Posts tagged with "Seattle":

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LMN is bridging the gaps between Washington communities

Two new bridges designed by Seattle-based LMN Architects are giving back to the Washington state communities of Spokane and Tukwila. The simple, soaring white structures span automobiles and railways bridge gaps between neighborhoods, reclaiming the pedestrian experience in both the historically underserved region of the Sprague and along the bucolic Green River trail.  The Tukwila Urban Center Bridge was a key component of the city’s 20-year expansion plan. The 220-foot-long bridge is located at a major regional crossroads just outside of Seattle that's poised for expansion. The project was conceptualized with boldness in mind, resulting in a statement piece accentuated by built-in LED lighting that, when activated, climbs up the cables to offer a “subtle web effect” and flashes a colorful light show that plays off the white metallic elements.  Its form was also inspired by the region’s history, taking cues from Pacific Northwest's tribal canoes, and designed with sensitivity to the river’s large migratory salmon population. Metal grills on either side of the bridge add structural support while also allowing for sunlight to permeate down to the water, keeping it warm and fast-moving for the river life. All the while, the highly visible 45-foot-high bowstring arch acts as a local landmark for the people of Tukwila to easily navigate between the commercial western bank of the city and the more residential east side, previously unnavigable to pedestrians and cyclists. The overall effect, according to LMN, is “Simplicity, clarity, and lightness.”  The University District Gateway Bridge was unveiled side-by-side, with its prominent 120-foot-tall arch rising sharply into the Spokane skyline and visible for miles around the low neighborhoods of the University District and the emerging South University area. The Gateway Bridge is anchored by organically sloping ramps and greenery, while stair options allow cyclists and pedestrians to safely cross a route formerly bisected by a BNSF freight rail and an arterial highway,  The 458-foot-long bridge seems to grow harmoniously out of the landscape on either side of the thoroughfare, opening new opportunities for economic and social growth for both neighborhoods: expanded access to housing and retail for the University and its students, and long-awaited economic sparks for South residents.  “One of the great things about public infrastructure projects is that they benefit the entire public,” said LMN principal Howard Fitzpatrick in a statement. “The Gateway Bridge will make a real difference in the lives of many people in Spokane, and the enthusiastic public reception of the project has been very rewarding for the design team.” While both bridges only span a few hundred feet each, their dimensions are less important than the impact on the communities they connect and carefree transport. While industry and vehicles have a long and well-recorded history of interrupting the traditional human-scaled urban fabric of 21st-century cities, these simple structures are small incisions with a goal for lasting impact. 
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Kengo Kuma will build off of a historic facade in Seattle

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.

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.

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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Amazon will build its tallest office tower ever in Bellevue, Washington

It looks like Amazon is really digging into the whole returning-to-its-roots-thing by adding scores of new jobs to the city Jeff Bezos started the company in 25 years ago. With an incoming 600-foot-tall skyscraper slated to host thousands of employees in Bellevue, Washington, the Seattle-adjacent city will soon become home to one of the largest offices towers in the company's history.  The Seattle Times reported that the giant online retailer and its main architect, NBBJ, recently filed a pre-application for Bellevue 600, a 43-story, one-million-square-foot office tower that could house up to 4,200 employees. Located just 10 miles east from its downtown Seattle headquarters—a mere hop across Lake Washington, the proposed project seems to cement Amazon’s expanding footprint in Bellevue. It already owns a 354,000-square-foot building called Centre 425, which it bought in 2017 and now accommodates 500 positions. It’s also currently renting space from WeWork in another downtown location.  Last summer, Amazon signed a lease for offices in the former Expedia headquarters, which will begin next year. It also just secured square footage in a planned 17-story story building designed by LMN Architects, according to GeekWire. It’s been said that Bellevue 600, the largest of all these office spaces, would be built atop a future transit and light rail station that could easily connect employees with the Seattle home base.  While Seattle is practically synonymous now with Amazon, Bezos actually began the company out of his garage in Bellevue in 1994. It’s a little-recognized fact that, when put in the context of the company’s current clashes with Seattle city government, makes sense for Amazon’s next big move. Belleuve is already emerging as a major tech hub—Google, Facebook, T-Mobile, and even Expedia have leased space in and around downtown Bellevue, according to Geekwire. And local politicians are welcoming them in. But just because it’s gobbling up leases in the Eastside city doesn’t mean Bellevue is the site of HQ2, or that it’s halting expansion in Seattle.  Regardless of the intention behind it, Amazon’s real estate portfolio is rapidly growing. Set for completion in 2024, Bellevue 600 would provide room for the entirety of Amazon’s Worldwide Operations division, according to The Seattle Times. This includes all of the personnel that handle the delivery and logistics of each package that a customer orders, and the operations of the company’s 175 global fulfillment centers.  Details on the design or development of the structure have not been released, but it’s been reported that, based on NBBJ’s proposal, the tower would include 885,000 square feet of office space atop a podium with room for retail, “office amenity” space, and a meeting center. Several pedestrian plazas would envelop the outdoor space as well. There’s even speculation of another tower planned for the site, which Amazon has yet to fully confirm. 
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Seattle makes affordable housing mandatory in upzoned neighborhoods

Architects and developers building across much of Seattle will soon have to meet the city’s new Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) requirements, a set of rules passed with a spate of recent comprehensive zoning changes designed to ensure that “new commercial and multifamily residential development contributes [new] affordable housing.”

The MHA regulations were approved this spring and are expected to add over 6,000 new low-income housing units to the city’s housing stock over the next decade. The changes are part of the city’s Housing Affordability and Living Agenda, a three-pronged effort undertaken by city agencies several years ago to increase housing supply in order to stem escalating rents and property values across the thriving region. The fiercely contested changes in land use will allow for a greater level of residential density in many of the city’s neighborhoods and will ask builders to either include affordable housing on-site or pay into a general fund that can be used by city agencies to create new affordable housing in other areas.

The new regulations span five categories of development density, from low-rise detached and row house neighborhoods to taller mixed-use districts where buildings will be allowed to rise to a height of 95 feet or more. The efforts will upzone roughly 6 percent of the city’s single-family zones. Single-family zones ultimately make up over 80 percent of the city’s residential areas.

MHA regulations, according to planning documents provided by the City of Seattle, will be pegged to the degree of upzoning that takes place: Under the plan, areas that have been upzoned most significantly will be required to add a relatively higher proportion of new affordable housing. The required fees administered in lieu of on-site affordable housing construction will start at $5.58 per square foot for projects located in low-rise areas outside downtown Seattle and will go as high as $35.75 per square foot for larger mixed-use developments, according to city agencies.

The requirements will necessarily affect the work of architects designing buildings in these areas, but it is so far unclear exactly how.  The MHA requirements are set to go into effect immediately, as the city’s rezoning initiatives are approved on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis.

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Octave 9 adds new space for experimental music in Seattle

Thanks to LMN Architects, Seattle has a new space for making experimental music. The recently opened Octave 9: Raisbeck Music Center performance and educational music facility brings new state-of-the-art sound experience capabilities right to the city’s Benaroya Hall symphony complex, which was also designed by LMN 20 years ago.

The new music center is spectacularly technical in terms of its offerings, and includes a custom-designed acoustically absorptive ceiling and 13 curving screens hung on circular tracks that can create nearly-360-degree immersive and interactive projections. The facility's speakers, microphones, projectors, lighting, and HVAC are all integrated into the absorptive ceiling while a professional-quality Meyer Constellation digital acoustic system is sophisticated enough to allow musicians who use the space to engage in cross-genre performances.

According to the architects, the sound system enables a “spatial sound” experience, created when individual speakers across the room play selective sounds to create the impression of movement.

Octave 9: Raisbeck Music Center at Benaroya Hall 200 University Street Seattle, Washington Architect: LMN Architects
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The 2019 Seattle Design Festival puts out a call for proposals

The Seattle Design Festival (SDF) is returning from August 16 through 25 and will once again gather tens of thousands of architects, designers, residents, and aficionados in the city. Before that, though, the SDF is openly soliciting installation proposals throughout April and May. SDF is run by Design in Public, an initiative of AIA Seattle, and appropriately, a host of supplemental educational events will run during the festival. The SDF is being broken up into three parts: a block party at Lake Union Park on August 24 and 25, which will showcase outdoor pavilions and events; neighborhood design crawls from August 16 through 25, where visitors can stop in at lectures, tours, screenings, and more; and finally, partner events all over the city. This year’s theme, Balance, asks applicants to consider how balance can be won by design. How can good design help balance our ecological concerns and restore the environment? How can design establish urban equity, or negotiate a work-life balance? Proposals can address any and all interpretations of the theme. While designers don’t need to be affiliated with a studio or even live in Seattle to apply, Design in Public will be hosting three “design jams” at Seattle’s Center for Architecture and Design. On April 20, May 8, and May 16, interested parties can workshop their ideas, get feedback, ask questions, and mutually support other applicants. Interested applicants and partners can submit their proposals here.
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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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Microsoft to invest $500 million in affordable housing around Seattle

After vociferous opposition from Starbucks, Amazon, and other large Seattle-based corporations last summer, the Seattle City Council voted to roll back a tax that would have raised $47 million towards building 591 units of affordable housing. Now, Microsoft has announced that it will invest $500 million for affordable housing over the next three years across King County, Washington. Seattle has been plagued by rising rents and homelessness rates as the area has grappled with a housing shortage, caused in part by inflated demand and stagnant wages. Amazon and other so-called “mega-corporations” in the city had successfully talked the government down from imposing a $500-per-employee head tax that would have funded 1,700 new units of affordable housing in May of 2018 before the watered down version of the tax was ultimately killed in June. Affordable housing and homelessness advocates, who felt that the large companies headquartered in Seattle are partially responsible for its tight housing market, saw the move as adding insult to injury. Microsoft, which is headquartered in neighboring Redmond, wouldn’t have been hit with the head tax, but the initiative sparked a dialogue between Microsoft and the business-led group Challenge Seattle. The plan, which is still being finalized, sprung out of their conversations last summer on how to close the gap in affordability in housing across the region. The $500 million will be doled out as a series of grants that Microsoft is calling “targeted investments," across three stratified tiers. The company will load $225 million at a lower-than-market rate to spur the construction of middle-income housing across six cities to the east of Seattle: Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Issaquah, Renton, and Sammamish. Microsoft will be lending an additional $250 million at market rate to support the construction of low-income housing across King County. The remaining $25 million will be distributed as grants to combat homelessness in and around Seattle. As part of its announcement, Microsoft revealed that $5 million of its grant will be going towards Home Base, a program that provides legal aid to families facing eviction, and another $5 million will be used to support a new joint agency being formed between Seattle and King County to tackle homelessness. Rather than using that money to solely build housing, which Microsoft expects would only generate about 1,000 new affordable units, the tech company claims that its targeted investments have the potential to spark development of “tens of thousands” of new units. While the company doesn’t expect to make much of a return, it plans to repeat the process and reinvest the money after being repaid. While this is Microsoft’s largest philanthropic gift to date, the company’s motives likely aren’t entirely altruistic. As the New York Times noted, the company is currently riding high with nearly $136 billion in cash on hand and is in the process of renovating its 500-acre Redmond campus. Supporting the region’s housing stock is a boon to lower-income residents, but will also provide a long-term solution for potential employees the company continues to woo as it expands.
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High-speed rail plan for Pacific Northwest takes a step forward

A fledgling plan to bring high-speed rail (HSR) service to the Pacific Northwest region of the United States and parts of southwestern Canada is moving closer to becoming a reality. The Urbanist reported that this week, the Washington State Legislature introduced legislation that would create a new interstate high-speed rail authority for the region that could begin to take the first steps toward making the Cascadia Rail plan a reality. According to The Urbanist, the new rail authority would be in charge of coordinating high-speed rail efforts across Washington, Oregon, and Canadian jurisdictions while also setting requirements for contracting operations and other issues. The authority would also be responsible for ensuring that the trains and routes selected for the project could deliver service at 250 miles per hour, a key stipulation for making the project economically viable across the region. The authority would also provide a singular contact point for communities along the proposed routes and would handle the preparation of environmental impact reports at the federal and local levels. A preliminary plan for the Cascadia Rail service was unveiled in 2018 that proposed a coastal line connecting Portland, Oregon, with Vancouver, Canada. The plan includes an eastern spur connecting Spokane, Washington, with Seattle. The plan has support from the Washington State business community as well as a growing set of local officials who see the prospect of reliable, high-speed rail service as a key way of reducing automobile traffic along Interstate-5 while also helping to address growing transportation emissions across the region. Several high-speed rail plans are making progress around the country, including in California, where the nation’s first true high-speed rail network is currently under construction. After years of planning and partisan bickering, the controversial plan is finally in full-swing and a line running through central California between Bakersfield and Madera is expected to open by 2022. Along the Florida coast, the privately owned Brightline route made its debut this year connecting West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Though the train is not truly a high-speed rail corridor—it runs at top speeds of roughly 80 miles per hour—the train has cut travel times between the two cities by over an hour. The line is expected to expand to serve Miami and Orlando by 2020. All Aboard Florida, the company that owns and operates Brightline, is also moving toward a second train venture connecting Las Vegas, Nevada, with the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. The company recently purchased XpressWest, a struggling venture that was aiming to deliver service between the two cities following the Interstate-15 corridor, Urbanize.LA reported. Like the Florida line, however, trains will not exactly run at high speeds; projected service is expected to begin in 2022 and will run at around 92 miles per hour. This might sound like a good bit of progress—and it is—but recent rail development in the United States pales in comparison to the many ambitious rail projects under construction around the world. China, for example, plans to build over 2,000 miles of true high-speed rail lines in 2019 alone. That’s enough track to connect Philadelphia to Phoenix.
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Seattle set to finally close Alaskan Way Viaduct and open new tunnel

The aged elevated highway that famously borders downtown Seattle along its waterfront is set to officially close this Friday as part of the city's multi-pronged tunnel replacement project. The two-mile Alaskan Way Viaduct, also known as State Route 99, has blown past its recommended lifespan and has long been considered a major hazard to the city and its drivers. Its upcoming closure marks the beginning of a new transportation system for the whole city, but the saga leading up to this point has been harrowing. After a 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck Seattle in 2001, causing widespread panic about the then 48-year-old highway’s structural safety, the city and state began more seriously studying options to replace the viaduct. The Washington State Department of Transportation settled on a plan in 2004 that would include the build-out of a shallow, six-lane tunnel, but opposition soon arose over the project’s exorbitant cost and lengthy proposed construction timeline. After years of arguments, the most dangerous part of the highway, which sat south of downtown, was eventually demolished in 2011. Two years later, Seattle began making way for the tunnel, but the boring machine used to burrow the tunnel’s diameter broke down four months into its 1.7-mile journey underneath the city. It took another two years to repair the machine and digging began again in late December 2015. Despite more setbacks, including a large, unexpected sinkhole, the tunnel boring project was completed in spring 2017. It’s expected to open up to vehicular traffic in four weeks. Next steps include the demolition of the remaining standing viaduct and the construction of a street-level boulevard along its footprint. Dubbed the New Alaskan Way, it will line the edge of Elliot Bay. Once that's complete, the entirely revamped highway system will stretch northbound in two directions starting from Seattle’s major sports stadiums, CenturyLink and Safeco Fields, which are situated south of downtown. The SR 99 tunnel route begins adjacent to the arenas and runs northeast underneath the city toward a northern portal near Seattle Center, the home of the Space Needle. Drivers will be able to bypass downtown through the tunnel or the waterfront street-level surface highway or simply exit onto city streets. The decision to build both an underground highway and an elongated boulevard is an unconventional approach to mid-century transportation replacement projects. Cities around the country are currently grappling with similar situations revolving around dilapidated infrastructure, but Seattle’s struggle has been on the global stage for quite some time. After all, the Alaskan Way Viaduct should have come down decades ago when experts first saw signs of damage. It’s interesting to see a major metropolis, one sitting at sea level no less, choose this multi-project plan that for years created a mess of construction chaos and citywide debate. Though the pedestrian-friendly New Alaskan Way will likely do wonders to connect downtown Seattle with its industrial waterfront—a much-needed intervention—at a total of $3.3 billion it’s hard not to see this decision as both a big win for the city's future and a big burden for its present. 
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Seattle boosts building codes for high-rises after study deems them at risk

Seattle is updating building codes for new skyscrapers after a shocking study revealed that the power and nature of earthquakes in the region pose a significant threat to its tall buildings, one that is worse than experts could have imagined.

The Seattle Times recently reported on results from the M9 Project, a four-year study that aimed to estimate the effects of a magnitude 9 Cascadia earthquake, revealed that the vast, sediment-filled basin under Seattle can magnify the type of ground shaking that puts high-rises at risk of collapse by a factor of two to five, which can trigger stronger surface effects than earthquakes in nearby California.

When rattled by an earthquake, the Times explained, the region's glacial-packed soils, which can extend more than four miles underground, violently shake and convulse, trapping massive seismic waves within the basin that underlies most of the city. Intense shaking like this could last for two minutes, which is four times longer than the average quake. While shorter buildings under 10 stories can withstand the earth's back-and-forth motion, tall buildings tend to whip back and forth under those conditions until they are on the verge of collapse.

As the Times reported, as a result of these findings, Seattle and its neighbor, Bellevue, plan on revising seismic construction standards for new buildings over 240 feet, or over 20 stories tall. These standards will require high-rises to be stronger and more sturdy than their predecessors, without the additional cost.

The plan to revise building codes has also raised concerns regarding Seattle’s older high-rises, many of which were constructed between the 1960s and 1990s, prior to when the dangers of earthquakes were fully understood. Older high-rises have a greater risk of major damage and collapse due to their fracture-prone welded joints, which are supposed to secure the steel frame, as well as their poorly-reinforced concrete supports. Seattle’s renowned Rainer Tower, for example, with its golf-tee-shaped base, was built in the 1970s and undoubtedly has fracture-prone welds. According to the study, buildings like that are up to five times more likely to collapse during an intense earthquake than a modern building.

In Seattle, where the seismic threat to skyscrapers is higher than in California because of the city's sedimentary basin, there have still been no attempts to research and pinpoint dangerous high-rises. While the city is taking steps forward by enhancing construction standards, retrofitting old concrete and steel high-rises may be the next necessary step. This may prove costly, but taking time to fix the underlying structure of older buildings could prevent serious levels of damage that can be catastrophic to the community.
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Facades+ Seattle will trace the rise of Pacific Northwest design

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Over the last three decades, Seattle has experienced explosive population and economic growth, that has fundamentally reshaped the city’s architectural makeup as well as its AEC community’s relationship to national and international trends. On December 7, Facades+ Seattle will bring together local practitioners in an in-depth conversation around recent projects and innovative facade materials and design. Consider architecture and design practice Olson Kundig. Founded in 1966, the firm has established an international reputation for blending high-performance enclosure systems with the craftsmanship of local artists and artisans. Principal Blair Payson will serve as co-chair for the conference, with other principals of the practice moderating the three panels.
  • Co-Chair Blair Payson, Principal Olson Kundig
  • Firms Olson Kundig Gensler Katerra PAE Front Inc. Werner Sobek Thornton Tomasetti Eckersley O'Callaghan
  • Panels Integrated Envelopes: New Project Delivery Workflows Envelope Performance: Current Trends in Codes, Energy and Comfort Envelope Design: Innovations in Facade Materials and Design
  • Location Seattle
  • Date December 7, 2018
One such project is the recently completed Kirkland Museum in Denver, which features an array of glazed terracotta baguettes produced by NBK Terracotta arranged in a unique alternating pattern, and amber-colored glass inserts produced by small-scale manufacturer John Lewis Glass Studio based out of Oakland, California. The firm collaborated with local sculptor Bob Vangold to embed a sculptural form within the facade. To achieve this effect, the sculpture is anchored along the horizontal roof edge with a series of base plates. On a larger scale, the Olson Kundig-led renovation of Seattle’s Space Needle recently wrapped up after 11 months of sky-high construction. The project entailed the removal of decades of haphazardly designed additions in favor of an open-air viewing area. Working with facade consultants Front Inc., the design team converted floors within the top of the Space Needle to transparent glass panels providing revolving views on the city below, and wrapped the observation deck with 11-by-7-foot, 2.5-inch-thick glass panels produced by Thiele Glas and installed by a team of robots designed by Breedt Production. Just south of Seattle’s Space Needle, the trio of Amazon Spheres consists of approximately 2,500 glass panels suspended over a complex steel truss system. Collaborating with NBBJ Architects, Front Inc. led exhaustive case studies, with the help of custom-built software tools, to develop a glass tiling scheme matching visibility requirements for occupants and light exposure for the greenhouse within. Following the creation of multiple digital models, Front Inc. led the fabrication of full-scale mockups of the design to test the computer-generated models. Representatives of these two firms, as well as Gensler, Katerra, Werner Sobek, Thornton Tomasetti, and Eckersley O'Callaghan, will be on hand to dive deeper into the architectural resources and trends present in both Seattle and the rest of the country. Further information regarding Facades+AM Seattle may be found here.