This past fall, a Reddit post leaked a Seattle design proposal draft with massings of what could have been the tallest tower on the West coast. The images depicted a 102-story tower standing 99 feet higher than the current record holder, the 1,018-foot-tall U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles. The proposed Seattle tower, dubbed 4/C, is slated for a parcel that is currently a parking lot in Seattle's downtown central business district at the southwest corner of Fourth Avenue and Columbia Street. The developer, Crescent Heights International Living, based in Miami, has tapped Seattle design firm, LMN Architects. The mixed-use tower would house 150 hotel rooms, 165,000 square feet of retail space and offices, and 1,200 residences. But officials at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aren't approving the proposal. They issued a notice saying the tower would impede business at the Boeing Field airport. They cited that the height could interfere with navigable air space and that the massive size of a construction crane to build even a slightly smaller tower could cause issues with hospital helicopter flights. The FAA is giving Crescent Heights an alternative, take-it-or-leave-it deal: max out at 965 feet. With this revised height, 4/C would miss breaking the tallest Seattle building record by just two feet, undefeated since 1985 by the 76-story Columbia Center.
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After a whirlwind round of conferences and forums this year—from New York, to Chicago to Miami—The Architect’s Newspaper and Enclos made the last stop of the year in Seattle for Facades+ AM. Over 150 attended our December 4th event at the Motif Seattle hotel. Nine speakers brought in diverse perspectives and engaging ideas, with room for productive Q & A. Here's a recap in case you missed it. After opening remarks by co-chairs Carsten Stinn, designer at Perkins+Will, and Mic Patterson, Enclos' VP of strategic development, the first session united three presenters under the theme of complex digital facade collaborations. Speakers included Jeffrey Vaglio, director of Enclos' Advanced Technology Studio, and Joshua Zabel, vice president of business development at Kreysler & Associates. David Sandinsky, senior associate at NBBJ co-presented with Marne Zahner, design engineer at Magnusson Klemencic Associates. They talked about the Amazon domes—more specifically, the conjoined Catalan spheres and their structural steel modules. Session two focused on models, methods, and materials for optimizing facade performance. Energy strategist and consultant Sangeetha Divakar at Perkins+Will presented workplan models for integrating engineers' and architects' work in energy and envelope modeling. Stéphane Hoffman, building specialist at Morrison Hershfield, discussed parametric visualization tools for mapping building energy performance and why architects and engineers should track thermal bridging. Richard Green, Principal at Front, Inc talked about custom fabrication and digital manufacturing. In the final session, Devin Kleiner, Perkins+Will architect, Peter Alspach, principal of environmental and building physics at Arup, and Daniel Brindisi, associate at ZGF Architects, spoke to the real-world effects of facade technology. Kleiner discussed post occupancy lighting evaluations, Alspach presented data on the cost benefits of the carbon life cycle, and Brindisi talked about his firms efforts to maximize daylighting. In the L.A. area or planning a trip to Southern California at the end of January? Catch the latest building envelope developments at the Facades+ Symposium and Workshops in Los Angeles, January 28th and 29th.
Kreysler & Associates' Joshua Zabel knows more than a thing or two about collaborating with architects to produce complex facades. "On the design side, increasingly complex projects call for earlier and earlier involvement from us for material and fabrication input," said Zabel. "With increasing frequency we're being called on by architects to contribute during SD and DD phases." Zabel will share the fabricator's perspective on teamwork in high performance envelope design and construction later this week at Facades+AM Seattle. His co-presenters on "Digital Collaborations: Applications, Realities and Opportunities in the Delivery of Complex Facades" include Jeffrey Vaglio (Enclos), David Sandinsky (NBBJ) and Marne Zahner (Magnusson Klemencic Associates). Digital design tools play a critical role in enabling an ongoing dialogue between designers and fabricators, said Zabel. "There's obviously a lot to be said for the ability to pass a 3D model back and forth or share drawings on a screen in real time with someone thousands of miles away," he explained. "It seems easy to forget it wasn't anywhere near as fluid, say, 15 years ago." More specifically, said Zabel, "It's interesting to me when we're able to communicate with architects at the level of programming the toolpath strategy for making molds with our CNC machine. Everything about that notion is enhanced by the collaborative use of technology." Zabel compares contemporary developments in design and fabrication technology to the introduction of another collaborative tool: the telephone. "CAD and digital fabrication processes are such useful tools for construction and collaboration, I imagine one day, like the telephone, we won't marvel at how useful it is, we'll just take it for granted," he said. At the same time, there remains room for improvement. Construction documentation standards, for instance, often necessitate creating traditional 2D models that are "simply impractical" in particularly complex cases such as SFMOMA rainscreen or Bing Concert Hall, said Zabel. The ease of communication "can also lead to overload and an environment where it can be difficult to find a foothold or pinpoint the important thing to focus on where everybody has access to all of the information all the time." Join Zabel and other movers and shakers in the facades world December 4 at Facades+AM Seattle. Register today on the symposium website.
Digital techniques including parametrization play an increasingly important role in the work of many architects, engineers, and builders, especially those involved in the design and fabrication of high performance facades. "Parametrization is a critical path for facade design," observed Perkins+Will energy strategist Sangeetha Divakar. "A choice set of digital tools are being used to achieve this, especially when design options are optimized in response to several end goal parameters." Divakar will share lessons learned from her work in Seattle and elsewhere next week at Facades+AM Seattle. Her co-presenters on "Combined Modeling Efforts for the Optimized Facade: Models, Methods, Materials" include Morrison Hershfield principal Stéphane Hoffman and Richard Green, of Front, Inc. As someone particularly attuned to environmental performance, said Divakar, "What excites me the most in facade systems optimization now is that the line demarcating design parametrization and energy analysis parametrization is fast disappearing." But while the worlds of aesthetics and energy analysis are more integrated than ever, gaps remain elsewhere. In particular, Divakar pinpointed a need for "a direct integration of facade parametrization with engineering parametrization." Hear more about cutting-edge digital design tools including parametrization from Divakar, Hoffman, and Green on December 4 at Facades+AM Seattle. The symposium, a half-day version of the popular Facades+ conference series, features three sessions on hot topics in facade design and construction, with a special focus on designing and building for the Pacific Northwest. Learn more and register today at the Facades+AM website.
Last February, Facebook announced the company was moving its Seattle offices. The company has hired Frank Gehry to design its new Dexter Station space in the burgeoning South Lake Union neighborhood. Now, we the floor plans have been leaked, revealing more detail surrounding the always-amenity-rich tech offices. Last week, GeekWire obtained blueprints of the Gehry Partners–designed outdoor areas and a photo of a model of the interior. The plans show a rooftop park with a curving, looping trail (the younger cousin to the nine-acre park on Facebook's Building 20 in Menlo Park, also designed by Gehry). There's a fire pit, meeting and covered dining terraces, as well as a barbecue prep area, all spread over three rooftops. "The over-the-top amenities are the latest demonstration of the lengths to which Facebook and other tech companies are going to recruit and retain talent in an increasingly competitive market for top-notch software developers," wrote GeekWire. Facebook Seattle is currently working out of Metropolitan Park. The company is expected to move into its new space by the middle of next year, and have enough room to grow to 2,000 employees. In 2010, they started with just two.
Now over half a century old, there is talk of renovating the Seattle Space Needle. It hosts over one million visitors a year eager to ride the elevator 520 feet up to the observation deck or to dine in the revolving restaurant. The details? Space Needle owners are considering adding a glass floor to the restaurant so diners could see how the space rotates, reports The Puget Sound Business Journal. There are also other ideas: two-story elevators, bringing in more glass for the observation deck for better views, an interior refresh, and repainting. A local Seattle-based firm, Olson Kundig, is reportedly part of the team designing the upgrades. Given the importance of the building (and the Seattle process) many of these proposed changes could be several years out. The Architectural Review Committee must first give the green light, before these ideas could move forward.
For Seattle's AEC professionals, the city's thriving high-tech industry is both a blessing and a challenge. "The architecture scene in Seattle is red hot and exciting," said Mic Patterson, vice president of Strategic Development for Enclos. "The migration of tech and related companies into the area is driving a new wave of architectural expression in which the building skin is playing a role." Next month, Patterson co-chairs Facades+AM Seattle, a half-day version of the acclaimed Facades+ conference series, with Perkins+Will senior project designer Carsten Stinn. But while the influx of capital and design-minded entrepreneurs presents an unparalleled opportunity for architectural experimentation, Seattle-area architects, engineers, fabricators, and builders, may have some catching up to do when it comes to the technical side of the building envelope. "There is a long history of great architecture in Seattle, yet the advanced facade systems are relatively new to the area, and there are many in the local design and construction scene unfamiliar with the technology," observed Patterson. "In fact, the pace of development of facade technology has accelerated to the point that keeping up takes a deliberate effort, even by the experts, or they won't be experts for long." "Our Facades+AM event will throw some of this up for a quick but deep dialogue that will provide equal parts information and inspiration," promised Patterson. The morning's agenda is divided into three case study-based presentations punctuated by networking breaks. Jeffrey Vaglio (Enclos) and Joshua Zabel (Kreysler & Associates) will follow Patterson and Stinn's opening remarks with "Digital Collaborations: Applications, Realities, and Opportunities in the Delivery of Complex Facades." The second presentation, by energy strategist consultant Sangeetha Divakar and Morrison Hershfield's Stéphane Hoffman, is "Combined Modeling Efforts for the Optimized Facade: Models, Methods, Materials." The final offering, from Devin Kleiner (Perkins+Will) and Peter Alspach (Arup), is "Aspirations vs. Reality: Analysis of Built Projects." Additional speakers are being added to the program. To learn more or join the Seattle dialogue, visit the Facades+AM Seattle website today.
There is a new proposal for yet another skyscraper in the Denny Triangle neighborhood in downtown Seattle—this time by ZGF and Cotter Architects. The 41-story tower is in the early design guidance phase and would bring in 10,000 square feet of ground-level retail housed in a podium and 420 apartments rising above. Renderings of the building—dubbed 2014 Fairview Avenue—depict an organic, twisted tower rimmed with curved balconies. It's a little reminiscent of MAD's pair of residential towers completed in 2012 in a Canadian suburb outside of Toronto. The building would sit on a roughly triangular site carved by the intersection of five streets: Denny Way to the north, Fairview Avenue to the west, Virginia Street to the east, as well as Boren Avenue to the southwest, and Minor Avenue to the northeast. The site is about a ten-minute walk northeast from the under-construction Amazon campus, and is currently home to the two-story strip mall, Denny Center, which would be demolished according to early design guidance documents. A budget isn't set yet, but construction is tentatively expected to start a year from now, in the fall of 2016.
November 3 was a big day for Amazon, with the opening of its first brick and mortar store, Amazon Books. The location? Seattle, of course. The 5,500-square-foot store inside the upscale University Village shopping mall replaced the former Blue C Sushi restaurant. Who designed the store? Amazon relied on its in-house design team in collaboration with external partners, Amazon.com spokesperson Deborah Bass told AN. Materials and layout are pretty traditional: there's light wood, dark trim, brick, and narrow aisles. Many have made comparisons to the typical bookstore aesthetic of yore. "The store, in Seattle’s University Village, is notably (and, of course, ironically) Barnes & Noble-like in its aesthetic. There’s a lot of wood. There are a lot of shelves. There are a lot of books! The dream of the 90s is alive in Seattle, apparently," writes The Atlantic. But forget the typical spine-out book layout. Instead, books are arranged cover-out, many alongside unedited (but oftentimes truncated) customer reviews from Amazon.com. There's an overt fusion of books and tech. Titles are stocked, influenced, and arranged by Amazon.com data and curators: customer ratings, top sellers lists, niche audience ("Most-Wished-For Cookbooks", "Gifts for Young Adults", "Coloring Books for Grown-ups"), purpose ("100 Books to Read in a Lifetime") and of course, by genre. There are Amazon devices throughout: Kindles, Fire Tablets, Fire TVs, Echo. Prices are the same as online. But there's a catch: Amazon prices are not listed on the books themselves. Browsers must either download an Amazon app to scan the books for current prices or use one of the price-checking kiosks in the store. Amazon Books is the second bookstore to open in U-Village, after Barnes and Noble closed in 2011.
Take note. The Seattle waterfront plan is getting a lot of competition. Last month, we saw an opposing proposal to the James Corner Field Operations plan rejected by city council and put on the ballot for next summer. The project—Initiative 123—calls for reinforcing a portion of the Alaska Way Viaduct that runs north-south along the western edge of Seattle as well as building a new section. These two pieces would create a mile-long, High Line–style park. Now a Seattle- and Idaho-based firm, Patano Studio Architecture, is proposing an $800 million project to the east as part of a larger conceptual plan to expand the Washington State Convention Center. The project would cap Interstate 5—a highway that runs through multiple neighborhoods such as downtown Seattle, South Lake Union, and Capitol Hill—and build a park on top. The architects describe the highway built in 1962 as a "savage scar of roadway" that forever divided the city. Their project would cap a 2 mile long section of the the highway running from Lakeview in the north, south to downtown. The resulting 45 acre park would feature plants, trails, and community spaces, and be adjacent to affordable housing. Toward the downtown end, the park would run over a proposed 20,000 seat NBA / NHL arena that would also double as additional customizable convention space for the Convention Center. The arena would be an alternative to Chris Hansen's proposed NBA / NHL arena in SoDo. The concept, if accepted, could take about 5 years to build. "In our mind, the old guard way of thinking and planning the city is one project at a time," Christopher Patano told the Seattle P-I. "I think what we're finding is this one-piece-at-a-time approach is not producing a cohesive result. It's not producing a city that functions the way the people of Seattle want it to function."
From Boston to San Francisco and cities in between, increasing the quality of livable and usable urban space has become a hot issue. Waterfront redevelopment, highway removal, and linear park creation (and activation) are leading the way. For Seattle, that means redoing the waterfront by replacing the deteriorating seawall, removing the earthquake damaged Alaskan Way Viaduct, and building a tunnel. When these projects are complete, it also means carrying out James Corner's massive over $1 billion waterfront plan with proposed features like a public promenade, lookouts, a dedicated bike path, and more, that would wind along the western edge of the city from Belltown and south to Pioneer Square. Other related projects also include a Pike Place Market addition, an aquarium expansion, and Pike-Pine improvements, among others. But a new kid on the block is trying to shake things up. Enter Initiative-123. Seattle-based Kate Martin (who ran for mayor in 2013) is leading a competing vision to the James Corner plan. The opposing proposal calls for a mile-long, six-acre elevated High Line style park. The idea is to reinforce and convert a southern portion of the viaduct into a promenade and then extend it, rebuilding an entirely new portion as a dedicated haven to walkers and cyclists. "Elevated parks are at the forefront of urban open spaces and delays in the unimproved plan have created an opportunity for a re-imagining of Seattle’s waterfront," reads the I-123 policy. "The city’s unimproved waterfront plan attempts to mix commercial, transportation, and pedestrian space into an end product that doesn’t meet any of these users’ needs." The proposal is gaining traction, recently getting enough signatures (over 20,638) to go before the city council on August 17. With the council expected to reject it, I-123 would then get put on the ballot, and possibly be up for a citizen vote next summer. And should the ballot measure pass, it would establish a public development authority. If this happens, "it is going to create serious problems, with the millions of dollars that have already been spent,” City Council member Sally Bagshaw told the Seattle Times last week. For now, we wait.
Work is underway on MarketFront, a multi-level extension of Seattle’s Pike Place Market designed by The Miller Hull Partnership. The project broke ground in late June after an extensive community and city process. At stake is the question: How do you create an addition for an icon? The answer: Carefully. “It's a huge responsibility,” noted architect David Miller, a founding partner of The Miller Hull Partnership and lead designer on the project. “We’ve listened to the client and to the people who live and work in the community. Twenty to thirty people would come to every public meeting and ask good questions. The group was strongly opinionated, but also very smart and artistic.” Pike Place Market is more than simply a spot where some ten million tourists come each year to watch fishmongers gracefully toss salmon, it’s a historic site that survived urban renewal and as one of the oldest, continually operated farmer’s markets in the country, it is home to dozens and dozens of local vendors and artisans. It’s critical that Miller and team preserve the character of the market as they weave a new structure into a context of converted warehouse buildings on one side and the soon-to-be-demolished Alaskan Way Viaduct on the other. The design maintains the language of the older buildings through utilitarian materials—wood, steel, and concrete—that echo the industrial architecture. “It is really a utilitarian, no frills structure,” explained Miller. With that simple pallette, The Miller Hull Partnership added 47 new daystalls for farmers and craft artists, new retail space for a brewery and brew pub (including grain silos), and 40 affordable housing units for seniors, some with outdoor space for them to set up their own stalls. The scheme also includes social services—low-income day care, a food bank, and medical services—and parking for cars and bikes. The $73-million dollar project is located along Western Avenue, the street just behind the famous portion of the existing market topped with bright red letters. A two-story structure that is more landscape than building, it occupies the site of the former Municipal Market Building, which was torn down in 1974 after a fire. The new building features an expansive roof deck that offers and preserves views of Elliot Bay and the waterfront. Reached via Pike Place Market’s Desimone Bridge or stairs leading up one story from the street, the deck is part of a 30,000-square-foot public space that terraces down from Western Avenue to the Viaduct—a drop of roughly 85 feet. Once that roadway is removed, the MarketFront will serve as a pedestrian connection to the Seattle waterfront designed by James Corner Field Operations, which will stretch along Elliot Bay from Seattle’s Pioneer Square to Belltown. “The Pacific Northwest has this great environment that allows for connecting to the outdoors,” said Miller. “Even though it is in the middle of the city, it is a blend of landscape and architecture.” The project is scheduled to open prior to the final demolition of the Alaskan Way Viaduct in 2016.