In 2010, Perkins Coie LLP began the process of remodeling our Seattle office. I knew that the library would lose its fantastic corner reading room on the 42nd floor and about 30% of our square footage. Though we would discard some print products, we also planned to expand our electronic collection, which would increase access beyond Seattle into our other offices. And though we often speak of the library as a service rather than a place, I felt strongly about keeping our physical space and creating a comfortable environment that attorneys could use in lieu of their offices. Early in the design process, a photo of a library reference desk built from books was circulating through various library blogs. As I oversaw the disposal of thousands of linear feet of books, I wondered if we could do something similar. The library committee supported the project, and the proposal moved its way through the approval process. At each point, the project met with overwhelming excitement.
The firm invited several artists to submit proposals for the project. From those, we commissioned the artist team SuttonBeresCuller to create a reference desk for the main library that used recycled materials from the library’s collection. The inventive design relies on law books as structural and conceptual building blocks and incorporates light to suggest the illuminating power of the law and the changing way we obtain information. The glass top is etched with pages from landmark American court cases as well as important cases from Perkins Coie’s own history.
As is often the case, the creative process was more difficult than anticipated. We started with a standard office desk, and the artist team created a “book skin” to wrap around it. The books had to be placed together to fit within the shape and dimensions of the desk. The corners were especially difficult. Once completed, the pieces were then moved from the studio and installed in the library. Since the desk is front-heavy, we bolted it to the floor. The addition of a black steel support for the glass top further ensures its stability. The final result is simply stunning and demonstrates the firm’s commitment to art and knowledge. The vibrant book binding colors in conjunction with the brightly colored lights provide a beautiful contrast to our dark winter days.
Artists John Sutton, Ben Beres and Zac Culler have worked collaboratively since 1999. Their work has been exhibited extensively in gallery and performance spaces throughout the Northwest and often takes the art experience beyond the confines of the gallery via public works, street actions, and site-specific temporary installations. View a series of time-lapse photos of the desk construction here.
Seattle Library Manager
Perkins Coie LLP