Posts tagged with "Seattle":

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Olson Kundig’s Space Needle renovations yield pristine 360-degree views 500 feet up

After 11 months of high-flying construction more than 500 feet above Seattle, a team led by Olson Kundig has completed construction on renovations to the historic Space Needle. The so-called “Century Project” nearly doubles the amount of glass coverage on the structure’s flying saucer-shaped Top House, as part of the firm’s efforts to use “subtraction as a guiding design principle,” according to Olson Kundig’s Alan Maskin, the design principal for the renovation. With this goal in mind, the designers worked to remove the uncoordinated detritus left over from previous designs, including the obtrusive aluminum pony walls separating the indoor observation deck from the open-air viewing area. The effort is geared not only toward opening up the Top House to pristine, 360-degree views, but also toward adding elements that were originally intended for the structure but ultimately were not realized. The Space Needle debuted in 1962 with one of the world’s first revolving-floor restaurants, ushering in what would become a global trend in mid-20th-century design. The original opaque revolving floor has been replaced with sheets of tempered structural glass fabricated in Germany by Thiele Glas, an upgrade that provides views straight down to the ground below. The glass floor also allows visitors to peer into the inner workings of the Space Needle itself by highlighting the moving gears and pulleys—something akin to a “huge Swiss watch,” according to Maskin—that bring the rotating floor and elevators to life. Engineering services provided by Arup, Fives Lund, and Magnusson Klemencic Associates were instrumental in the design’s precision-driven focus, which included seismic retrofitting and other tricky structural upgrades. Front Inc. acted as the glazing consultant to Olson Kundig For the duration of the project and collaborated with MKA to engineer the structural glass assemblies for Hoffman Construction, the project’s general contractor. Achieving Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance was another key concern for the renovations. The Seattle Space Needle opened 28 years before ADA regulations took effect and contained areas that were only partially accessible to disabled visitors. With the Century Project, the design team brings full accessibility to the Top House by adding a new central “Oculus Stair” that features dynamic treads that collapse into a platform that can carry individuals between levels as needed. In the observation areas, non-continuous glass benches leave ample room for someone who uses a wheelchair to get right up to the outwardly canted glass barriers that wrap the space. Here, the architects have restored visitors’ ability to peer down over the edge of the saucer, an aspect that was lost with the addition of cumbersome safety gear many years before. The 11-by-7-foot, 2.5-inch-thick glass panels that wrap the observation platform were installed by specially designed robots created by Breedt Production Tooling & Design. The installation, like many other aspects of the renovation, involved navigating “wickedly complex logistics” and a nearly ’round-the-clock schedule. Hurdles for the project included accounting for significant wind deflection in the design and fabrication specifications for many components and designing nearly all components so that they could be transported up the Space Needle’s passenger elevators. Several feats of design and engineering later, the Space Needle’s new views are crystal clear and fully on display for all to see.  
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Olson Kundig completes Seattle Space Needle renovations

Olson Kundig has completed work on the Century Project, a $100 million renovation effort aimed at upgrading and retrofitting the Seattle Space Needle’s iconic Top House. The project comprises the most extensive set of renovations undertaken in the 55-year history of the Space Needle. Changes to the structure include replacing metal panel cladding with floor-to-ceiling glass, replacing the motor for the Top Houses’s rotating restaurant, and reconfiguring the exterior wrap-around observation areas to be more open and transparent. The observation deck platforms have been reconfigured to include integrated benches along exterior partitions made from tempered glass. Here, metallic “caging” barricades have been removed and replaced with tempered glass. The effect is one of sheer transparency, with the Top House now providing unobstructed, 360-degreeds views of the city, which in recent weeks has been choked with smoke that has wafted into the area from nearby wildfires burning in Siberia and Northern California. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=FL-JmdNnd9Y&app=desktop&persist_app=1 Perhaps the most eye-popping change is that the floors within the Top House have been converted to glass, giving visitors to the rotating restaurant 520-foot high views of the sprawling Emerald City below. The new flooring is made of 10 layers of glass, including a so-called “scuff layer” that can be removed and replaced without compromising the floor’s structural integrity. The spinning floor can rotate at variable speeds and is capable of completing a rotation in anywhere between 20 and 90 minutes, depending on the setting. The project also brings extensive ADA-related upgrades to the pinnacle. New York-based Tihany Design has provided interior design services throughout the project, including for the restaurant. The 600-foot tall structure was originally designed by Edward E. Carlson, architect John Graham, and Victor Steinbrueck for the 1962 World's Fair. When completed, the Space Needle was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River. The Space Needle is now open to the public.
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How Amazon achieved crystal clarity in its glass domes

NBBJ designed a trio of connected glass orbs with living walls at the new Seattle headquarters for online retail giant Amazon. According to an announcement on Amazon’s blog, the spherical design—a project seven years in the making—was “chosen due to its natural occurrence in nature and as a nod to historic conservatories, like Kew Gardens.” This atypical meeting place away from the typical office towers provides a treehouse-like environment for employees, complete with terraces, water features, soaring staircases, and wooden decking.

The construction required more than 620 tons of steel supported by a burly concrete base to buttress the triangular insulated glass units fashioned from modularized Vitro glass. The open floor plan comprised three spherical units enveloped in Ultra-clear Vitro Starphire low-iron glass, which allows for higher visible light transmission, heightening views from multiple angles. “Iron is what makes glass appear green," said Andre Kenstowicz, Vitro Glass manager on the project. "Low iron Starphire glass eliminates the 'green' hue of traditional clear glass so the only green that you see is from the 300 species of tropical plants inside of the Amazon Spheres.” There are around 40,000 plants in the project.

Like all three domes, the largest is glazed by the contractor Enclos with Vitro’s Solarban Solar Control 60 Low-E coating in double laminate, measuring approximately 90 feet tall and 130 feet wide. All 2,643 panels of glass achieve 73 percent visible light transmittance and a solar heat gain coefficient of 0.40 across the visibly sinuous surface. This film beneath the surface limits the amount of radiation entering and consequently helps the interior to remain a stable, cool temperature.

NBBJ designed this biophilic environment to “inspire creativity and even improve brain function," according to the company’s blog. Luckily the public also has year-round access to the stimulating habitat at the base of the garden in the visitor center. There, in the thick of it, Seattleites can experience biodiversity in the heart of the city.

Architect: NBBJ

Location: Seattle

Structural Engineer: Magnusson Klemencic Associates

Glass Manufacturer: Vitro Architectural Glass

Glass Fabricator:  Northwestern Industries, Inc.

Glazing Contractor: Enclos

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Richard Haag, groundbreaking landscape architect, passes away

Richard Lewis Haag, a pioneering landscape architect known for his groundbreaking experiments in post-industrial landscapes and bioremediation, has passed away at age 94. The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) commemorated Haag’s death in a tribute over the weekend, describing his passing as “a quiet but profound blow to the many colleagues, friends, and admirers whom his life and work touched deeply.” Haag passed away on May 9, 2018 and was well-known around the world for the designs of Seattle's Gas Works Park and the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, among the over 500 other built commissions he completed over his lifetime. Haag was born in 1923 and grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, where he worked for his father, who was a self-trained horticulturist. Having never graduated from high school, the budding Haag enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1945 and served as a radar engineer in the Air Force. After traveling to Morocco, Egypt, China, and India while in the service, Haag returned home to study landscape architecture at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he benefitted from the G.I. Bill. While at U of I, Haag studied under professors Stanley White and Hideo Sasaki, two of the country’s most renowned post-World War II landscape designers. In 1949, Haag transferred to the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture in 1950. From there, he worked for the lansdcape architects Dan Kiley, Osmundson and Staley, and Lawrence Halprin before setting out on his own in 1957.  At this point, Haag relocated to Seattle, where he was instrumental in establishing the landscape architecture program at the University of Washington’s College of Architecture and Urban Planning.  Perhaps best known for his work on Gas Works Park, Haag set a new path in landscape design by choosing to preserve the hulking remains of a disused gas plant on the 19.1-acre site. By converting the hollowed-out industrial shells into a children’s “play barn” and leaving other elements as industrial ruins, Haag blended picturesque and abstract modes into ecologically-minded designs. The designs were among the first in the nation to utilize bio-phytoremediation to clean up the park’s heavily polluted site. The park opened in 1975 and eventually received the American Society of Landscape Architects Presidents Award of Design Excellence. The park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013 and is also listed as a Seattle City Landmark and a Washington State Landmark. TCLF completed a video oral history of Haag’s work in May 2014 that features interviews with Haag at his home and at selected projects in and around Seattle. The history also features written reflections by Haag scholar Thaisa Way and landscape architects Gary Hilderbrand and Michael Van Valkenburgh, among others.  See TCLF’s website for the full tribute. 
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A choice for Seattle: Affordable housing or stadium upgrades?

Officials in King County, Washington, are fighting over whether to funnel $180 million in future tax revenue toward the development of affordable housing or for upgrades to the Seattle Mariners baseball stadium.  The County, which owns Safeco Field where the Mariners play, has been attempting to hammer out a new 25-year lease agreement with the team for the facility for several months and was near a deal as recently as May of this year. That was when King County executive Dow Constantine proposed to earmark roughly $180 million in funds to be generated by a county-wide hotel/motel tax toward the Washington State Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District, the county-administered entity that presides over the stadium, for facilities upgrades. Specifically, The Stranger reports, the funds would be used to pay for maintenance and capital improvements to the building, including, potentially, new concession areas, a new hall of fame space, luxury box upgrades, and additional parking. The $180 million in public funds would augment $205 million in private funding provided by the team toward renovations for the 19-year-old stadium.  The hotel/motel tax was originally enacted to help pay off debt resulting from public financing for the construction of the nearby CenturyLink Field football stadium in the late 1990s. The football stadium was designed by Ellerbe Becket, LMN Architects, and Streeter & Associates and currently hosts the Seattle Seahawks NFL team and Seattle Sounders MLS team. Famously, the new stadium replaced the mid-century modern-era Seattle Kingdome, which was designed by architects Naramore, Skilling, & Praeger in 1972 and was spectacularly imploded in 2000. The Seattle Times reports that the debt for CenturyLink Field will be paid off in 2020 and that following that, state law requires 75% of the funds generated by the motel-hotel tax be divided evenly between affordable housing and arts-focused initiatives. The remainder is up for targeted but ultimately discretionary use. Constantine argues that the funds should be earmarked for tourism-supporting initiatives—including stadium renovations, as proposed—but other King County Council members would rather see the funds diverted toward helping to alleviate the County’s raging housing and homelessness crisis. The disagreement has escalated in recent weeks as the Mariners have hinted that the viability of their long-term lease is contingent on the $180 million hand out, though the team has not explicitly threatened to move from Seattle if a deal can’t be worked out. In particular, Councilman Dave Upthegrove opposes Constantine’s funding request and has argued publicly for funneling the $180 million toward housing based partly on the idea that the team—worth $1.45 billion, according to Forbes—can afford the repairs itself.  Upthegrove told The Seattle Times, “There is no reason they would walk away from a business enterprise that is generating so much wealth for them. The threat is nonsense.” Upthegrove continued: “We have a simple choice—We can invest this money in public needs, or we can use it to allow these business owners to make even more money.”  After a council meeting last week, support for the housing plan seemed shaky among councilmembers, but as the week wore on, some officials began to rethink their options. A recent report by The Seattle Times added fuel to the fire by questioning whether public money should go toward pricey luxury box upgrades and other high-end line items. There are currently over 12,000 Seattleites experiencing homelessness according to the most recent count, and while regional efforts to boost affordable housing production have ramped up over the last two years, the efforts have done little yet to change housing conditions for a significant portion of that population. There is an urgent need for affordable housing in the region and local leaders are trying a variety of outside-the-box approaches as they attempt to boost affordability. The latest tussle over affordable housing funding comes weeks after Seattle’s corporate elite, including Amazon, Starbucks, and Microsoft, successfully pushed back against a proposed “head tax” that would have levied a modest fee on major employers in the city to fund housing efforts. As far as the Mariners plan is concerned, the King County Council met last week with no resolution on the issue. Additional meetings are scheduled for late August and throughout the Fall.
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Amazon, Starbucks, and other Seattle corporations claw back affordable housing tax

After the passage of a tax on mega-companies that seemed like a victory for Seattle’s affordable housing advocates less than a month ago, Amazon, Starbucks, and other Seattle-based businesses have banded together to lobby for its repeal. The strategy seems to have worked, and Seattle’s City Council met today to consider rolling back the tax ahead of a November referendum forced by the business community. Business groups raised over $200,000 after the passage of the so-called “head tax,” which would have billed companies grossing $20 million a year or more $275 per employee (bargained down from $500) for five years, to gather the signatures required for a repeal referendum. Whether the referendum would have been held or not, the pressure generated has caused Mayor Jenny Durkan and the City Council to act. In a statement released yesterday, The Mayor’s office pledged to consider repealing the tax, which originally passed with unanimous City Council support. “It is clear that the ordinance will lead to a prolonged, expensive political fight over the next five months that will do nothing to tackle our urgent housing and homelessness crisis. These challenges can only be addressed together as a city, and as importantly, as a state and a region. “We heard you. This week, the City Council is moving forward with the consideration of legislation to repeal the current tax on large businesses to address the homelessness crisis.” Amazon had originally threatened to halt all expansion in Seattle when the first iteration of the head tax was floated by officials, but backed down and resumed construction on their downtown projects when the measure passed. The tax would have raised $47 million for the construction of 591 units of affordable housing throughout Seattle and services for the homeless. In a late afternoon voting session, it now appears that the head tax has been repealed by a 7 to 2 margin.
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Graham Baba transforms a Seattle warehouse into a glass studio flooded with light

Lino Tagliapietra Glass Studio 2006 2nd Avenue Seattle Tel: 206 420-4867 Architect: Graham Baba Architects Seattle-based Graham Baba Architects (GBA) has transformed an existing triple-bay warehouse in the city’s Belltown neighborhood into a new studio and gallery for renowned international glass artist Lino Tagliapietra by topping the 1917-era shipping facility with a new 16-foot by 45-foot light cannon. The cavernous 6,100-square-foot, single-story space is marked by two rows of heavy timber columns, with ancillary programs discretely circulated around the ware- house’s perimeter. Visitors enter the project at street level, which sits 30 inches below the structure’s finished floor. Starting at the street edge, a gently sloping ramp located at one extreme of the building carries visitors up into the gallery, bypassing a series of display cases along the way. Within the principal gallery, the aforementioned light cannon is outfitted with a curving soffit that subtly bends clerestory-derived light as it enters the continuous, gray-painted, brick-lined interiors of the space. Adjacent programs are designed to take advantage of this borrowed light and include a glass-clad office and conference room, a pair of restrooms, a kitchenette, and storage areas. Sustainable Europly laminated wood cabinetry and furniture pieces wrap the gallery and office spaces, while art panels and drop-down mobile displays showcasing the artist’s work populate the building’s other areas.
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Over Amazon’s threats, Seattle passes tax on big business to fund affordable housing

The Seattle City Council has unanimously passed a scaled-down version of the tax on mega-companies that caused Amazon to suspend its construction in the city earlier this month. It now seems like Amazon was bluffing when it threatened to pull out if the measure went through, as pre-construction work on the 17-story Block 18 tower is reportedly back on. Seattle is weathering an affordability crisis as rents and homelessness rates continue to rise, and a tax on companies grossing $20 million a year or more was proposed as a way of funding new affordable housing. The proposed tax would have originally hit those larger companies (about three percent of businesses in Seattle) with an annual, $500-a-head charge. After deliberations between the Council, Mayor’s office, and the business community, a leaner, $275-per-employee bill that sunsets in five years was eventually passed. The original measure was expected to bring in around $75 to $86 million a year for the city, which would have built approximately 1,700 affordable units over the next five years; as passed, Seattle will reap $45 to $49 million a year, and only build out 591 units over that same period. Still, even these changes haven’t appeared to sit well with Amazon. Although construction will move forward on Block 18, an office tower in downtown Seattle that could hold 7,000 Amazon employees, Amazon issued a sternly-worded statement after the vote threatening to reduce its footprint in the city. With 45,000 employees currently in Seattle, the tech giant would have ended up paying around $12 million a year. “We are disappointed by today’s City Council decision to introduce a tax on jobs,” Drew Herdener, an Amazon vice-president, told The Guardian. “We remain very apprehensive about the future created by the council’s hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here.” Amazon’s statement isn’t just bluster. While the Graphite Design Group–designed Block 18 will rise after all, the company is still debating about whether it will take the 722,000-square-feet of office space it was going to lease in the forthcoming Rainer Square building. As the HQ2 search continues, it remains to be seen whether Seattle’s pushback against Amazon will have an effect on what prospective cities are willing to concede; 40 officials from cities all over the country, including some of those still in the HQ2 running, have signed an open letter throwing their weight behind Seattle in this tax fight.
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Seattle-based atelierjones creates one of the first all-CLT residences in the United States

Sixty-three trees, 67 cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels, and 12 days—that’s what it took for Seattle-based atelierjones to erect the firm’s 1,500-square-foot CLTHouse, one of the first all-CLT residences constructed in the United States. The three-sided home is built on a leftover 2,500-square-foot triangular lot in Seattle’s Elliot Bay neighborhood on the shores of Lake Washington, where architect Susan Jones launched her research house experiment back in 2015. The house’s blackened, shou-sugi-ban treated exterior panels contrast with the blonde, white-washed, and daylit-spaces within the home, which emanate from a three-level circulation core containing a staircase, wet walls, and concealed utilities. The rustic home is inspired by the Northwest’s ubiquitous log cabins and features exposed wood paneling inside and out in homage to this building type. The approach, according to Jones, seeks to project a sense of “living with nature in the city” and provides a productive example of the smaller-scale capabilities of emerging CLT technologies. The house is punctured by triangular, gable-shaped windows that infuse it with daylight. Combined with the gypsum, plastic-laminate, stainless steel, and quartz-lined interior surfaces, it provides an “immersive, visceral, and natural experience,” according to the architect. Constructed using CNC-milled, rapidly renewable, and sustainably harvested CSFI-certified spruce, pine, and fir panels made by Structurlam, the building is crafted to inspire a sense of naturalistic escape and relaxation. The home’s exposed knotty pine aesthetic is reflected in a pair of stylized second-floor screened window walls that mark a triangular notch carved into the structure. Here, two pairs of sliding glass doors along the ground floor open the dual-lobed plan to the outdoors. Dining and living room spaces swing around this interior corner, where on one side, a thin plywood partition separates the dining and kitchen spaces from one another. Behind the kitchen sits a short hallway that connects the building’s backdoor entrance—located below a cantilevered bedroom suite—with the stair core. On the floor above, a trio of bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a reading nook cap off the home’s living areas while a rooftop deck overlooks the entire neighborhood from a wooden perch. The pilot house was developed as a research prototype and required extra municipal approvals to account for building codes that had not yet incorporated mass timber structural systems. Though crafted from sustainable materials from the start, atelierjones went one step further and planted 800 trees in conjunction with the project to act as an additional carbon sink. The result, according to Jones, is simply “hypernatural.”
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Amazon suspends construction in Seattle over possible tax increases

Amazon has put the kibosh on a one-million-square-foot expansion of its Seattle headquarters pending a City Hall vote to raise taxes on the company.  The proposal would tax companies with $20 million or more in annual gross revenue, to the tune of about $500 per employee, with the proceeds going towards affordable housing in the city. Amazon was slated to begin construction on the 17-story Block 18 tower in downtown Seattle and occupy 722,000 square feet of office space it had leased at a 58-story Rainer Square building currently under construction. While the Graphite Design Group–designed Block 18 wasn’t slated to begin construction for another month, Amazon has put the project on hold indefinitely. “Our firm was notified late in the day yesterday to pause the project pending the resolution of the head-tax issue that the City Council is currently deliberating,” Graphite Design Group’s Peter Krech told the Seattle Times, “so we are suspending our work immediately on the project based on that direction.” Amazon has long driven growth in Seattle, but critics have charged that the tech giant’s employees have drastically reduced the amount of housing available in the city, driven up costs and increased income inequality. The proposed tax would bring in an estimated $75 million a year for the city, with Amazon paying $20 to $30 million. The funds would go towards building 1,800 affordable units a year. If Amazon is going to truly kill Block 18, Seattle would lose 7,000 to 8,000 potential jobs. It seems that Amazon has soured on its home city, as the company recently announced that it would be adding 1,000 more jobs at its Boston office, 3,000 at its Vancouver, British Columbia, office, and 200 at its Minneapolis offshoot (not to mention the HQ2 search). The 4,500 employees that were previously going to move to the Rainer Square tower offices may also be relocated elsewhere. Seattle’s City Council is set to vote on the measure on May 14. It remains to be seen if Amazon is bluffing or not, and as the Seattle Times noted, residential developers who were counting on an influx of new Amazon employees may have to scale back their ambitions as well.
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High-speed rail could link Vancouver, Seattle, Spokane, and Portland

A newly-formed activist group has its sights set on bringing high-speed rail to the Pacific Northwest region. Cascadia Rail and its members envision a new high-speed train network connecting Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Washington, and Vancouver, Canada with an eastern offshoot between Seattle and Spokane, Washington. The group, emboldened by the recent success of the Seattle Subway coalition and its transformative Sound Transit 3 metro expansion in 2016, is banking that growing regional awareness around the interconnectedness of transit, climate, and social justice issues will coalesce in their favor. The group launched the initiative via Seattle Transit Blog in a post earlier this month with the slogan “You deserve faster.” Backers of the group argue that access to high-speed transit could help alleviate regional inequality, economically link a string of vibrant international cities together, and boost regional tourism. The initiative has been under study by the Washington State Department of Transportation since 2017. The department submitted a report late last year to the Washington State legislature recommending more study on the issue and urging state, federal, and Canadian agencies to move toward facilitating a plan. The department compared traditional steel wheel and Maglev trains as well as Hyperloop systems for the study. Preliminary estimates in the report put the cost of the new high-speed system at between $24 billion and $43 billion, depending on routes and train technologies chosen. The Washington State Legislature is currently considering a two-year transportation funding bill that could include up $3.6 million earmarked for detailed study following up on the 2017 report. If funding for the additional study is approved, analysis could be completed as soon as mid-2019. A timeline for design and construction of the train network has not been put forth.
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Seattle preservationists fight to grant Googie restaurant landmark status

It's an all-too familiar story: a beloved local institution bites the dust as a developer swoops in to build apartments. But one modest Seattle restaurant has found a number of advocates that are fighting for it to gain lazndmark status. The restaurant is Spud, a fish-and-chips spot with roots that date back to the 1935, and it's the restaurant's Green Lake location that's at the center of campaign (several other Spud restaurants exist, though they are run by different ownership). After a developer announced plans to raze the six-decade-old structure in order to build a four-story apartment building, representatives from Historic Seattle and Docomomo WEWA are speaking out in support of having the building designated a city landmark, with a Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board hearing scheduled for later this month. The current plan has Spuds reopening on the first floor the new building, but preservationists argue that demolishing the current structure would mean losing one of the finest examples of the modernist style in all of the Northwest, Seattle's Daily Journal of Commerce reports. Dating back to the 1950s, the 1,637-square-foot fish shack was designed by Edward L. Cushman in the playful Googie style of midcentury modernism. The popular postwar style was designed to attract the attention of drivers to roadside fast-food restaurants, gas stations, and motels, and, like many of the type, Spud features a distinctive butterfly roof and neon sign. So far, the developer of the proposed apartment building, Seattle's Blueprint Capital, is going along with the landmark process, even requesting the landmark hearing as a proactive measure. Meanwhile, local preservationists, citing the fact that the building has been occupied with a working Spud location ever since it was built, have proposed looking at alternative designs, such as a scheme that would incorporate the new structure into the existing site.