« »

Seattle Public Library

When Bruce Mau Design began working on the Seattle Public Library project in early 2000, we started by wondering: “What is the future of the library in the home of Microsoft?” In other words, what will the library become when its relevance is threatened in an increasingly digital age?

We knew we had to confront two difficult phenomena: the explosion of media and information, and the expansion of civic roles for libraries. Our creative breakthrough was inspired by City Librarian Deborah Jacobs, who said that libraries "are not just depositories of books, but cornerstones of democracy. True democracy—based upon the informed consent of the governed—cannot exist without full free and public access to knowledge."

Working with Rem Koolhaas and Seattle-based LMN Architects, we applied Jacobs's principle to every aspect of the project, including the actual design process. All major decisions were conducted with total transparency, and input was sought from the public via open meetings and televised presentations.

Our design was integrated seamlessly into the architecture of the building.  We implemented playful supergraphics and title walls, a glass wall for the children’s area and a sandblasted wordmark overlooking the outdoor plaza. For the “Spiral” (Collections Area), we devised flexible “stack mats,” made from die-cut rubber, that could be picked up and moved to accommodate expanding collections. Instead of increasing shelf space for reading, listening and viewing materials, we used digital storage technology to free up physical space where visitors can interact with one another, and with the knowledge around them.

When opened for the public in 2004, New York Times Critic Herbert Muschamp called the library "the greatest new building [he'd] ever had the pleasure of reviewing."