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Design Double Take: Seattle

March 25, 2012

Nine-thousand, nine-hundred and ninety-six.”

“There are 9,996 window panes in the library building. I’m a reference librarian there, someone asked me that just the other day.”

Chris and I turned to look at the woman standing behind us on the street corner. We had just finished marveling our way up and down the Seattle Public Library’s Central Library building and were taking some last outside photos before heading back to the hotel.

The surprise trivia was unsolicited but somehow seemed to fit with what we had just experienced inside. The library is full of thoughtful and unexpected details. The bright neon of the escalators draws you in. Clear signage reassures you that you aren’t lost. Removable rubber tiles on the floors help you navigate the stacks. Normally hidden spaces for the library staff can be glimpsed from floors above.

The library is full of thoughtful and unexpected details.

The colors and materials, framed by those 9,996 window panes, created a modern aesthetic that contrasted with what we’d seen earlier that afternoon when we walked down to Pike Place Market. Manhole covers, bathroom tiles, metalwork on the signal lights ... Chris and I agreed that the little details make a huge difference in a city’s personality. Despite the fact that it rained almost the entire time of our visit, we both enjoyed Seattle.