Amazon renderings released this week in a Seattle design review board meeting would have made the late Buckminster Fuller proud. They reveal new plans for an additional structure on the proposed three-block, three-tower Amazon complex in downtown Seattle: three five-story conjoined biodomes up to 95 feet tall, with the largest 130 feet in diameter. These glass and steel domes, envisioned by local firm NBBJ, would provide 65,000 square feet of interior flex work and brainstorm areas for Amazon employees, while leaving abundant space to accommodate trees and diverse plantings. Inspiration came from nature found indoors—in greenhouses, conservatories, and convention centers around the world. From Renzo Piano’s “Bolla” in Genoa, to the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken in Brussels. (Fun fact: the largest dome in the United States—an indoor sports arena—is in fact in Washington State, in Tacoma, a city south of Seattle.) Far from ordinary, the design, still in design review, have stirred a spectrum of reactions from Seattleites—excitement, as well as criticism. With the exception of lower-level retail space, the biodomes would be open to Amazon workers only. It's an unusual move for a company that has kept a low profile in Seattle. See more here.
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With summer just around the corner, bicyclists are getting excited to try out the new bike-share systems being installed in many cities across the nation. After initial delays, New York City's bike-share program is set to open by the end of the month, and San Francisco, Seattle, and Hoboken have similar plans of their own on the horizon. San Francisco: SPUR reports that the Bay Area Air Quality Management District signed a contract with Alta Bike Share to spin the wheels on a bike-sharing program for San Francisco. Alta Bike Share runs similar bike programs in Washington, D.C. and Boston and will be the operator of new programs in New York and Chicago this year. San Francisco plans a two-year pilot program consisting of 700 bikes in 70 locations that will launch this summer throughout the San Jose to San Francisco region. Last year the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition set a goal of 20 percent of trips in the city on bike by 2020 and now, after several delays, the plan will be the first regional program in the country. Seattle: Considering Seattle’s distinctive challenges of hills and mandatory helmets, Alta Bicycle Share has devised a plan for the city’s bike-share program that includes seven-speed bikes rather than the standard three-speed ones, reported BikePortland. The Portland-based Alta, adding to their bike share empire across the country, will also employ an integrated helmet vending system to accommodate the city’s mandatory helmet law. The city’s bike-share program will consist of 500 bikes distributed throughout 50 stations. The program will launch by the start of 2014 and continue to develop throughout the Puget Sound region. Hoboken: The City of Hoboken, in partner with E3Think, Bike And Roll, and Social Bicycles, across the Hudson from Manhattan, is also getting into the bike share game with a system radically different from most other cities: the “hybrid” bike-share plan. The six-month pilot program employs traditional bike rentals, but users reserve bikes online and, unlike the majority of existing bike-share systems that depend on “Smart-Dock” bike racks for storage, Hoboken's program utilizes a “Smart-Lock” method. The city hopes this approach will be more affordable and permit further development of the system. Bicycle repair stations, more bike lanes, and additional bike racks have bolstered the city’s campaign to become more bike-friendly.
In its over 30 years resting on Pier 59, the Seattle Aquarium has undergone a series of complex renovations, including the restoration of the original 1905 pier (while staying open), and the addition of a 120,000-gallon marine life viewing tank that helps visitors feel like they are immersed in an octopus' garden in the shade. Most recently, a major addition is on the boards, approved by a Seattle council committee. Plans would double the aquarium's space, bringing in a total of 70,000 new square feet. Concept designs by Seattle-based Mithun, working with the aquarium, propose a 35,000 square-foot south wing that would make room for several new exhibits as well as a 30,000 square-foot addition on the western portion of Pier 59. The remaining 5,000 square feet could house a research facility, classrooms, and a theater. The aquarium rehab would coincide with the central waterfront redevelopment, anticipated to include an expansion of Pike Place Market, which would directly link the market to the waterfront and the aquarium for the first time. James Corner Field Operations is currently working on a larger waterfront redevelopment plan. Construction of the first phase is anticipated to start in 2018, and the second phase in the 2020s.
The newly opened Bullitt Center in Seattle has stridden beyond the checklists of the LEED rating system to bring "real green” architecture into the public’s eye. As the self-proclaimed “greenest commercial building in the world,” the Bullitt Center seeks to meet the exacting goals of the Living Building Challenge, a more rigorous certification alternative to LEED. Located in Seattle’s Capital Hill district, which is in the process of a metamorphosis into the city's "Eco-District," the six-story building aims to serve as a new standard for what can be accomplished when architects and developers put ecological design at the forefront of their priorities. Designed by Seattle-based Miller Hull Partnership, the carbon-neutral building incorporates a bunch of green features to address nearly all of its energy and waste needs, while promoting sustainable behaviors through its design and program. The $30 million building is toped with a solar array and rainwater catchment system that provide for all of its electrical and water needs. All wastewater is stored and treated onsite and gray water will be used to irrigate the building’s planted areas. The site encourages pedestrian, bike, and public transit based lifestyles, while the internal layout promotes a healthy routine by way of a large, welcoming, well-lit stairway. To achieve net-zero status, the architects raised ceilings and installed large operable windows so that artificial lighting is barely necessary and all employees can be assured ample daylight and fresh air in the workplace. Geothermal heat pumps reduce the energy demand of the heating and air-conditioning system. Finally, all “Red List” building materials—materials that the government has determined to be harmful to animals, including humans—have been banned from the site. The Bullitt Center is set to officially open its doors for Earth Day. With its expected lifespan of 250 years—compared to 40 years for typical commercial buildings—the building just may stand as a premiere model of sustainability for generations to come.
This past Sunday evening, Seattle officials closed First Avenue. It wasn't for road repairs, but to celebrate the unveiling of the Seattle Art Museum's facade refresh by multimedia artist Doug Aitken. Two giant LCD screens projecting kaleidoscopic images of the Seattle region now wrap the north and west facade of the museum, with emanating vertical bands of lights. For the MIRROR installation, Aitken built up a database of hundreds of hours of digital footage in and around Seattle, from sunsets, to Puget Sound, to the urban grid to old growth forests. Captured over five years, the scenes feed into the glass video displays and synchronized light bands, which are triggered by computer driven sensors pulling in local weather, traffic, and pedestrian data. Due to the spontaneous nature of the information used, there is no looping. Despite Aitken's global oeuvre, MIRROR is his first permanent installation at a museum, and was commissioned by the late philanthropist Bagley Wright, one of the developers of the Space Needle. The unveiling was choreographed to music by minimalist composers Steve Reich and Terry Riley, performed by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.
Seattle is about to get a new public art installation on the walls of SAM, the Seattle Art Museum. The museum that created the nearby Olympic Sculpture Park—one of the best public art spaces in the country—has commissioned artist Doug Aitken to install a new reflective wall on the corner of their building at First Avenue and Union Street. Aitken calls the wall installation Mirror and it is meant to "reflect the energy and movement of the city." The piece consists of a large LED display wrapping the building's corner facade and up the building's primary wall with scenes slowly filmed by Aitken of "images, surfaces, locations and landscapes." These digital views will then be reduced to minimal compositions and alternate with empty landscapes and dense urban scenes of the Seattle region. Further Aitken has programmed the piece to be "conditioned and programmed by local "weather information, pedestrian traffic flow, atmospheric conditions and traffic density. The digital facade Aitken imagines will be "like choreography with no music" and allows the images to "define the composition and patterns in real time and into the future."
In case you still can't let go of the holidays (we know, it's not easy), take a look back at Seattle's 21st annual gingerbread festival, which just closed at the city's downtown Sheraton Hotel. Six local architecture firms partnered with the hotel's culinary team to produce a dizzying array of giant candy-fied creations to benefit the the Northwest chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The theme this year was nursery rhymes, officially dubbed, "There's a Rhyme and a Reason this Holiday Season". (In case you missed it, last year's theme was fairy tales.) Among the highlights: a cow jumps over a moon above a whimsical winter village built from sweets and icing in "Hey Diddle Diddle" by firm Weber Thompson; an almost four-foot tall ship of gingerbread with marshmallow-like sails filled with marzipan sailors, white mice and a duck captain depict the plot from the rhyme "I Saw a Ship A-Sailing" by 4D Architects, Inc; and Jack and the beanstalk hover over the lower Queen Anne Seattle neighborhood–Space Needle and all (by Callison).
There are those famous pairings in life—cookies and milk, wine and cheese, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Lewis and Clark. But could there really be a better pairing than architects and chefs working together to create gingerbread houses? In its 20th year running, Seattle area architecture firms and chefs at the downtown Sheraton Hotel teamed up for the holidays to build gingerbread houses benefiting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Northwest Chapter. While last year’s theme featured iconic train stations around the world, this year’s theme took a more decidedly youthful and imaginative approach—“Once Upon a Time”—envisioning the castles and abodes of characters in popular children’s fiction in candy, icing, and gingerbread. Kids with type 1 diabetes volunteering with JDRF worked with the architecture firms, choosing the story titles for the six gingerbread houses: Alice and Wonderland, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Chronicles of Narnia, Grimm’s Fairytales, and The Little Mermaid. The whimsical, sugary interpretations sport characters crafted from marzipan, window glazing made from heated sugar, sour belts as roofing tiles, M&Ms as coining. The Brothers Grimm Castle of Fairytales even sports a working drawbridge. More houses below!
Since AN first looked at the proposed design for Amazon's three-tower complex in the Denny Triangle neighborhood in Seattle last May—and after feedback from the Seattle community and meetings with the Design Review Board over the summer—NBBJ has released new renderings. And the project now has a nickname—Rufus—a nod to the late “Amazon dog,” a Corgi who kept employees company in the office since the early days. In response to recommendations, the evolved design includes updates to elevations, details along the lower stories, weather protection, and open spaces. Facades are asymmetrical, stepped, and diverse. In a skin study, the office tower on the southeast Block 14 sports a façade of operable windows, glass, pre-finished metal panels and gold accent trim, which connects to the neighboring meeting center via a sky-bridge. Other perspectives reveal glass curtain walls on the six-story meeting center, leaving the auditorium and stairwell exposed. On Block 19, to the southwest, a covered walkway would provide protection during Seattle's rainy winter months. There are retail storefronts on the lower levels, which will augment the outdoor public parks and plazas. The combined towers are projected to accommodate approximately 12,000 Amazon employees. A final design recommendation meeting is scheduled for next week, which will further address building materials, connections between towers and blocks, full building elevations, open space, and public art. Click on a thumbnail below to launch a slideshow.
Installation of the first community rooftop garden in the United States—UpGarden—is almost complete. Located in the shadow of Seattle's Space Needle, the project will convert close to 30,000 square feet on the top of the Mercer parking garage into an organic, edible, herb and flower garden with 100 plots for lower Queen Anne neighborhood residents. Landscape architecture firm Kistler Higbee Cahoot is leading the design, organizing community workshops and construction of the garden with a volunteer crew. The project is part of the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods P-Patch program, which helps manage almost 80 urban community gardens across Seattle. P-Patch gets its name from the Picardo family who donated land to create the city's first community garden in 1973. UpGarden was funded by the 2008 Parks and Green Space Levy. While UpGarden is built on top of a parking garage engineered to hold up dozens of cars, special effort had to be taken to consider the weight of the new garden, which can be quite heavy. A cubic yard of dry topsoil can weigh about a ton, and much, more when wet, which could overwhelm even a concrete parking structure. UpGarden's design accounted for weight by including terraced planting beds with shallower elevated filled with a lighter-weight mix of potting soil. Small seating areas have been incorporated into the landscape design along with a planted trellis and educational kiosk at the garden's entrance. Designers paid homage to the unorthodox site's automotive past by incorporating an Airstream trailer repurposed for use as a tool shed along a lavender-lined lawn at the center of the garden. A donated 1963 Ford Galaxy was also repainted purple and hollowed out to serve as a planting space for crops such as corn and pumpkins. The first crops at UpGarden will be harvested later this summer. Unfortunately, the garden is only temporary—there are plans to demolish the aging Mercer parking garage, built for the 1962 World’s Fair, in three to five years.
While the Bullitt Center was the first built project to follow the rigorous sustainable guidelines of Seattle's "Eco-District," a second "living building" is coming to the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, and will incorporate commercial space in addition to offices. Clocking in with a total of 120,000 square feet, the building will include a new headquarters for Brooks Sports. Dubbed Stone34, the building will be right off the the Burke-Gilman Trail, the 27-mile rail-to-trail walking and biking path that snakes through northern portions of Seattle. LMN Architects is helming the design of the five-story building that will recycle most of its water and includes a fresh air ventilation system, natural lighting, and thermal energy storage. Pushing sustainability even further, visitors, customers, and staff will be able to eat the lanscaping: greening by Swift Company will include edible plants. Completion is expected fall of 2013.
“I see nothing in space as promising as the view from a Ferris wheel,” E.B. White once remarked. After the dismantling of the Seattle Center Fun Forest and Ferris wheel—closed in January 2011 to make way for the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum—Seattle will finally get its Ferris wheel back. The nearly-completed privately-funded wheel at Pier 57, with 8 supportive legs and 21 spokes, will weigh 280,330 pounds. Built by Chance Morgan Rides Manufacturing Inc. and funded by developer Hal Griffith, the 42 six-person gondolas will bring riders 175 feet into the air, with views of the Olympic Mountains to the west, Mount Rainier to the south, and the Cascade Mountains and the city to the east. Open year-round, the cars will be enclosed, heated, and air-conditioned, so no need to worry about the Seattle drizzle. The widest part of the wheel is positioned perpendicular to the Elliot Bay waterfront to maximize views while preserving site lines for neighboring buildings. At 175 feet, the Seattle Ferris wheel is a reserved interpretation: the original Ferris wheel, built for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, was 264-feet-tall. Today, the world's largest Ferris wheel is the Singapore Flyer, built in 2008, which stands at 541 feet. The Seattle Ferris wheel will open by the Fourth of July.