Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Notes from Seattle

I'm currently in Seattle. Which is why the blogging has been inconsistent. My apologies.

Anyway, a few thoughts from Seattle.

1. Really this must be one of the greatest walking cities in the country. Well, other than Lexington, Kentucky. Seriously though, why would someone drive to work in this city. Driving here is horrible. The buses are great. Walking is great whether it's to work if close enough or to your local store or just for evening walks through the city's great neighborhoods. I'm biased towards the city, but regardless it's great. I love New York, but I can't imagine a better city to live in in America than Seattle. Great walking, nice parks, views of 2 mountain ranges when the weather's right, great food within walking distance, etc. etc. I also like the rain, so that helps.

2. If you ever go to Opening Day, bring some earplugs. Went to Opening Day for the Mariners on Monday. It was a great time, in no small part due to the surprising victory. But we sat right next to where the fireworks and other explosive devices went off. The first time I thought some terrorists had struck the ballpark. Scared the hell out of me.

3. The Seattle Public Library more than any other building I've ever seen epitmoizes what is both right and wrong about modern architecture. It's a beautiful building. It's like working in a modern art installation. There's a video installation as you go up the staircase. There's one part near the bottom that looks like it is covered in a red plastic--there's nothing there but you feel as if you're in the middle of a modernist art piece. Plus being Seattle computer access is great and it really feels like a center of the community. People are playing chess all over the place in there for instance. On the other hand, it's sheer brillance is undermined by the single greatest problem with modern architecture--how people use the space is seemingly irrelevant. For example, you take an escalator to the top of the building where the stacks begin. If you walk down the stacks all the way down several floors, you go on a slowly sloping decline. Then it just stops. Not at a logical point. Just ends. You are left wondering, did I miss a turn? What the hell is going on? The problem is that the stacks don't end near a staircase. Or consider the adjustments the library had to make within the building. For example, like so much modernist architecture there is an emphasis on showing the materials used within the building rather than covering it up. Problems arose when going up the escalator, people would pick off the foam stuff that cover much of the insides. The library had to replace a bunch of it and then cover it with fiberglass. Most frustrating is that on many of the windows where you can see the water, they are covered with some sort of mesh stuff and you can barely see it. Why is that? Not all of the windows are covered with it. I want to see the water when I can?

In any case, it's a great building and I wish more public buildings were as interesting as this. But it also sums up the negatives about modernist architecture as much as just about any building could.