The Seattle Public Library - Central Library
1000 Fourth Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104

OMA (Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Ramus) with LMN Architects 2004

The eleven-level Seattle Library is wrapped in a diamond-shaped curtain wall that folds and cantilevers onto the street. The diagonal structural grid of the curtain wall acts as a seismic brace and resists wind load. Steel mesh within the glazing reduces heat and glare.

A multi-story truss system contains the main stacks at the upper floors, and in turn is cantilevered over the public plaza, freeing the plaza space of columns. The curtain wall leans diagonally onto the truss cantilever.  Columns are grouped at the center of the building, along with the main concrete lift core, creating a dynamic, free interior space.

The interior is made up of a variety of spaces that starts at the ‘living room‘, and includes a public plaza and the open, 275-seat auditorium. The spatial variety circulates upwards to the ‘mixing chamber‘ or reference area, and to ever more diverse open meeting spaces, culminating at the top floor quiet reading space.

As in many Koolhaas buildings, one is seldom at eye-level from one space to another. This is most evident when circulating vertically within narrow escalators that cut through the upper-floor book stacks, which in turn spiral up four levels on a two-degree slope. The sloped spiral stacks house the majority of the non-fiction collection; the spiral avoids the need to break up the collection on different levels as in traditional libraries. One is also never far from looking down onto the plaza, which provides a good orientation mark at each level. 


Color is used to define different interior functions. Against the black ceiling and grey interior palette, these colored areas are great wayfinding devices - such as the illuminated, bright yellow acrylic panels for the escalators and lifts. The black ceiling also accentuates the vertical nature of large public gathering spaces. Sandwiched between the grand plaza and reference area are the closed meeting rooms, defined by the red floor and curved walls and ceiling.

Hakee Chang 2005


How to visit

The library is located on a major thoroughfare to downtown, between Spring and Madison Streets and Fourth and Fifth Avenues. The building occupies the entire city block so you really can’t miss it.

It is open Monday thru Wednesday, from 10am to 8pm;  Thursday thru Saturday, from 10am to 6pm; and Sunday from 1 to 5pm.

By car via Interstate 5:

From the north, exit 165B at Union Street, and follow Union three blocks west to Fifth Street. Turn left on Fifth and go south three blocks to Spring Street. The library is on the right.

From the south, exit 165 at Seneca Street, and follow Seneca Street one block west. Turn left on Fifth Avenue and go south one block to Spring Street. The library is on the right.

By bus: Please see the bus planner at

For more information please call the library on +1 206 386 4636 or visit

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