About the building

Photo of the Central Library

Designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas with Seattle-based LMN Architects, the 11-floor, 362,987-square-foot Central Library is a symphony of glass and form. It is renowned for its many innovative features, including a Books Spiral that displays the entire nonfiction collection in a continuous, wheelchair-accessible run from Levels 6 through 9, a towering Level 3 living room along Fifth Avenue that reaches 50 feet in height, and a distinctive diamond-shaped exterior of glass and steel.

The Central Library's asymmetrical shape, unlike any other building in Seattle, is the result of its use of overlapping platforms and clusters to reflect the varied uses of the library, including more “stable” use areas such as the Book Spiral and meeting rooms and more fluid, movement-defined areas such as the Mixing Chamber and Living Room. Koolhaas intentionally designed the space for form to follow function, creating a visual metaphor that captures the dynamic nature of libraries.

When the Central Library opened The New York Times’ late architectural critic Herbert Muschamp wrote: “Seattle’s new Central Library is a blazing chandelier to swing your dreams upon”. . .and described it as “the most exciting new building it has been my honor to review” in more than 30 years of writing about architecture.