How to Improve an “Architectural Masterpiece”
In the past few years, several contemporary libraries have received considerable attention in the architectural media, particularly Rem Koolhaas’s Seattle Public Library. I have always been curious about how well these structures serve library patrons. A recent Seattle Post Intelligencer article entitled “Too Many People Getting Lost in New Downtown Library” by Kery Murakami sheds light on one problem with Koolhaas’s design. As the title explains, patrons are getting lost within the building. It is ironic that libraries’ purpose is to connect people with their information needs and the architecture is actually interfering with that process.
However, successful library design is requires more than clear layouts and Koolhaas’s design may be successful in other respects (I have heard mixed reviews ranging from an excellent place to too cold and inhospitable. I have yet to make it to Seattle to form my own opinion.).
The problem is being resolved with a $49,000 way-finding consultant that will place signage throughout the building. This move demonstrates that the problem is rather large. Librarians are not printing out paper signs and posting them. Rather the library requires outside assistance.
If I were Koolhaas, I would be embarrassed that an outside consultant is needed to realign the architecture with the institution’s purpose. But then again that is just me.