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.
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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.
Seattle is abuzz about zoning. Last week, The Seattle Times leaked a draft report produced by Mayor Ed Murray's housing task force, a 28-member committee steering the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). While the report outlines a variety of strategies to increase affordable housing in the Seattle region, one bold recommendation is getting a lot of attention: the upzoning of single family housing in Seattle to multi-family housing. On Monday, Mayor Murray released an action plan outlining the overall vision: build 20,000 affordable housing units and 30,000 market rate units in the next decade through public and private investments. By 2035, the city is expected to grow by 120,000 people. "The exclusivity of Single Family zones limits the type of housing available, limits the presence of smaller format housing and limits access for those with lower incomes," reads the action plan. "The City will allow more variety of housing scaled to fit within traditional Single Family areas to increase the economic and demographic diversity. The broader mix of housing will include small lot dwellings, cottages or courtyard housing, rowhouses, duplexes, triplexes and stacked flats." A map on the HALA website shows that the proposed upzoning changes, if passed, would affect 16 percent of Seattle. But The Seattle Times reports otherwise. An architect and developer on the housing committee told the paper that the upzoning would affect all single-family lots. You can read the final version of the Seattle housing committee report at Seattle.gov.
One Seattle architect’s much ballyhooed basement isn’t built from LEGO bricks, but it houses 250,000 of them in 150 meticulously sorted bins. Jeff Pelletier, who runs a small architecture practice Board & Vellum, has amassed a collection worth an estimated $25,000, with containers categorized by color, food, Lego leaves, heads, torsos, Lego latticework, satellite dishes, legs, gold bricks, red bricks, and lime. When Pelletier bought the unfurnished house in 2006, he found a lone red Lego brick in the attic and construed it as a sign that it was the place to put down roots–and his LEGO man cave. Like many aficionados of the self-adhering plastic bricks, Pelletier has been collecting since toddlerhood. At age 16, he relegated his collection to the storage room, unearthing it again in 2005 when he resumed collecting and acquired the collection he has today. When he remodeled his whimsical-looking lime-and-raspberry home in 2011, he decided to transform his basement into a media room, bar, and giant Lego repository, where Pelletier has built a Lego library, ships, bars, houses he’s lived in and even a miniature version of his brightly colored home. “Since I was 2 years old, I always wanted to be an architect. I think a lot of that was because of LEGO,” Pelletier told Komo News.
It’s been almost half a century since Jimi Hendrix passed away. And now after several delays, a 2.5 acre park in the Seattle Central District neighborhood where Hendrix grew up is being developed. Currently, the City of Seattle and EERG Inc. are seeking a construction contract. The plan for the site, which is near the Northwest African American Museum, will feature paths and plantings that, from above, look slightly like a guitar. The first phase will include “a new stairway and grand entrance at the southeast corner of the park, paved pathways, a chronological timeline of Hendrix’s life and career, rain infiltration gardens, a butterfly garden, and a performance plaza,” reported Curbed Seattle. The second phase will include features like a performance space and a “sound wave wall” with silhouettes of Hendrix. The Jimi Hendrix Park Foundation and the Friends of Jimi Hendrix have raised over $1 million dollars and were given $500,000 through the Seattle Parks and Green Levy Opportunity Fund Grant. “The importance of having a park about Jimi is really about honoring and memorializing him as a musician, and as an artist," said Janie L. Hendrix, Jimi’s sister and director of the Jimi Hendrix Park Foundation. "He’s given so much to the world, which we continue to enjoy and listen to."
It looks like it's bad news again for the in-progress Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel in Seattle, and for Bertha, the nickname for the world’s largest tunnel boring machine being used to create the underground highway. Bertha has been idle for much of 2014 due to a broken cutter system. And now the complex process to reach Bertha 60 feet below the surface has been halted. Recently a team of engineers discovered that the soil around Bertha is sinking as much as 1.4 inches in some places. The project will be further delayed as engineers get a better reading on the settling of the soil. Originally the viaduct was scheduled to open in December 2015, but now the date has been set to sometime in 2017. Somewhat ominously, the Seattle Times reported: “The viaduct settlement this fall could mean that some portions of the structure have sunk more than 6 inches since the 2001 Nisqually earthquake—exceeding a safety limit that WSDOT publicized last decade." Let’s hope the engineers and officials get to the bottom of this soon.
It was the warmest December on record in Seattle, but that didn't stop local architects from designing their annual round of gingerbread houses at Christmas. The 2014 theme, “Jingle All the Way,” was inspired by holiday songs, with donations raised during the event (as in years past) going to the JDRF Northwest Chapter. There were the usual suspects: crystalline candy windows, gumdrop roofs, candy cane sleds, and of course, pounds and pounds of gingerbread. But there are plenty of surprises too. Callison’s interpretation of three popular holiday tunes brought gingerbread to Hollywood; MulvannyG2 put Santa in a lounge chair on a Hawaiian beach; and 4D Architects rendered the Seattle skyline in candy, with highlights like the Space Needle, a ferry, kayakers, and what looks like a sedate version of the Gum Wall, done up in multi-colored jelly beans rather than previously chewed gum. There’s also a tree-topped construction crane and a roller coaster. Can you spot them? Have a game of Where’s Waldo or I Spy. Below were the other four Seattle gingerbread houses of 2014.
On December 3 Seattle opened its first Downtown parklet, at 1516 Second Avenue, a block from Pike Place Market. Designed by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, built by Krekow Jennings, and funded by Urban Visions, the Chromer Building parklet is named for the distinctive red building—an early home to Amazon—that it fronts. Stretching the distance of five streetside parking spaces, the project consist of a series of wooden platforms bridging between bright red concrete seating blocks and topped with movable tables and chairs. In addition to providing a space for lounging and eating, the parklet is also designed for performances, with the platforms and blocks doubling as stages. Thanks to Seattle's Pilot Parklets Program the city's Department of Transportation has already opened four previous parklets, in Wallingford, the Central District, Chinatown, and Capitol Hill. The program will create fifteen total streetside parks. Check out pictures of the Chromer Building parklet, and other new Seattle parklets, below.