As I noted some days ago, my immediate thought on experiencing Rem Koolhaas' "living room" at the new Seattle Public Library was "Ah! I have been here before: some hotel in San Francisco in the 1970s."
In fact it was the Hyatt Regency San Francisco. That's a John Portman design from the 1970s. At that time it broke some ground, I believe, in public consciousness of dramatic architecture, specifically for hotels. Seeing it had a powerful impact on me; I became aware of the power of a large interior volume. There is something very impressive -- uh...maybe the cathedral builders had it figured -- about such space, no matter the quality of the design. But I liked the Hyatt Hotel then and I'd probably like it now.
An entire review could be written about the massive, 17-story, atrium lobby of the Hyatt Regency San Francisco's history, architectural extravagance and cachet. It co-starred in the "Towering Inferno," and its elevators stole a scene in Mel Brooks' "High Anxiety," a send-up of Hitchcock's "Vertigo." In fact, the gorgeous, glass, pendant-like elevators (which have also hosted an inter-collegiate Monopoly competition) are virtually works of art in and of themselves.
The point is only that that aspect -- the large interior volume of the "living room" -- of the Koolhaas design is, even on its own terms, not even remotely novel. And novelty is a big part of his game and claim.