Posts tagged with "NBBJ":

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NBBJ’s Bill Bain Jr. dies in Seattle

Bill Bain Jr., an NBBJ partner and son of Bill Bain (who founded NBBJ in 1943 during WWII in Seattle) died on June 8. NBBJ has issued a statement saying that Bain was the “heart and soul” of the firm, and after 64 years was its longest-serving employee. He studied architecture at Cornell University, where he joined the U.S. Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. He trained as a combat engineer and found himself leading an 85-man construction battalion in Alaska at age 23. “The military gives you so much more responsibility than you ought to have,” Bain said. Bain joined NBBJ on 1955, then-named Naramore, Bain, Brady and Johanson. “It was a pretty stiff place back then,” he said. “They had a little bell at 8 a.m. and you’d better be at your drafting table.” Baine eschewed the idea of the firm being known for “star” designers and instead “recruited a number of talented designers with a variety of approaches and gave them personal credit for their work.” His work in Seattle includes the 1981 restoration of the city’s historic Olympic Hotel, the U.S. District Courthouse and Pacific Place, the centerpiece of Seattle’s retail revitalization in 2000.
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Leading women working in facade design address industry's challenges

We surveyed the leading women in the facade design and manufacturing industry and asked: What do you find most interesting about facade innovation today? What are you working on now and what do you think we will see in five years? Their responses, organized into six categories, offer an informal cross section of the challenges facing the facade industry—climate change, security—and of a coming multi-material revolution in facade design.
  • Topic Legend

  • Heading toward decarbonization
  • Technological change
  • Inspiration
  • Special Projects
  • Material innovations—laminated glass and stone
  • Trends in facade design
Emilie Hagan Associate Director, Atelier Ten Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time and facade innovation presents an exciting way to take action. Over the next 12 years, we need to make big changes to reduce global emissions worldwide and within the built environment. Implementing innovative designs that balance embodied carbon reduction, energy performance, and life cycle is one way to make a difference. We are now testing the global warming potential of facade options by comparing pairings of cladding material and insulation that offer the same thermal performance. We’re looking at materials like polyiso, spray foam, and mineral wool, as well as ceramic tile, terra-cotta tile, and GFRC tile, which all vary greatly in terms of their life span, global warming potential, resource depletion, and acidification. Nicole Dosso Technical Director, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Beyond materiality, our 35 Hudson Yards project is emblematic of a collective process between the architect, developer, fabricator, and supplier. New Hudson Facades and Franken-Schotter, who quarried, supplied, and fabricated the Jura limestone used in the facade, helped to drive improved energy performance as well as optimize the geometry, manufacturing, and material selection. The return of materiality to the facade is a departure from the monolithic slick glass facades that have dominated the image of the super tall tower for the last two decades. The approach of combining materials pays homage to the historic fabric of New York City facades, which predominantly fancied the use of stone, brick, and terra-cotta. Doriana Mandrelli Fuksas Partner, Studio Fuksas The quality of projects over the last 20 years has grown a lot, and nobody and nothing prevents us from thinking that the creation can continue to expand. I have a positive vision of the future, a future made up of large infrastructures: of museums, of innovative workplaces, of spaces dedicated to new technologies, of spaces where people can meet. The Shenzhen Airport has the skin of a honeycomb-shaped beehive. No one knows where it comes from, but clearly it is variable from every point of view and changes with every change of light, internal or external. Imagining a facade seems too simple, but complicated, too. I let it arrive as the last stage or last section, from the center to the outside. At the end of a path inside the building, of a cinematographic montage that leads to discover what you want to see, the facade arrives. Unexpected, scandalously irreverent. Pam Campbell Partner, COOKFOX Architects One of our projects, One South First in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, uses large-scale, 3-D-printed molds to create pre-cast facade panels. We designed several variations of panels to respond to specific solar orientations; beyond the facade’s shape, the finish and crisp edges were particularly important, creating an interplay of reflection and shadow on the building’s surface. Odile Decq Founder, Odile Decq Studio Glass is a material that can solve in one all the questions an architect faces when designing a facade today: lighting outside and inside, protection from too much solar heating, isolation from the cold, providing a multiplicity of aspects, colors, textures, inclusion, and more. I’ve always said: if steel was the material for building innovation at the end of the 19th century, glass is the material for the end of the 20th century. From the beginning of my career I have been fascinated by glass evolution and the way facades have been modified thanks to this fantastic material. Its various qualities, its treatment, and its plasticity are what I am searching for in terms of innovation today. My research today is oriented toward sensible facades that can be joyful and sensual at the same time. Elena Manferdini Founder, Atelier Manferdini In particular, our office proposes an alternative language for traditional facades, based on vibrant color schemes and geometric patterns, along with augmented reality applications, whose aim is to engage new subjectivities. Passivity is the dominant state of today’s subject, who, conditioned to consume images, confuses them with reality; but our work suggests that a new breed of reactionary subjectivities is now possible. These imaginative facades become a political space for nuance and personal participation. Facades, even when buildings are privately owned, are important for the city at large because they are inevitably the background of our public imagination. Any facade language strategy is by default political because it negotiates how the privacy of human interactions comes to terms with a surrounding social and cultural context. Andrea Love Principal and Director of Building Science, Payette I am working on a tool to look at the impact glazing has on summer comfort to complement the Glazing and Winter Comfort tool we developed a few years ago. We’re also doing life cycle assessment of the typical facade systems we use to understand their embodied environmental impact. We are continuing to explore new ways to leverage simulation tools to understand performance and drive design on several projects across our office. The thing I find most interesting about facades today is the increase in attention paid toward their role in building performance and occupant comfort. Whether it is a high-performance facade for passive survivability for resiliency or consideration of the embodied carbon impact, I find it exciting to see how we as an industry are embracing the important role that facades play.
Jennifer Marchesani Director of Sales and Marketing, Shildan Group When Shildan introduced terra-cotta rainscreen to the United States market 20 years ago, the panels were red, small, and flat. Now our capabilities are amazing. We just completed the Sentry Insurance Building in Steven’s Point, Wisconsin, designed by Flad Architects, with the largest terra-cotta rainscreen panels in the world (10 feet long). We are seeing a trend toward complex terra-cotta shapes unitized in curtain walls on high-rise buildings. Custom 3-D shapes and curved terra-cotta elements are gracing more buildings, adding a complexity in production and systems, but resulting in unique, one-of-a-kind facades. Stacey Hooper Principal, NBBJ This is a time of revolutionary technology and digital fabrication, which is propelling imaginative industry partnerships to realize more complex, efficient, and high-performance building facades, built faster than ever before. This sea change will be pushed along by stricter codes, accountable system performance, and reduced market shares for curtain wall systems that don’t pursue meaningful change. Valerie L. Block Architectural Marketing Consultant, Kuraray America, Inc. I have seen more laminated glass used in facades over the past 20 years. There are several reasons for this, including building code requirements for impact protection of openings; blast and security requirements for exterior glazing in certain building types and locations; and a desire to incorporate minimally supported glass systems, where a concern for post-breakage glass retention has led to the specification of laminated glass. I have seen a growing concern over security. Architects working on K-12 and higher education projects are designing facades to resist intrusion, and in some cases, to provide ballistics resistance in the event of an active shooter. Tali Mejicovsky Associate, Facade Engineering and Building Physics, Arup I am most interested in designing for net zero energy and innovations that push for best performance. Some ideas include the use of FRP framing, thin glass in conventional assemblies, and designing for disassembly and recycling.
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Ohio’s iconic big basket building is back on the market

A year after Newark, Ohio’s famed Longaberger basket building was sold, the seven-story “Big Basket” is back on the market. The 185,000-square-foot office building was designed by NBBJ and Korda/Nemeth Engineering as the headquarters of the Longaberger Co., which produces pottery and baskets (or used to—Longaberger went out of business last year). The “Big Basket,” complete with enormous heated “handles” that arc over the building, was built in 1997 and resembles the company’s Longaberger Medium Market Basket. Preservationists breathed a sigh of relief last January when the vacant basket and its 21-acre campus were purchased by Ohio developer Steve Coon for $1.2 million. Coon had pledged to restore the building, working with Cleveland’s Sandvick Architects to keep the unique basket shape intact. At the time of the sale last year, it looked like a triumphant story of revitalization for a failing landmark; community members had been paying the Big Basket’s utility bills, and the development team was going to nominate the building to the National Register of Historic Places. Now, interested parties can once again buy or lease the giant facsimile for an undisclosed price. After a year of renovations, Coon has listed the building through the real estate brokerage NAI Ohio River Corridor. The NAI listing floats several potential uses for interested buyers, such as converting the basket into a hotel, conference center, condo building, or coworking space. The building’s restoration was completed quickly, in part thanks to the relatively good condition that Coon purchased it in. From the photos, it appears that the cherry wood used for the basket’s interior and the seven-story, 30,000-square-foot internal atrium may have been kept intact, along with the building’s “woven” facade. “It’s an iconic building,” Dan Blend, vice president of operations at Coon Restoration, told The Columbus Dispatch. “There’s not another one like it in the world.” More images are available on the NAI online listing.
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Amazon backs out of Seattle's Rainier Square after head tax debacle

Long Island City isn’t the only place that Amazon is pulling out of. The tech giant made waves when it threatened to withdraw from its 722,000-square-foot lease in Seattle’s under-construction Rainier Square Tower over a possible $500-per-employee “head tax” last May that applies only to massive businesses like Amazon. The Seattle City Council ultimately passed a scaled-down version of the measure at $275-per-employee—with the proceeds destined for the construction of affordable housing—but even that measure was ultimately rolled back due in part to pressure from the business community. Now, even with its conditions met, Amazon has announced that it would be subleasing its space in Rainier square and looking elsewhere to meet its needs. The lease was enormous by Seattle’s standards and would have provided space for 3,500 to 5,000 Amazon employees and would have cemented the tech company as the tower’s anchor tenant. “We are currently building two million square feet of office space in our South Lake Union campus in Seattle,” said Amazon in a statement released to Geekwire. “We are always evaluating our space requirements and intend to sublease Rainer Square based on current plans. We have more than 9,000 open roles in Seattle and will continue to evaluate future growth.” The NBBJ-designed tower is notable both for its size and novel construction methodology. The 850-foot-tall, 58-story office building will be the second tallest in the Pacific Northwest once complete next year, and will use a core of modular steel plates and concrete “sandwiches” instead of the traditional rebar. A distinctive high-heeled-boot shape massing was used to preserve views of the adjacent Minoru Yamasaki–designed Rainier Tower (affectionately nicknamed “The Beaver” for its gnawed log-like appearance). A shorter glass-clad hotel will also be wedged between the two buildings as part of the Rainier Square Tower project. Despite the setback, Amazon is still on track to grow to 50,000 total employees in Seattle, and construction on the Graphite Design Group–designed Block 18, a 17-story, 388,000-square-foot office building solely for Amazon, is still on track.
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2018 Best of Design Awards winners for Facades

2018 Best of Design Award for Facades: Amazon Spheres Designer: NBBJ Location: Seattle Designed by NBBJ in cooperation with Vitro Architectural Glass, the Amazon Spheres are the crown jewel of Amazon’s $4 billion urban campus in downtown Seattle. Composed of three interconnected geodesic domes, the project covers 70,000 square feet of meeting, relaxation, and collaborative space. The Amazon Spheres also house 40,000 exotic and endangered plants and trees from around the world, including Australian tree ferns, African aloe trees, mosses, flowers, and succulents. Glazed in Vitro’s Low-E Solarban Solar Control 60 Low-E coating, the tallest of the metal-framed spheres accommodates five stories of workspace. The two other temperature-controlled domes contain rivers, waterfalls, and tropical gardens. In total, the project incorporates 620 tons of steel and 2,643 Vitro Starphire low-iron glass panels. Honorable Mentions  Project Name: The Emma and Georgina Bloomberg Center at Cornell Tech Designer: Morphosis Location: New York Project Name: Museum Garage Designers: WORKac, J. Mayer H., Nicolas Buffe, Clavel Arquitectos, and K/R Location: Miami
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Microsoft announces that LMN, ZGF, and others will design its corporate campus in Washington State

Computer software giant Microsoft is moving along in its efforts to replace and expand its longtime corporate headquarters campus in Redmond, Washington, east of Seattle.  According to Geekwire, Microsoft recently announced the architecture and contracting teams for the transformational project, which aims to replace nine existing two-story office clusters with 18 four- and five-story office blocks. On the design side, LMNNBBJWRNS Studio, and ZGF Architects are on board for the 3 million-square-foot project; Berger Partnership will act as lead landscape architect with OLIN partnering on the project as well. Microsoft has also selected SkanskaBalfour BeattyGLY, and Sellen as general contractors for the re-do, which will affect roughly 72 acres on Microsoft’s 500-acre campus. The project will demolish all of the of the site’s original 'X-Wing'-style, 1980s-era office buildings, replacing those facilities and then adding a net 1.8 million-square-feet of space on top of what is existing. The new offices will be clustered into “distinct villages,” according to a Microsoft statement, with the core section aiming to be “more open and less formal” than the current campus. A rendering unveiled by Microsoft depicts glass-wrapped office buildings laid out along a skewed grid surrounding a central green containing playing fields and a bosque.  The project comes as Redmond begins to densify ahead of forthcoming transit investments that will link the city with Seattle in coming years. The first phase of the city’s Overlake Village—a 170-acre mixed-use district that will eventually house 40,000 residents—is underway and will bring 1.2 million square feet of offices, 1,400 housing units, 25,000 square feet of retail uses, a hotel, and a conference center to the town. Microsoft aims to begin work on its $250 million campus expansion later this year with an eye toward completing the project by 2022. 
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Amazon’s Seattle spheres are set for public opening

Amazon’s triple-domed Spheres in downtown Seattle will be partially open to the public beginning January 30th. The enormous glass bubbles, designed by NBBJ as part of Amazon’s sprawling urban campus, were first approved in 2013. The glass and steel domes vary in size, with the largest bubble spanning 130 feet in diameter and topping out at 95 feet tall. All three Buckminster Fuller-emulating domes are linked, forming a biomorphic greenhouse with 65,000 square feet of workspace and conference areas for Amazon employees. Instead of aping its namesake, the Amazon Spheres have selected plants from a wide variety of sources. The Seattle Times recently toured the Spheres, and gave a rundown of the gardens and 400 plant varieties, within. The garden in the Seventh Avenue sphere holds New World plants mainly from Central and South America, though a 40-year-old Port Jackson fig tree, so large that it had to be craned in, is clearly the centerpiece. An Old World garden grows inside of the Sixth Avenue sphere, where guests and employees will see plants from Africa and Southeast Asia, alongside an entrance-adjacent, 60-foot-tall living wall, and tank filled with aquatic plants and animals from the Amazon. Amazon’s horticulturists have curated a range of plants that could survive alongside the Spheres’ human occupants comfortably. During the day, the spheres will be kept at 72 degrees and 60 percent humidity, which will drop to 55 degrees and 85 percent humidity at night. All of the plants were grown to maturation in a 40,000-square-foot greenhouse offsite and transplanted, beginning on May 1st of last year. Designing offices and meeting spaces alongside climate controls for hundreds of different plant species was no easy task for NBBJ. Fake logs and stumps circulate air from piping within, while the Spheres are warmed in part by excess heat generated from a data center nearby. More details on which companies will be filling the two public retail spaces at ground level are forthcoming. (This is not the first time NBBJ has ventured into novelty office design). Members of the general public can place a reservation to visit the Spheres here, though be warned; the Seattle Times is reporting that 20,000 guests already have the tour booked solidly through April.
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Ohio's famous basket building finally sold

A developer who specializes in historic restoration is planning to breathe life into Ohio’s famous but vacant “Big Basket.” Ohio developer Steve Coon heads a development firm that purchased the 20-year-old building in Newark, Ohio, at the end of December and plans to renovate it for new uses. The seven-story, 180,000-square-foot building opened in 1997 as the headquarters of the Longaberger Co., which makes baskets and pottery. It was designed by NBBJ and Korda Nemeth Engineering to resemble the company’s biggest seller, the Longaberger Medium Market Basket. Known locally as the “Big Basket” and highly visible from State Route 16, the former Longaberger building has been vacant since the summer of 2016, when the company moved its headquarters to its manufacturing plant in Frazeyburg, Ohio. Founder Dave Longaberger, who had the vision for a basket-shaped building, died in 1999, and the company has had financial difficulties and layoffs in recent years due to decreased sales. It is now owned by Dallas-based JRJR Networks. Recognizing the building’s value as a local landmark, public officials have worked to get the basket building reoccupied and to get back taxes paid off. Coon, who heads Coon Restoration and Sealants, is working with Sandvick Architects of Cleveland to restore the building and find new occupants. He has not disclosed specific details of his project but indicated he plans to keep the basket-shaped exterior. “The Longaberger Basket Building is known all over the world, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to preserve and renovate this building and put it back into use,” he said in a statement. “I have a big vision in mind to bring it back to life and keep the Longaberger story alive.” According to Newark Development Partners, a business organization, a group of community members contributed to a fund to keep the utilities on after Longaberger moved out of the building so it wouldn’t deteriorate and a sale could take place. Its executive director, Fred Ernest, said the money raised was almost gone when the sale was completed. “We are very excited to help facilitate this transaction and make the Longaberger Basket Building a viable economic development asset again,” said Newark Mayor Steve Hall. According to Columbus Business First, the building and surrounding 21 acres sold for $1.2 million, a fraction of its appraised value. The buyer was Historic Newark Basket LLC. Based in Louisville, Ohio, the buyer has restored a variety of historic structures in Ohio, including the McKinley National Memorial in Canton and the Old Historic Jail in Newark. Last year he received the Preservation Hero award from Heritage Ohio, a statewide preservation advocacy organization. Peter Ketter, Director of Historic Preservation for Stanvick Architects, said, “It’s going to continue to look like a basket. The owner is excited about the iconic nature of the building and sees it as a positive.”  This includes the handle on top and the basket weave skin, which is an EIFS veneer. He added that the development team plans to nominate the building for listing on the National Register of Historic Places so the renovation could qualify for preservation tax credits. The team also wants to preserve a large interior atrium and possibly much of the cherry wood used inside, he said. Ketter said the new owner is exploring a variety of redevelopment options, including multi-tenant office use, a hotel or a mixture of uses.  “All options are on the table at this point,” he said. There is no firm timetable for construction but Ketter estimates it will take a couple of years to complete. “It is in good condition, so maybe it will move more quickly” than other restoration projects, he said. Sandvick specializes in unconventional restoration projects, and the Longaberger building is no exception, he added. “It’s one building you can define as one-of-a-kind.”
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Seattle's second tallest tower rises on steel plates, without rebar

Studies are underway for the eventual construction of the Rainier Square Tower in Seattle, which will eschew a traditional concrete-and-rebar core in favor of a new steel plate system. The mixed-use Rainier Square development’s tower will be Seattle’s second tallest, and the building’s modular core will be a proof-of-concept in the earthquake-prone city. When AN first wrote about the NBBJ-designed and Wright Runstad & Company-developed Rainier Square Tower after its initial unveiling in 2015, comparisons were drawn between the building’s kinked shape and a high-heeled boot. The tower has grown from 795 feet tall to 850, but the distinctive massing and glassy facade have remained the same; the building’s slope is meant to preserve the view of the adjacent Rainier Tower, designed by Minoru Yamasaki. The $570 million Rainier Square Tower will forgo a typical high-rise core, which wraps a steel frame around a concrete core that has been reinforced with steel rebar, and will instead use a modular system of steel plates sandwiched with concrete. A boundary system is set up to shape the core, and the cross-tied plates are moved into place, and then filled onsite. While the construction of a full-scale core mock-up began in October, the general contractor, Lease Crutcher Lewis, has estimated that this alternate method would mean that the superstructure, set to begin work this August, would only take a year to complete. If these claims are true, that’s nearly nine months sooner than a comparable tower of this size. And, as the construction schedule is shortened, Wright Runstad is expected to save 2 percent of its original $370 million building costs. Structural engineer Ron Klemencic, CEO of Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA) is the system’s mastermind, and says that even with the increased construction speed and 58-story height, he’s confident that the tower will be able to withstand stress from wind sheering as well as seismic loads. The Rainier Square development will not only include the tower, but also a cubic glass-clad hotel wedged between Rainier Tower and Rainier Square Tower. Yamasaki’s concrete tower, affectionately named “The Beaver” by Seattle locals for the way the building balloons up from a narrow base akin to a chewed log, is the only original building on the block that will remain. If the engineering claims bear out and the new core system proves as easy to install as the contractors are expecting, Rainier Square Tower should be complete by April 2020.
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Gingerbread City draws Zaha Hadid, Foster + Partners and more to London for the holidays

Nearly 50 well known architecture, engineering, and landscape architecture firms have teamed up to bring a massive edible exhibition to life, as London’s Museum of Architecture hosts its annual Gingerbread City show. Master planned and sponsored by Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design, the utopian cookie metropolis is built to 1:100 scale and comprised of four neighborhoods. Old Town, which has twisting, narrow streets and is centered around Crumble Square, an industrialized New Town with a Central Baking District, a waterside energy district, and “eco-town”. The vastly differing styles of each neighborhood allowed the museum to feature every architectural typology, while designers were free to experiment in every style. Participants were asked to design for one of four categories, housing, landscapes, landmark buildings, or bridges, but with the caveat that they had to bake and decorate the gingerbread themselves. Foster + Partners, Zaha Hadid Architects, NBBJ, Periscope, Pitman Tozer, Burwell Deakins and dozens of other studios have all contributed to the Gingerbread City, including several bridges which link the distinct districts together. Zaha Hadid Architects and Foster + Partners were each given entire inidvidual islands in the eco-town to decorate as they wished. Because gingerbread is a finicky material to build with, firms had to find ways to keep their buildings structurally sound, while still being edible. Sugar glass, gumdrops, frosting and melted candy were all turned into supporting elements. But even the most intelligently designed cookie building is vulnerable to the elements. Speaking with CNN, museum director Melissa Woolford said that humidity inside the museum wreaked havoc on last year’s display, and that several buildings had collapsed in 2016’s show. Gingerbread City will be on display at the Museum of Architecture until this Friday, December 22nd.
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A smartphone-controlled responsive shading system prototype

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Sean McKeever, a senior associate at NBBJ, works between architecture and energy modeling in the firm’s corporate and digital practice studios. "One of the things I appreciate the most about architecture is not its static state. I love to see a building that is clearly 'living' with its occupants. There's beauty in letting users have a certain amount of control over the building." In response to a growing desire for clients to produce more user control over their workplace, McKeever and his colleagues have released multiple apps for smartphones and a prototype for a smartphone-controlled facade-shading device.
  • Facade Manufacturer tbd, Prototyping Phase
  • Architects NBBJ
  • Facade Installer tbd, Prototyping Phase
  • Facade Consultants NBBJ Digital Practice group (concept development)
  • Location Seattle, WA
  • Date of Completion 2016-ongoing
  • System unitized curtain wall with integrated LED
  • Products pyranometer sensors; Goldilocks app (by NBBJ)
The prototype, called Sunbreak, is a responsive system of louvers that raise and lower dependent upon solar radiation, temperature, and user override variables. The project has its roots in the Seattle office, which is one of the first buildings in the country to integrate automated exterior blinds that raise and lower with pre-programmed sun paths throughout the day. Although these sunshades have been a popular feature from the start, they block employees’ views when deployed, inspiring the firm to improve them. McKeever attributes this to a lack of user control and the fact that the blinds operate without regard to radiation data. Sunbreak runs off of pyranometers—sensors measuring solar radiation and infrared light. When shading is not needed, the panelized system folds up to, in McKeever’s words, “hide from view,” while performing as a light shelf to direct daylight further into the building. The modular shades feature narrow slats that operate along vertically oriented tracks. As the system contracts, individual panels fan out to form curvilinear shapes, which NBBJ’s team has fine-tuned to produce optimum shading responses throughout the diurnal cycle. The project is panelized so that individual units can be controlled by a smartphone app, allowing authorized users to operate the shades in real time. Since Sunbreak was developed, user-control and responsiveness to sensored data has extended beyond the facade to the interior workplace. "The user-driven ultra-controllable workplace is the desirable workplace of the future and present.” In response, NBBJ’s Digital Practice group has developed an app called Goldilocks that utilizes real-time data to track acoustics, temperature, daylighting, and activity within open office environments, giving employees the option to find an ideal working environment for their current tasks. McKeever believes facade projects are more challenging to implement for the industry due to their complexity: "I think dynamic facades are still in a ‘prototyping’ phase for much of the industry. To deliver a project of this ambition at full-scale you need collaborative partnerships among teams of specialists and capital investment… I'm excited where the industry is going, but it feels like we can't get there fast enough!"
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Seattle's Denny Triangle hosts a skyscraper building boom

Like other cities across the country, Seattle has been suffering from a severe lack of housing supply that, over the long term, has caused housing prices and rents to skyrocket. A slew of big-budget, mostly luxury skyscraper projects are in the works, however, and aim to bring many more units online over the coming years, hopefully easing the housing crunch. It might seem confusing to counter high housing prices with luxury developments. But given a multi-decade-long trend of under-building, millenials’ stunted entry into the housing market, and the fallout from the foreclosure crisis of 2008, the only way to make prices (which have increased 35 percent over the last five years in the rental market) go down is simply to build more of everything.

In Seattle, the city’s Denny Triangle—just beyond the city’s downtown—has been the recent site of a tectonic shift in real estate and development. Architecture firm NBBJ is currently working on a huge, 3.3 million-square-foot corporate skyscraper campus for online retailer Amazon here that will span three city blocks and include three 37-story tall towers, two mid-rise office buildings, and a series of “biospheres” containing exotic plant specimens. The development has jumpstarted other housing and mixed-use projects along Denny Way and the surrounding streets, laying the groundwork for a new mixed-use tower district. This summer, Dean Jones, principal at Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty told the local NBC news affiliate, “In the next five years, Denny Way is going to feel a little bit more like Manhattan,” as he shared a video showing 26 high-rise projects currently in the pipeline.

Jones is part of the team tasked with promoting the new Nexus development, a 40-story Weber Thompson–designed condominium tower that broke ground earlier this year and will be completed in 2019. The project is the first high-rise condominium to begin construction downtown since 2012 and consists of a series of stacked boxes, each slightly off-axis from the one below. The tower’s shifting volumes conceal 383 apartments, designed in a variety of configurations, ranging from studio units to multi-bedroom dwellings. As of October, 80 percent of the units had been pre-sold.

Another development by Weber Thompson is located at 970 Denny, a 440-foot-tall mixed-use tower that aims to activate street-level areas along the Denny Way corridor with a pair of low-rise, seven-story tall office and commercial blocks flanking a mid-block tower. These smaller masses are articulated using brick cladding and large expanses of glass. They will contain 15,098 square feet of retail space, with storefronts and the apartment tower’s entrance marked by V-shaped column-supported steel canopies. The tower podium will be capped by a landscaped park, containing a freestanding pavilion structure, with a similar space located at the tower’s stepped apex. The structure will contain 461 apartment units and is being designed to LEED Silver standards. The tower itself is clad in expanses of curtain wall glass that feature operable windows. The complex is currently under construction and is set to open in 2018.

Nearby, Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects (ZGF Architects) are working on a two-building complex: the 11-story Tilt49 office tower and the 41-story AMLI Arc housing tower. The office building will feature 300,000 square feet of space, with the ground floor containing retail. Right next door, the $115-million AMLI Arc tower will contain 393 apartment units, a 509-stall underground parking garage, and amenity spaces on the 12th and 41st floors. The tower will offer different apartments types, including an industrially-inspired model and another unit type with more upscale, “condo-quality finishes.” The residential tower is aiming for LEED Gold certification. Construction is well underway for both buildings and is slated for completion sometime in 2017. The project is being built by Mortenson Construction’s Seattle office.

Lastly, the 41-story tall McKenzie Tower by developer Clise Properties and designed by Graphite Design Group will be located diagonally across from the new Amazon tower complex. It will feature 450 residential units and 8,000 square feet of retail. The elliptical building is designed to maximize views from within each unit, presenting a wide-set gaze over the city. The tower’s shape will also minimize the monolith’s impact on surrounding viewsheds. Like the other schemes mentioned here, the tower will rise out of a low-rise podium and will be clad in glass curtain walls.

These transformative projects portend the growing influence of the region’s technological powerhouses on the built environment. With Amazon and others adding thousands of new jobs at a steady clip, it seems like Seattle-based architects and developers will keep working like this for a long time.