
Posted by maddietom on April 27, 2013 at 9:50 AM · Report this
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@93 I think you got it about right. Your summation is epitaph-worthy.
Posted by capicola on April 28, 2013 at 10:39 AM · Report this
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This is the worst kind of race-baiting and being a racist-hammer (then everything's a nail) that I have ever read. If indeed the first thing you saw was a slave-ship, you, Mr. Mudede, are really psychologically fucked-up. I pity you deeply.
Posted by evergreener on April 28, 2013 at 2:07 PM · Report this
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Bleach, what 1 and 2 said. What's with the angsty self-hating racial garbage today?
Posted by AllisonM on April 28, 2013 at 2:53 PM · Report this
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Oh. Muede.
Posted by AllisonM on April 28, 2013 at 2:54 PM · Report this
Posted by capicola on April 28, 2013 at 6:53 PM · Report this
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Why the hell did you have to use the phrase "soul crinkling" about ten times? How the hell can a soul crinkle? Did you think you were being cool, coming up with that? You're not cool. You're tired. Buy yourself a damn thesaurus and learn to use it. And, I believe the phrase you wanted was "soul crushing". It doesn't make any more sense than "soul crinkling" but it doesn't sound so cutesy, either.
Posted by DrummerGrrl on May 2, 2013 at 12:22 AM · Report this
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People are more likely to see a White cop patrolling a non-White neighborhood in the USA than the converse . . . .o.O -- http://www.blackagendareport.com
Posted by 5th Columnist on June 4, 2013 at 2:08 PM · Report this
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I live down the street from this library. It's beautiful. It's about the story. I am from this neighborhood. Charles Mudede - the neighborhood this library sits in is proud of the architecture and uses the space intensely. Don't shit on our library. Are YOU the white man your article is talking about?
Posted by TheBeaconHillGirl on October 1, 2013 at 10:00 PM · Report this

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