Sunday, August 21, 2011

Project365: Day 208 - Books, Architecture, More Books, Art, and the 1962 World's Fair

My wife likes loves flat-out adores and devours books. She is always reading something, always planning what she is going to read next, and her desire to read is never really satiated. She doesn't just read books. She also collects them. LOTS of them. When we moved MY large bookshelf into our new apartment, she quickly filled it up with HER books. "But I left you space for your archi-dork books on the bottom shelf!"

If you haven't figured it out from my Project365 photos to date, I love am addicted to architecture. I especially enjoy artful, creative, and superbly functional architecture regardless of the building's style or age.

Given our individual idiosyncratic joys, what better compromise for Day 3 of our honeymoon than to spend some time enjoying the architecture of books? The first stop of the day was a spacious and beautiful independent bookstore in the Capitol Hill neighborhood called the Elliot Bay Book Company.

Elliot Bay Books

I love the warm colors and textures of the wood floor, the cedar shelving, and the large timber structure. I can't seem to find the right words to describe it, but the feeling and experience of being in this bookstore was so much more uplifting than any of the big-box booksellers we've frequented. The best word for it may be authentic. Des Moines needs a bookstore like Elliot Bay Books. In fact, EVERY city should have a bookstore that is as helpful, welcoming, and comfortable as this one.

We left the Capitol Hill neighborhood and made our way back towards downtown by way of Freeway Park. The name gives it away--it's greenbelt-type park on top of the freeway cutting through downtown. The center of the park features a series of fountains and waterfalls made of heavily textured concrete (Brutalism, for you architectural style-junkies out there).

Freeway Park Waterfall

Though it was popular during the time period when the park was completed (1966), I felt that the rough, brutalist concrete was a strange contrast to the lush greenery and winding pathways found in the rest of the park. The guidebook to Seattle architecture that I had with me provided some clarity--apparently Lawrence Halprin (the same landscape architect who designed Nicollet Mall and the FDR Memorial) intended for the juxtaposition of the rough texture and simple geometric forms to mimic the relationship of Mt. Rainier (rough and jagged) with the City of Seattle (geometric and ordered).

As we got to the end of Freeway Park there was a giant game of chess set up, just waiting for people to play it. We would have stopped to play, but we were moving on to our next destination--the Seattle Public Library. And Brittany says she doesn't know how to play chess.

Wanted: Players

I'm not usually a fan of giant, super-modern, deconstructionist-type public buildings (ahemFRANKGHERYahem). The Seattle Public Library, however, definitely won me over. As an architect, the building's elegant combination of simple detailing, open floor plans, and easy wayfinding made it hard not to love. As an amateur photographer, the sightlines, bold colors, and open atrium made it seem easy to make some of my favorite photographs.

Seattle Central Library - Entry

Seattle Central Library - Main Lobby

Seattle Central Library - Front Desk

Some of the colors may have been a little TOO bold for my taste. All of the hallway walls, floors, and ceiling on the 3rd Level (conference rooms) are red. And not just a little bit red--they are RED.

Seattle Central Library - The Red Level

Seattle Central Library - Wayfinding

Seattle Central Library - Reading Room

Seattle Central Library - Top Floor

Brittany's reaction to the very spacious, open stacks area was funny:

Her: "There aren't enough books in the library."
Me: "What do you mean 'not enough'? The brochure says there are 1.4 million here."
Her: "It feels...empty. Libraries should feel full and packed with books."
Me: "They designed it to hold 2 million, so there is some space left to fill in the future."
Her: "Not enough books."

There are NEVER enough books for her. :D

We found a nice spot to have lunch on the waterfront with a nice view of the bay.

Waterfront Lunch

Then we hopped on the Seattle Monorail to go up towards Seattle Center.


The centerpiece of Seattle Center is the Space Needle...

The Needle

...but there will be more on that later. We walked from Seattle Center to the Olympic Sculpture Park at the waterfront. The sculpture park was wonderfully landscaped and had some really fantastic pieces, including a 300-ton steel piece called "Wake" by Richard Serra, one of my favorite artists.


Olympic Sculpture Park

We walked through the entire park and even found a few places to sit and relax for a while.

Watching the Ships

Soon it was time to head back to the Space Needle and check in for dinner. They sent us up to the observation deck (one level above the restaurant) before our reservation time. The weather and sunlight were perfect to be able to see Mount Rainier in the distance to the south of the city skyline.

Rainier and Downtown 2

The hostess at in the restaurant apparently felt bad that we had to wait longer than normal to be seated (didn't seem abnormally long to us...) so she made sure that we were seated at a table right along the outside windows.

Dinner with a View

The timing of our seating was perfect--when we were seated we were looking southeast towards the edge of downtown, but we rotated around to the western view just as the sun was setting over the bay and the mountains, filling the dining room with golden light. After dinner and dessert (which was all fantastically delicious) we went back up one level to the observation deck to enjoy the nighttime view of Seattle before heading home for the night.

Seattle Lights

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