Two-faced Tower

Kengo Kuma will build off of a historic facade in Seattle

Kengo Kuma plays with façadism in Seattle. (Courtesy City of Seattle, Kengo Kuma & Associates, Ankrom Moisan Architects, Berger Partnership)

Kengo Kuma & Associates has gone to great lengths to preserve and highlight a century-old Gothic Revival building in Seattle‘s Belltown neighborhood, proposing a mixed-use skyscraper that accentuates the ornate frontage of the five-story structure. According to designs submitted to the city for review earlier this year, the 42-story tower will fill most of the lot on the corner of Second Avenue and Virginia Street, receding slightly from the street to allow the facade of the 104-year-old Bebb & Gould’s Terminal Sales Annex building to protrude. Certain elements in the design of the skyscraper itself will also make reference to Seattle’s storied gothic and art deco architectural heritage.

Kuma’s initial designs for the tower, which were produced in collaboration with Ankrom Moisan Architects and the landscape architecture firm Berger Partnership for developer Pacific Virginia, indicate that the majority of the building’s floor space will be dedicated to condominiums. A coworking space and a hotel will occupy most of the first fifteen floors, while the first floor will house several lobbies and a restaurant. Much of the interior of the Terminal Sales Annex will be converted into amenity spaces for the hotel, which will accommodate the historic building’s existing floor plates.

Two sectional diagrams of a 40-story-tower

Section cuts show floor space distributions in Seattle’s planned mixed-use tower. (Courtesy City of Seattle/Kengo Kuma & Associates, Ankrom Moisan Architects, Berger Partnership)

The telescoping mass of the skyscraper is reminiscent of Seattle’s art deco traditions and aligns with the form of the Terminal Sales Annex below. In order to avoid completely overwhelming the landmarked structure in scale, the lowest massing on the Second Avenue frontage is only four stories tall. The setbacks will also create a small plaza at the corner of Second and Virginia, which could be used for seating and greenery. Renderings show sand-colored bands extending upwards on the facade of Kuma’s tower, likely an attempt to mimic the vertical lines and stonework on the Terminal Sales Annex.

Massing of a multistory tower with a smaller building at the base

Seen here, one of the potential tower configurations and the original facade. (Courtesy City of Seattle/Kengo Kuma & Associates, Ankrom Moisan Architects, and Berger Partnership)

While further details on the appearance of the skyscraper and the schedule for its construction have not been released, it seems certain that Seattle will be witnessing a highly involved form of facadism. In lieu of dismantling the interior of the Terminal Sales Annex or engulfing its street frontage in a wall of glass and steel, Kuma & Associates and its collaborators have created something that balances the needs of their client with respect for the historic significance and vulnerability of the site.

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