New public library with welcoming, intuitive public spaces and uniquely flexible shelving system
At a moment when libraries are perceived to be under threat from a shrinking public realm on one side and digitization on the other, the Seattle Central Library creates a civic space for the circulation of knowledge in all media, and an innovative organizing system for an ever-growing physical collection - the Books Spiral. The library's various programs are intuitively arranged across five platforms and four flowing "in between" planes, which together dictate the building's distinctive faceted shape, offering the city an inspiring building that is robust in both its elegance and its logic.
OMA's ambition is to redefine the library as an institution no longer exclusively dedicated to the book, but rather as an information store where all potent forms of media - new and old - are presented equally and legibly. In an age in which information can be accessed anywhere, it is the simultaneity of media and (more importantly) the curatorship of its contents that will make the library vital.

Our first operation was to "comb" and consolidate the library's apparently ungovernable proliferation of programs and media. We identified five "stable" programmatic clusters (parking, staff, meeting, Book Spiral, HQ) and arranged them on overlapping platforms, and four "unstable" clusters (kids, living room, Mixing Chamber, reading room) to occupy interstitial zones. Each area is architecturally defined and equipped for dedicated performance, with varying size, flexibility, circulation, palette, and structure.

The Mixing Chamber, centrally located on the third floor, is an area of maximum librarian-patron interaction - a trading floor for information orchestrated to fulfill an essential (though often neglected) need for expert interdisciplinary help. Librarians guide readers up into the Books Spiral, a continuous ramp of shelving forming a co-existence between categories that approaches the organic: each evolves relative to the others, occupying more or less space on the Spiral, but never forcing the ruptures within sections that bedevil traditional library plans. Upon the opening of the Seattle Central Library, the Spiral's 6,233 bookcases housed 780,000 books, and can accommodate growth up to 1,450,000 books in the future without adding more bookcases.

Original project proposal, 1999

OMA / LMN – A Joint Venture


Seattle, USA


Commissioned: 1999
Completed: 2004


City block located at 1000 Fourth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104


Total 38,300m2, including 33,700m2 reading room, book spiral, mixing chamber, meeting platform, living room, staff floor, children's collection, auditorium, and 4,600m2 of parking


The Seattle Public Library


$111.9 million

Arup: Cecil Balmond, Atila Zekioglu, Anders Carlson, Chris Carroll


Alistair Guthrie, Bruce McKinlay, Stephen Jolly, John Gautrey, Aung Oo, Vahik Davoudi, Amanda Brownlee, Russell Fortmeyer, Tony Cocea, Marina Solovchuk, Fiona Cousins, Christin Whitco


Armin Wolski, Jim Quiter

IT & A/V:

Jonathan Phillips, Raymond Tam, Eric Lockwood, Menandro Domingo

Magnusson Klemencic Associates
Jon Magnusson, Jay Taylor, Derek Beaman, Hans Blomgren, Nathalie Boeholt


Drew Gagnes, Darin Stephens

Other Consultants
Michael Yantis Associates – Michael Yantis, Basel Jurdy


McGuire Associates – Kevin McGuire


Ann Hamilton, Gary Hill, Tony Oursler


Davis Langdon Adamson – Steve Kelly, David Hudd, Alice Nguyen

Environmental Graphics:

Bruce Mau Design


Dewhurst Macfarlane & Partners – Marc Simmons, Yu-Ting Chen

Facade Pre-construction Services:

Seele GmbH – Gerhard Seele, Siegfried Gossner, Thomas Geissler, Martin Kugler, Jenniffer Endress


Gordon Adams Consulting – Gordon Adams


OMA / LMN, Inside Outside: Petra Blaisse, Marieke van den Heuvel, Mathias Lehner, Lieuwe Conradie, Peter Niessen, Jaap de Vries, Maarten van Severen


Inside Outside / Jones & Jones – Ilze Jones, Jim Brighton, Shaney Clemmons

Kugler Tillotson Associates – Suzan Tillotson, Wai Mun Chui

Pre-construction Services:

Hoffman Construction Washington – Doug Winn, Bob Vincent, Dale Stenning

Vertical Transport:

HKA Elevator Consulting – Daryl Anderson


New York Times, 16 May 2004
Seattle Times, 16 May 2004
Library Journal, 17 May 2004
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 20 May 2004
The New Yorker, 24 May 2004
Evening Standard, 20 July 2004

Flash Mob Dance, 10 July 2010

A+U, #428 May 2006
AIT, December 2006
Architectural Digest (Russian) #11, 2006
Architektura #9, September 2006
Archplus #178, June 2006
Arquitectura e arte, December 2006
Casa Brutus, #74 May 2006
Centras, #4 2006
De Architect, #1 January 2006
DWCorporate #3, 2005
FuturArc, #3Q 2006
Helsingin Sanomat, 6 September 2006
Huig, #5 Winter 2005
L'industria della costruzioni, #387 1 February 2006
Lotus international, #127 2006
Lotus international, #128 2006
Mac Power, #1 January 2006
Praxis, #8 2006

Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED)
Silver certification

2005 Honor Award for Outstanding Architecture

American Institute of Architects

2005 Outstanding Library Building Award
American Institute of Architects and American Library Association

2005 Platinum Award for Innovation and Engineering
American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC)

Extract from Seattle Public Library Website: Building a Sustainable Central Library

The Seattle Central Library has many design elements and features to lessen its energy and environmental impact on our planet. Elements that contribute to making the design, building, and long-term use of the new Central Library green and sustainable include:

Sustainable Site
Erosion and sedimentation control during construction; re-building on same site; located on major bus routes; bicycle parking spaces; landscaping and exterior design to reduce "heat island effect;" automatic lighting controls to reduce light pollution.

Water Efficiency
Plants selected to require little water; all irrigation provided by rainwater collected from building exterior and stored in a 40,000-gallon tank; interior water use reduced by metered faucets, no-flush urinals and efficient mechanical equipment.

Energy & Atmosphere
Building designed to outperform Seattle energy code by 10 percent; about half the glass used in the curtain wall is triple-glazed with an aluminum expanded metal mesh sandwiched between two panes to reduce heat buildup from sunlight; computer-controlled air movement motor controls maximize energy efficiencies; no chlorofluorocarbon-based refrigerants in air conditioning and no halon gases in fire suppression system; control systems, meter HVAC systems, water usage and energy performance of the building.

Materials & Resources
Space designed into loading dock area to collect and store recyclables; more than 75 percent of demolition and construction waste was recycled; a significant amount of recycled material was used in construction; a minimum of 20 percent of the building products used in the Central Library were manufactured within 500 miles of Seattle, thus helping the local economy and reducing impacts of transporting materials long distances.

Indoor Environmental Quality
Central Library will meet or exceed the standard American Society for Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers 62-1999, Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality; smoking won't be permitted in building; carbon dioxide will be monitored and will be no higher than outdoor levels by more than 530 parts per million; a construction indoor air quality plan devised to maintain high air quality during construction, protect absorptive materials from moisture, replace filtration media immediately prior to occupancy, and conduct a minimum two-week building flush-out with new filtration media at 100 percent outside air after construction ends and prior to occupancy; selection of carpet materials that emit low amounts of airborne contaminants; provide a monitoring system to automatically adjust for thermal comfort; maximize daylight and views from 90 percent of all regularly occupied spaces.

Innovation & Design Process
LEEDTM stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design and is the rating system used by the U.S. Green Building Council to determine the degree of green and sustainable design in a building project. A member of the architectural team is a LEEDTM accredited professional. The project has an acoustical engineer to recommend design elements to improve occupant comfort. The Library has also undertaken a public education component that will encompass a section on the Library's Web site, Central Library tours focusing on LEEDTM elements and signage pointing out sustainable features of the building. The project has also achieved an exemplary level of the use of recycled materials. The architects, contractors and The Seattle Public Library are pleased to report that the Central Library project has been awarded a silver rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Videos on each topic are available on the Seattle Central Library website

OMA / LMN – A Joint Venture


Arup / Magnusson Klemencic Associates


Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus (Partner in Charge)

Project Architects:

Meghan Corwin, Mark von Hof-Zogrotzki, Bjarke Ingels, Carol Patterson, Natasha Sandmeier

Keely Colcleugh, Rachel Doherty, Sarah Gibson, Laura Gilmore, Anna Little, John McMorrough, Kate Orff, Beat Schenk, Saskia Simon, Anna Sutor, Victoria Willocks, Dan Wood with Florence Clausel, Thomas Dubuisson, Chris van Duijn, Erez Ella, Achim Gergen, Eveline Jürgens, Antti Lassila, Hannes Peer, João Costa Ribeiro, Kristina Skoogh, Sybille Waeltli, Leonard Weil, Ali Arvanaghi

Local Architect:
LMN Architects

Partner in charge:

John Nesholm

Project Directors:

Robert Zimmer and Sam Miller

Project Architects:

Tim Pfeiffer, Steve DelFraino, Mary Anne Smith, Dave Matthews, Vern Cooley, Pragnesh Parikh


Chris Baxter, Jim Brown, Wayne Flood, Thomas Gerard, Mette Greenshields, Cassandra Hryniw, Roy Kim, Ed Kranick, Ken Loddeke, Howard Liu, Damien McBride, Howard Meeks, Byron Rice, Kathy Stallings, Page Swanberg

1000 Fourth Ave., Seattle, WA 98104-1109, USA
More info

The project material for Seattle Central Library is part of the OMA Collection.

The Office for Metropolitan Architecture and AMO accommodate their archives and project material including detailed drawings, models, sketches and any related material under scientific conditions. The OMA Collection is based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. A restricted amount of scientific research is granted and researchers can receive direct access to the collection in Rotterdam or receive requested material.

The OMA Collection will invoice made costs for research and material.

OMA – Collection
Talitha van Dijk
Heer Bokelweg 149
3032 AD Rotterdam
+31102438202 fax