Free enamel pin when you buy any two Atlas Obscura products. Shop now.

Seattle, Washington

The Red Hall at Seattle's Central Library

A colorful architectural gem in Seattle's uniquely modern Central Library. 

The experience of walking around or hanging out in the Red Hall, even for a few minutes, is at once thrilling and slightly disorientating. It’s as if you had suddenly traded places with a crew member aboard the Proteus, the miniaturized submarine that travels through a scientist’s circulatory system in the 1966 sci-fi classic “Fantastic Voyage.” 

The blood-colored, curving walls and walkways, as well as the organically shaped interior windows and other architectural details of the Red Hall, do strongly bring to mind the cardiovascular. The difference here, on this trip, is you only have to take an elevator to another floor if you start to feel queasy.

The Red Hall is just one floor of Seattle’s Central Library, the flagship of the city’s library system, which inside and out looks and feels like a structure that is absolutely cutting edge. The beautiful Central Library is filled with striking rooms and unexpected architectural vistas, as well as oceans of natural light (the glass that sheathes the library would cover more than five football fields).

The floor that features the Red Hall houses the bulk of the library’s meeting rooms and according to the building’s designers it is one of the building’s five “stable” platforms, each of which is “a programmatic cluster that is architecturally defined and equipped for maximum, dedicated performance.” (By contrast, the building’s four “unstable spaces,” such as the Reading Room and the Living Room area for kids “function as trading floors where librarians inform and stimulate, where the interface between the different platforms is organized.”)

In this almost aggressively innovative building the Red Hall stands out as an especially colorful architectural gem.

Know Before You Go

Be sure to give yourself time to check out the rest of the building. It is a bold, welcoming, perfectly 21st-century library.