Garden Carpet

Inside Outside / Petra Blaisse

Seattle Public Library 2004

Seattle Public Library Landscape design for entrance plaza’s and street borders; transitional spaces between in- and outside; interior materials & finishes; carpets; curtains..

General task Inside Outside: For this new public library building in the middle of downtown Seattle, we were asked to design the enveloping exterior areas – the urban landscape – and major interior objects such as carpets, acoustic walls and auditorium curtains – the “soft” elements. Also, we consulted on general color schemes, interior finishes, lighting atmospheres and furniture.
Landscape: The landscape encircles the entire site on different levels, along two major avenues and up along two connecting streets. It connects to the municipal sidewalks that become part of the Library garden and widens into two plazas’ that open up and invite people into the two large entrances on 4th and 5th Avenue.

Where the usual street trees are planned by the city, we suggest to plant a “library of trees” along the four street-edges: for each street there is a different story line of tree families, native to the area. Around the building we introduce folding and sloping planes of different grasses and perennials that function as carpets of color and movement, changing in height, transparency and structure with each season and weather condition. Meandering footpaths cut through these planes, thus showing the many different perspectives and views of the consecutive layers. Seating areas are integrated where the building’s overhanging facades and embracing grass planes create shelter and protection. Where the landscaped edges widen into entrance plazas, the street trees multiply into small groupings of trees, creating little urban ‘forests’. At one of the main entrances, a mound planted in “English style” – a full and lush composition of flowering perennials, shrubs and small transparent trees from the former Library plant collection – marks the entrance and invites people to sit on its edges.

Carpets: The building itself is a transparent folded volume, whose spacious interior feels like a continuation of the landscape outside. On the floor plane, we literally continue our landscape into this interior with large carpets, imprinted with grass- and plant prints. These carpets are inlayed into the different wooden floors and they move up through the building until they reach the roof, where they transform into a grass-covered roof.