Blogs Nov 2, 2009 at 10:51 am


It's not a "relationship with time" -- how Germanically abstract and abstruse.

It's ugly and bad, like the central libe and like most modern architecture, a fight between "L'Homage Aux Fish Cannery Sheds" motif and "Early Motel."

There's a reason classics are classic and there's a reason craftsman works, see Palladio, the Pattern Book etc.

The blank concrete wall here looks like the backside of a transfer station or an alley, and the lump of concrete in front for "art"? don't get me started.

What did this piece of crap cost anyway?

And as to the class struggle inherent in this work...please.

It reflects our policy of taxing the poor to build crappy things so elites can snob it over everyone else regardless of the ugliness and waste of the public dollars, what you might call advanced neoliberal greenwashed power elite circa Seattle 2009.....
Actually, it's a really fun library - my son used to love the fact it had way more manga than most libraries.
So my reading of that building is first that it is a cost-limited and community-driven effort, not "pure architecture," so we can't ignore the immense social component these things bring to its esthetic; they do not limit the esthetic so much as inform it. Rather than see the "boat thingie" as "under-imaginitive," for instance, if we consider it a reflection of the roofline (which resembles a boat's hull), I think it has a strong discursivity (that, say, the downtown library actually lacks); discursivity, again, is inherently social. The odd angles also work well when you contemplate the site within its neighborhood context (again, the social/contextual are of foremost importance here). Last, we should remember that one of the primary user demographics of the neighborhood libraries is preschool-aged and elementary-school-aged children, and designing architecture to appeal to and engage children is important in a design like this. I can't see it as "frivolity"--it's actually a very good example of architecture not speaking down to kids but still appealing to them while retaining some adult appeal and interest. The building invites conversations between kids and adults about what the architecture is doing; it's a didactic building in many ways, and fun.
Still building PoMo architecture in 2005 is as dated as commissioning a Gehry in 1999.

Oh, wait! We did that too...
I'm not sure we can read that building as postmodern; it utterly lacks cynicism, and it's not particularly ironic, either--if anything, it is a bit transcendent (or tries to be) and a bit sentimental.
What it needs is a sexy tree.
As someone who was involved in the site selection and preliminary design process for the Beacon Hill library, I feel like saying just leave us alone. This library is a very user-friendly facility and fits well into the neighborhood, both attributes which weighed heavily with us community folks.

The library sits on a non-rectangular block, which lent itself to non-traditional shapes. Simac comes closest to getting it right.

How it appears to passers-by from other neighborhoods or to architectural snobs matters not.
La vrai lutte blah blah blah: That "blank concrete wall" is actually a nuanced slate facade, and the lump of concrete is and endless source of amusement for kids of a certain age. Parents are grateful to have it.

Call me a rube, but I think it's a fine library. It serves us well. I don't think I ever noticed the "flying boat thingy," but I consider it something for the kids. And teaching kids that the library (and by extension, learning) is approachable and user-friendly is far more important that impressing the occasional architecture snob. When libraries are kid-friendly, it also allows parents to spend more hours there.

The same applies to the downtown library. Novelty and whimsy serve a function beyond neutralizing politics among adults.
@6 - yeah, that would be nice.

But it's really a fun library inside. As @7 points out correctly.
Charles, you sound like a snobbish, judgmental, postmodern dick.

That building is in my neighborhood, and it is an excellent addition to my neighborhood. If you look around the area where it's located, it is one of the few buildings that is welcoming and well kept, rather than a dilapidated eye-sore. If you want to see "rubble engineering", go in either direction from the library on Beacon Ave. Look in every direction at the corner of Beacon Ave and 15th. *That* is rubble engineering, the Beacon Hill library, and the space it occupies, is fostering our community.
i agree with charles about "frivolity" in our public art - we're awash in it. we don't need anymore "walls of death", trolls, or boats-on-a-stick.

we need dignity and meaning - see myrtle edward's "against adjacent upon".
@10: I second that. The Beacon Hill branch of the Seattle Public Library one of the neatest pieces of architecture this neighborhood's got going. I wish more developers would dare make buildings like this around here. Let's start with the depressing South Columbian Way and Beacon Avenue South intersection: if we turn places like the ghetto laundromat or the run-down gas station (that doesn't even take credit cards at the pump) or Foulee and Seattle Supermaket into friendly, welcoming, and clean places like this library then maybe Beacon Hill could one day be a livable, walkable neighborhood I can be proud of living in.
Aww, beacon hill ain't all that bad. McPhersons and the ABC mart are fuckin' awesome.

How bored were you today? Surely there are better issues for you to waste your overwrought vocab on. Stick to trees.
go fuck yourself, charles. our old library on beacon hill was a run-down storefront...
@13, i love beacon hill, i just hate the design of the library.
Do you know what else hasn't improved with time Charles?

Your face.
Nothing ages faster than self-important architectural criticism.
Charles, I'm not sure if you were even aware of what public art is on this site let alone if it is 'frivolous'. Is the Fremont Troll frivolous and neutralizing? Or maybe since the Mona Lisa has a little grin it empties the painting of meaning?

Since when did art become so serious? And why shouldn't it have fun? For a field trip could I suggest you get down the Calder show at SAM? Sometimes frivolity is the quickest and most brutal path to truth and I applaud many artists that are not afraid to use it in their work.

Can frivolity be used poorly? Of course it can. But that is not the case with this library.
I was just riding my bike north on Beacon last weekend and the library really stood out as a fine piece of architecture from the street. I would rather have something different and frivolous than utilitarian bullshit like you find all over Seattle.
Y'know, I actually sort of like the boat. The image of a ship sailing through the sky (and "air ship") might be a bit of a cliche, but I also think that its an image that has a strong link and history to a lot of creative writing (see the entire Flight comic anthology series: Its an image and idea that can catch a child's imagination, and is it a bad thing to actually make a library appeal to young people?

I agree with others who say there is a fine line between genuine whimsy and frivolity (which apparently "neutralizes the politics of a situation or site"). But, I'd say the boat falls into the catagory of whimsy. And, when you compare it to the architectual wasteland that largely surrounds the library, maybe a little whimsy what's called for.
I love the boat.

Please wait...

Comments are closed.

Commenting on this item is available only to members of the site. You can sign in here or create an account here.

Add a comment

By posting this comment, you are agreeing to our Terms of Use.