Posts tagged with "Seattle":

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University of Washington’s molecular engineering complex is now complete

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Six years after the University of Washington opened its 90,000-square-foot Molecular Engineering and Sciences Building (MolES), a new addition, the Nano Engineering and Sciences Building (NanoES), has nearly doubled the size of the complex located at the center of the University of Washington (UW) Seattle-based campus. The Seattle offices of Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects LLP (ZGF) programmed and designed the two-phased MolES and NanoES buildings, which together provide 160,000 square feet of research space in the field of interdisciplinary molecular engineering considered critical for ensuring future economic, environmental and medical health worldwide. NanoES features unique fabrication and characterization equipment to measure and manipulate molecules at the nanoscale. This second phase relies on custom-engineered products from Wausau Window and Wall Systems to achieve more stringent building and energy codes than were initially in place for phase one.
  • Facade Manufacturer Viracon (glass fabricator); Tubelite Inc.(entrance systems); Wausau Window and Wall Systems (glazing and shading systems)
  • Architects Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects LLP (ZGF)
  • Facade Installer Herzog Glass, Inc. (glazing); Linetec (glazing, entrance, and shading systems finisher); Hoffman Construction Company (general contractor)
  • Facade Consultants University of Washington, Capital Projects Office (Owner)
  • Location Seattle, WA
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System Structurally glazed, unitized curtainwall
  • Products INvision 8250i-HRX Series 4-SSG curtainwall with 4250z Series zero sightline, project-out awning windows (by Wausau); VNE-63 solar-control, RoomSide Low-E, argon-filled, insulating glass (by Viracon); ClearStory exterior sun shades (by Wausau); Therml Block entrances with thermal strut (by Tubelite); 70 percent polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) resin-based liquid paint (by Linetec)
An intensive three-day series of design charrettes brought together the owner, architects, general construction company, curtain wall manufacturer, and glass installer at the onset of the project. Based on the charrettes' targeted value, design goals, code requirements and LEED Silver criteria, Wausau's four-sided structurally glazed (4-SSG) unitized curtainwall system was selected for the project. "The 4-SSG unitized curtainwall was glazed and sealed in Wausau’s factory-controlled conditions. This achieved the targeted designed performance and industry-leading, 10-year warranty required for the project and for the UW campus facility plan," explained Brad Glauser, Wausau’s Northwest Territory manager. "The units were built one lite wide by one floor tall, with interlocking vertical mullions that aligned with the adjacent rain screen’s stone façade, thus creating a true continuous thermal envelope." One benefit of ZGF's integrated design approach was improved communication, which led to a reduction of Addenda, Requests For Information and Architect’s Supplemental Instructions submitted during the pre-construction and construction process. The resulting assembly of the unitized system was installed and enclosed within five weeks. Some of the curtainwall units on NanoES were up to 16 feet tall. To carefully install each unit, lift equipment hoisted each unit onto embeds at face-of-slab, where they were anchored with J-Clips. In total, more than 22,000 square feet of curtainwall were installed on the project.
Integrated within the curtainwall are zero sightline project-out awning windows with both manual and motorized operators. In certain areas, windows are programmed to automatically open at night to provide natural ventilation and lessen energy load demands on the HVAC system. Complementing the high-performance curtainwall and window systems, custom, 6-inch-deep aluminum fins at vertical members and 24-inch-deep exterior sun shades were integrated into the building envelope. ZGF designed customized shadow boxes, similar to those on MolES, to add visual depth to the assembly. These elements are all protected with a two-coat "Silver Shadow" mica coating that matches the neighboring MoIES building.   Linetec manufactures the resin-based liquid paint through a process that captures the materials volatile organic compounds (VOC) content using a 100 percent air capture system and safely destroys the VOCs with a regenerative thermal oxidizer. Linetec then reuses its heat energy byproduct to improve process energy efficiency. This process of reuse is completed before the material exits the paint line. "The combination of durably finished, 4-SSG unitized curtainwall and high-performance glass achieved UW's requirements," summarizes Glauser. "We exceeded the national forerunning Seattle Energy Codes, as well as UW's energy-efficiency goals with low solar heat gain coefficient, low U-Factor and high condensation resistance. At the same time, high visible light transmittance was maintained, providing occupants with access to daylight, a transparent connection to views and interior comfort. We stayed ahead of schedule and within budget. In my book, this definitely is a success story." Elaborating on this success in the Daily Journal of Commerce, ZGF's associate partner Nicole Cooper, AIA, concluded, "The strong partnership between UW and the design team, as well as a commitment to sustainability, brings the Molecular Engineering and Sciences Building and the Nano Engineering and Sciences Building together to create one high-performance building that fosters a collaborative research environment for years to come."
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In Amazon’s new store, the cameras are the cashiers

Amazon opened the doors of its “store of the future” to the public today. The 1,800-square-foot Amazon Go is making waves over its cashier-less checkout system. The shop, first announced in late 2016 and located in downtown Seattle, uses a vast array of ceiling-mounted cameras to charge shoppers for the items they walk out with, a system that could transform the future of retail. The tech giant has attempted to break into the physical retail world before, to mixed results. But after acquiring Whole Foods in June of last year, Amazon now wields considerable leverage with which to reshape real-world retail, and test-runs of new technology could be a sign of things to come. The inaugural Amazon Go store is even designed like a Whole Foods, save for the rows of turnstiles blocking the entrance and the lack of cashiers. Customers swipe their phone and have to connect to their Amazon account in order to enter, and as they shop, hundreds of overhead cameras track what’s taken from the shelves, with no need to microchip the products. Visitors then have their Amazon accounts charged after leaving, although there are still some live humans on hand to guard the alcohol and restock the shelves. This approach is supposed to cut out the lines, but the system is less than perfect. Linking the shopping to Amazon accounts also places the mini-mart squarely in the boutique market, since Amazon has precluded the use of cash and food stamps. While Amazon has promised that it has no plans to replace any of the staff in Whole Foods stores, Amazon Go is stocked with the grocery chain’s signature 365 Everyday brand and their newly unveiled meal kits. The implication, that Amazon could replace the retail workers it now employs, isn’t without merit. Amazon has already reconfigured the urban fabric outside of its largest markets through the construction of enormous, automated distribution centers, and extending the practices honed in their warehouses into stores would be a logical next step. Amazon has already thrown brick-and-mortar stores into disarray and forced a re-evaluation of physical retail space once, and it may be poised to do it again. Below is a video explanation from Amazon of how the store works.
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Seattle’s second tallest tower rises on steel plates, without rebar

Studies are underway for the eventual construction of the Rainier Square Tower in Seattle, which will eschew a traditional concrete-and-rebar core in favor of a new steel plate system. The mixed-use Rainier Square development’s tower will be Seattle’s second tallest, and the building’s modular core will be a proof-of-concept in the earthquake-prone city. When AN first wrote about the NBBJ-designed and Wright Runstad & Company-developed Rainier Square Tower after its initial unveiling in 2015, comparisons were drawn between the building’s kinked shape and a high-heeled boot. The tower has grown from 795 feet tall to 850, but the distinctive massing and glassy facade have remained the same; the building’s slope is meant to preserve the view of the adjacent Rainier Tower, designed by Minoru Yamasaki. The $570 million Rainier Square Tower will forgo a typical high-rise core, which wraps a steel frame around a concrete core that has been reinforced with steel rebar, and will instead use a modular system of steel plates sandwiched with concrete. A boundary system is set up to shape the core, and the cross-tied plates are moved into place, and then filled onsite. While the construction of a full-scale core mock-up began in October, the general contractor, Lease Crutcher Lewis, has estimated that this alternate method would mean that the superstructure, set to begin work this August, would only take a year to complete. If these claims are true, that’s nearly nine months sooner than a comparable tower of this size. And, as the construction schedule is shortened, Wright Runstad is expected to save 2 percent of its original $370 million building costs. Structural engineer Ron Klemencic, CEO of Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA) is the system’s mastermind, and says that even with the increased construction speed and 58-story height, he’s confident that the tower will be able to withstand stress from wind sheering as well as seismic loads. The Rainier Square development will not only include the tower, but also a cubic glass-clad hotel wedged between Rainier Tower and Rainier Square Tower. Yamasaki’s concrete tower, affectionately named “The Beaver” by Seattle locals for the way the building balloons up from a narrow base akin to a chewed log, is the only original building on the block that will remain. If the engineering claims bear out and the new core system proves as easy to install as the contractors are expecting, Rainier Square Tower should be complete by April 2020.
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Seattle votes to tear down a highway tunnel, but designers see valuable public space

This week, the Seattle city council approved a timeline to tear down the elevated Highway 99 viaduct, a double-layered roadway that was damaged by an earthquake in 2001. As Seattle presses on with its expensive and sometimes controversial plan to bore an underground replacement Highway 99 tunnel, some groups are questioning what will be done with the land underneath the existing highway. While plans to revitalize Seattle’s waterfront in 2019 have been well-publicized, an opportunity to add more public space to the offering may lurk even further down. The Highway 99 viaduct currently runs over Battery Street Tunnel, a 2,000-foot-long, 60-foot-wide artery under the street, scheduled to be decommissioned alongside the viaduct. Although the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) plans to fill the 120,000-square-foot tunnel with concrete, Recharge the Battery, a collection of architects, artists and planners, have proposed activating the roadway as a public space. After Recharge the Battery took public comments in September on how to transform the space, some of the ideas that came to the forefront were an inclusive public park, bath house, interactive art gallery, monster hall of fame, and turning the tunnel into a skate park. The group has argued that, following successful adaptive resuse projects in cities around the world, such as the High Line and Transit Museum in New York, giving the Battery Street Tunnel a second life isn’t impossible. “To look at the tunnel simply as a liability and fill it in is a one-sided take,” said Jon Kiehnau, Recharge the Battery ‘s co-founder. “You have to look at the fact that the tunnel is 120,000 square feet. Based on the current price of real estate it’s worth more than $100 million. You have to look at what a positive thing it can be.” Although competing visions for the tunnel have been offered, it’s uncertain whether WSDOT would alter their infill plans, or even decouple the decommissioning of the viaduct from the destruction of the Battery Street Tunnel. WSDOT spokesperson Laura Newborn has stated that the department is legally obligated to fill in the tunnel, as it has become seismically unstable and expensive to maintain. Even Recharge the Battery has acknowledged that retrofitting the tunnel to meet seismic safety standards could cost anywhere from $10 million to $100 million. With WSDOT scheduled to begin decommissioning work in February, Recharge the Battery and the general public only have a few months left to plead their case.
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Facades+AM Seattle will showcase the city’s innovation, facades, and preservation debates

The Architect’s Newspaper will be hosting its Facades+AM conference in Seattle on December 8th at the Motif Seattle Hotel. The latest installment in AN’s ongoing conference series, Facades+AM will bring a total of three sessions and nine speakers to Emerald City–based Architecture Engineering and Construction industry professionals. The conference is co-chaired by Stephen Van Dyck, partner at LMN Architects (LMN), and will feature a bevy of Seattle-specific discussions led by some of the region’s best-known architects, designers, and engineers, including Van Dyck, Maurya McClintock of McClintock Facade Consulting, and Jim Graham of Graham Baba Architects. The morning’s panel presentations will cover three topics: cross-industry innovation, facade design for the Washington State Convention Center Addition project, and the role of historic preservation in Seattle’s ongoing construction boom. The first panel will be moderated by Van Dyck, who explained to AN that the discussion will center around the way in which Seattle’s tech-heavy economy is resulting in a collection of emerging architecture industry–adjacent technologies. The discussion will include presentations from Dan Belcher, developer with McNeel, Andry Bridge, Director of R&D with Janicki, and Choong Ng, co-founder of Vertex.AI, and will delve into synergistic technological developments coming of out the city’s most fruitful architecture and technology partnerships, like new advances in digitally-guided tooling and fabrication methodologies. The morning’s second panel discussion will zero-in on the Washington State Convention Center Addition project, for which LMN is serving as associate architect. The 1.5 million-square-foot addition to the Washington State Convention Center will usher in one of the world's first vertically-organized convention centers. One of the major challenges for the design team on the project will be to integrate the sprawling 15-story structure into surrounding areas while also promoting energy efficiency and social incubation, according to Van Dyck, who will also moderate this discussion. He will be joined by various members of the project team discussing each speaker's respective role in the project. Panelists for the discussion will be Peter Alspach, principal at ARUP, Maurya McClintock, founder of McClintock Facade Consulting, and Kate Rufe, architect at LMN. The morning’s final discussion will highlight Seattle’s ongoing growth dilemma, which is pitting high-rise residential growth and the city’s urban renewal against historic preservation efforts, many of which are aimed toward adaptive reuse, like Olson Kundig's renovations to the Seattle Space Needle. From the ongoing issues over changes coming to Lawrence Halprin’s Freeway Park, to plans for reusing the city’s iconic Key Arena and LMN’s own renovation and expansion to the Asian Art Museum, Seattle is packed with controversial, inspiring, and thoughtful historic preservation approaches alike. The adaptive reuse-focused panel—moderated by Jessica Miller, principal at LMN—will feature presentations from Blair Payson, principal at Olson Kundig, Michael Aoki-Kramer, managing principal at RDH Building Science, Inc., and Jim Graham, co-founder of Graham Baba Architects who will discuss their own firms’ preservation-related projects. For more information on Seattle’s Facades+AM conference, see the conference website.
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Dancing geometry wraps new Brooks + Scarpa transit hub in Seattle

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The Angle Lake Transit Station and Plaza is a seven-acre, 400,000-square-foot mixed-use complex for Sound Transit, a public transit agency serving the Seattle metropolitan area. The project was awarded to Los Angeles–based architecture firm Brooks + Scarpa after an international design-build competition was held. It was completed earlier this year. With over 4,000 people living within a one-half-mile radius of the station, the project offers community-focused exterior and interior spaces such as specially designed drop-off areas, retail spaces, bike storage facilities, and electric vehicle charging stations.
  • Facade Manufacturer APEL Extrusions and Intermountain Industrial Fab
  • Architects Brooks + Scarpa
  • Facade Installer Harbor Pacific/Graham
  • Facade Engineering Brooks + Scarpa, Lars Holte, P.E., Walter P. Moore
  • Location Seatac, WA
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System cast-in-place and post-tensioned concrete structure
  • Products custom-formed anodized aluminum panels
The transit hub is a seven-story, cast-in-place and post-tensioned concrete structure with an exterior facade that uses over 7,500 custom-formed blue anodized aluminum facade panels. Using ruled surface geometry, the undulating facade is formed by connecting two curves with a series of straight lines to form the surface of the facade. Each of the custom aluminum facade elements was designed and segmented into standardized sizes for the most efficient structural shape and material form, while maximizing production, fabrication and installation cost efficiency. This technique allowed the design team to work with complex curved forms and rationalize them into simple, cost-effective standardized components, making them easy to fabricate and efficient to install. The entire facade was installed in less than three weeks without the use of cranes or special equipment. The architects say the facade concept was inspired by William Forsythe’s improvisational piece, ‘Dance Geometry,’ where dancers connect their bodies by matching lines in space that could be bent, tossed or otherwise distorted. Translating this into construction, the architects explored how simple straight lines can be composed to produce implied curvature. “This idea lessens the need to think about the end result and focus more on discovering new ways of movement and transformations.” Ultimately, Brooks + Scarpa provided analysis, constructability, and digital documents for direct and automated fabrication. Working from the assumption that automated fabrication techniques would not be utilized in the project, one of the challenges of the project was to develop a workflow that would result in constructable, rationalized geometry. To achieve this, the project team worked closely with fabricators to translate digital ruled surfaces into segmented standardized sizes responsive to material requirements and fabrication efficiency. The bottom and top chords of the facade surface were segmented, which reduced their profile to measurable arcs for a pipe roller, or straight-line segments for standardized shapes. Beyond the facade, Brooks Scarpa’s plaza design caters both to transit users and the community at large by accommodating community events, such as festivals, farmers’ markets, art exhibits, and other outdoor public gatherings. Ornately designed seat walls, pathways, paving, native planting, and storm-water catchment features help to engage transit users as they move through the space, creating quiet places for social interaction while waiting for a transit connection. Beyond this plaza, the parking structure is designed to best practice standards for future adaptive reuse. These design features, along with specific energy-efficient materials and systems, allowed Angle Lake Transit Station and Plaza to be an Envision-certified sustainable mixed-use facility. Envision is a rating system similar to LEED, administered by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure for infrastructure projects.
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Olson Kundig unveils more new renderings for Seattle Space Needle renovations

For the second time this year, Seattle-based Olson Kundig has released new, jaw-dropping renderings depicting the firm’s planned renovations for the Seattle Space Needle. The renderings come as construction on the $100 million Century Project gets underway, following the installation of a 44,650-square-foot scaffolding platform at the base of the Space Needle’s Tophouse. The platform, installed by scaffolding firm Safway, will act as a base for a temporary, weather-proof structure that will shield the project’s 25 construction workers from inclement weather at the top of the Space Needle, 400 feet up in the air. The temporary structure will contain construction activity to the exterior of the Tophouse, allowing for the facilities to remain open throughout the build-out. The new renderings showcase the breath-taking vistas Olson Kundig’s designs will lend to the Space Needle, including those from a panoramic dining room supported by a rotating, all-glass floor. The renovated restaurant space will occupy the 15-foot-long rotating ring at the circumference of the Space Needle’s Tophouse and will have wrap-around views of the city provided by a continuous band of thin-framed tempered glass windows. Below the glass slab floors, the Space Needle’s structure and the gear assemblies that keep the top spinning, will be visible, as well. Tihany Design is doing the restaurant's interiors, with interior architecture by Olson Kundig. The public observation platform above will receive new all-glass enclosures, including a glass railing and embedded glass benches. Safety fencing will also be replaced and exchanged for an all-glass envelope. ADA-compliant upgrades will also be made to the structure throughout.
Principals Alana Maskin and Blair Payson told The Architect’s Newspaper that “A key design goal for the project is to improve the breathtaking and awe-inspiring view from the observation deck for all visitors.” The designers plan on making the complex more responsive to the needs of differently-abled users by adding new accessibility ramps as well as a new platform lift for wheelchair accessibility will link the observation level and exterior observation deck. The lift is designed to function as a stair when not in use as wheelchair access and can transform automatically to fit each use. The designers will also boost accessibility features for all of the Space Needle’s bathrooms, enlarging and reconfiguring facilities to ensure ADA compliance.
Another goal of the project, Maskin and Payson explained, was to bring the new designs in line with original visions for the spire, which included floor-to-ceiling glass enclosures on the observation levels that were not entirely possible given existing technologies at the time of original construction. Maskin added, "If there is one material that defines this renovation, it is glass,” while explaining that the firm had partnered with glazing engineer Front to utilize “every typical glass type” in existence, from annealed, heat-
strengthened, heat-tempered, chemically-tempered, and laminated glass technologies.
Construction is expected to be completed by summer 2018, and the Century Project website has more information. Blair Payson, Principal at Olson Kundig, will be speaking about the project at Facades+AM Seattle on December 8th.
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Seattle’s Key Arena granted landmark status

The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board has granted landmark status for the city’s iconic Key Arena, a move that will help guide recently-proposed renovations for the 55-year-old structure. Earlier this year, Los Angeles–based developers Oak View Group unveiled a speculative bid to renovate and update the aging structure in an attempt to lure professional basketball and hockey teams to the Emerald City. The $564 million scheme was selected by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray in lieu of a competing bid from AEG and Hudson Pacific Properties, partially because Oak View’s proposal sought to keep intact more of the structure’s historic, character-defining features, like its hyperbolic paraboloid roof. The recent landmark designation is expected to aid in this endeavor by creating a predictable and orderly scope for the renovations to proceed. Potentially, the landmark status could also allow the development to benefit from historic tax credits. The structure, according to Arena Digest, was recognized by the preservation board for meeting all six thresholds for historic designation, with the building’s roof, exterior walls, and structural trusses receiving official status. Key Arena was designed by architect Paul A. Thiry in 1962 as the Washington State Pavilion for the Century 21 Exposition. The structure became a sports arena in the years after the exposition and played home to the Seattle Supersonics professional basketball team from 1967 until 2008 when the team decamped for Oklahoma City. The structure received extensive renovations in 1995 that partially impacted the now-historic roof structure. It is unclear how or if the new renovation scheme will seek to repair these changes.
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Booming Seattle dominates nationwide crane count

The latest “crane index” report from construction industry tracking firm Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB) reveals the ongoing construction boom across the American West, as the region's major cities see broad increases in the number of cranes on the ground. RLB’s biannual skyline count has tallied nearly 400 fixed cranes in operation across the U.S. and the Canadian cities of Toronto and Calgary. Toronto topped out the list, overall, with 72 cranes in operation. Seattle fell one spot to second overall, with Los Angeles, and Denver, Colorado—tallying 58, 36, and 35 cranes, respectively— rounding out the top three American cities on the list. Chicago; Portland, Oregon; Calgary; and San Francisco follow closely behind with the list with 34, 32, 29, and 22 cranes each. Seattle’s count has held steady from the last report in October 2016, when the city first captured top ranking. The cities of Calgary, Denver, Los Angeles, and Portland, according to the report, saw increases while crane counts over the period since, with counts for Boston, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Toronto remaining the same. In Seattle, the city’s emerging Denny Triangle neighborhood and regional growth associated with recent upzoning measures aimed at alleviating the regional housing crisis there helped to keep the city’s crane count high. Wolfstreet recently reported that an estimated 67,507 apartment units are in various stages of development in the city. In Los Angeles, meanwhile, a city-led push to add 8,000 hotel rooms to areas surrounding the Los Angeles Convention Center is responsible for many of the gains there, as several projects like the Gensler-designed Metropolis, Fig + Pico, and 1020 Figueroa developments climb out of the ground. High rise developments going up in surrounding downtown areas, as well as the ongoing construction of the new Los Angeles Rams National Football League team stadium by HKS Architects, account for some of the other gains. Overall, the RLB report cites strong growth in residential construction as an overall driver for the general increase in cranes across the region. RLB’s next report is due January 2018.
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LMN Architects unveil new renderings for Seattle Aquarium expansion

Seattle-based LMN Architects has released new renderings depicting the firm’s planned 50,000-square-foot addition to the Seattle Aquarium complex. LMN’s $100 million design focuses on adding a new wing adjacent to the existing aquarium to boost capacity at the 40-year-old institution, which has been operating near capacity in recent years. The so-called Ocean Pavilion will house new exhibits focused on tropical and reef ecosystems and will include a 350,000-gallon warm-water tank that can house larger aquatic specimens such as sharks. The shark tank will come outfitted with several viewing platforms and will be located within a larger, flexible gathering space that can hold up to 200 people in a variety of configurations. The new addition will also include smaller “jewel” tanks that will highlight rare species with the help of new interpretive technologies. This space will also include smaller, more intimate gathering spots for “hands-on educational activities and interpretation,” according to a statement from the architects. In the statement, Bob Davidson, CEO of the Seattle Aquarium said, "LMN Architects brings a rich history and commitment to community-focused civic projects, combined with a strong design approach that connects public-focused building programs with the crafting of urban space and experience.” Mark Reddington, partner at LMN Architects, said, "The Seattle Aquarium is a leader in education and advocacy for the health of the world's oceans. For the City of Seattle, this project will create a prominent civic presence for the Aquarium and form the primary public connection between the new waterfront promenade to Pike Place Market." The proposed addition comes as work on the Seattle waterfront redevelopment plan by James Corner Field Operations (JCFO) progresses toward construction. JCFO’s plan would bring a network of pedestrian trails, streets improvements, and plaza spaces to an area currently occupied by the Alaskan Way Viaduct, a section of Interstate-5 that is in the process of being buried below the proposed improvements. Once the new tunnel is completed, the expanded aquarium complex will sit at the end of a generous pedestrian plaza and will have direct access to the improved waterfront areas and the newly reconnected downtown. The aquarium expansion is due to finish construction in 2023.
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Lawrence Halprin’s Freeway Park in Seattle to undergo wayfinding-focused renovation

Seattle's Freeway Park, a pioneering work of modernist landscape architecture by Lawrence Halprin and Angela Danadjieva that is widely recognized as the world’s first freeway cap park, is preparing to undergo a series of wayfinding-oriented renovations over coming months. The renovations are being undertaken by the Freeway Park Association (FPA)—a nonprofit organization created in 1993 “in response to the community’s demand for greater public safety in their aging neighborhood park.” The FPA recently completed a RFP for the project and hired Seattle-based landscape architects SiteWorkshop to perform the improvements and proposed alterations to the iconic Brutalist park. The 5.2-acre park opened on July 4, 1976, spanning over a depressed stretch of Interstate-5 in downtown Seattle. The park was expanded over the years, including the construction of a major addition in the 1980s and implementation of a tree canopy minimization plan in 2005; the original designers remained involved variously throughout these changes. When originally built, Danadjieva’s and Halprin’s designs symbolized the city’s effort to weave highway-adjacent areas back together following the route’s destructive beginnings. As a result, the park is organized as a web of stepped and zig-zagging walkways and terraces that surround a central walking path directly above the depressed highway. These walkways link the central path to formal park entrances, lawns, and plazas that are scattered on surrounding blocks and footholds. These areas are individually programmed to provide various types of leisure spaces. Architecturally-speaking, the park’s hardscapes are of their time and follow a Brutalist material palette. Throughout, the park features board-formed concrete surfaces—Halprin envisioned the park as a type of “freeway vernacular” that was inspired by and built from freeway-associated forms and materials—that become the retaining walls, planters, and knee walls that give the park its stark character. These terraces and planters are filled with broadleaf trees and shrubbery in mounds that rise and fall according to the surrounding natural and human-made geographies.
The park is also well-known for a magnificent cascading raw concrete fountain that originally emptied into a deep pool that park-goers used as a swimming hole. The fountain’s steep and angular surfaces are based on the abstracted geologic forms of western mountain ranges and the fountain bears much resemblance to the Ira Keller Fountain designed by Halprin and Danadjieva in Portland, Oregon.   At the time of design and construction of Freeway Park, Danadjieva was a project manager at Halprin’s office; the scheme was carried out by the firm with assistance from Peterson Landscape Architects. One big issue with the contemporary park is a byproduct of its “freeway vernacular” aesthetic and site arrangement: many of the park’s formal entrances are located behind blind corners, at the feet of steep staircases, and without direct sightlines through the park’s interior spaces. Further, Halprin pursued a landscape-based narrative strategy for arranging the park’s interior rooms that has resulted in closed-off spaces, as well as picturesque arrangements. These former qualities are seen by FPA and some in the community as opportunities for crime. As a response, the design team has been tasked with not only increasing wayfinding strategies within the park to highlight paths but also with transforming each of the park’s 12 main entrances into urban beacons that use signage, pavement graphics, and other placemaking approaches. There are concerns regarding how far some of these changes might go and which aspects of the park are changeable, given its importance as a work of landscape architecture. At 41 years old, Freeway Park is too young to meet the 50-year age eligibility requirement for the National Register of Historic Places, though it does meet the City of Seattle’s age requirement for historic status. One note—Although Freeway Park is less than 50 years old, it might be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places due to individual and exceptional merit. Pershing Park in Washington, DC by M. Paul Friedberg is such an example. The park is described as “one of the most compelling treatises on post-war landscape architecture” by The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF), an organization that raises awareness about historic landscapes around the United States. Charles Birnbaum, founder of TCLF, said the potential changes should bear in mind that Freeway Park is "not just as a National Register of Historic Places candidate but also a potential National Historic Landmark and UNESCO World Heritage Site." Halprin, always looking forward, was reportedly “enthusiastic and supportive” of upgrades performed to the park’s tree canopy in 2005, according to the Daily Journal of Commerce. Perhaps, the designers will take a page from Halprin himself and embrace some of the park’s rougher qualities, following a line from the designer’s 1966 book, Freeways, where he writes, "The trick is to perceive the old freeway as a part of the cityscape and tame it, rather than complain about it." For now, FPA is engaging in community outreach to ascertain which aspects of the park nearby residents want to see amplified and upgraded. The organizers held a public meeting last week, with more scheduled throughout the summer. For more information, see the FPA website.   This post has been edited with updated information.
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A smartphone-controlled responsive shading system prototype

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Sean McKeever, a senior associate at NBBJ, works between architecture and energy modeling in the firm’s corporate and digital practice studios. "One of the things I appreciate the most about architecture is not its static state. I love to see a building that is clearly 'living' with its occupants. There's beauty in letting users have a certain amount of control over the building." In response to a growing desire for clients to produce more user control over their workplace, McKeever and his colleagues have released multiple apps for smartphones and a prototype for a smartphone-controlled facade-shading device.
  • Facade Manufacturer tbd, Prototyping Phase
  • Architects NBBJ
  • Facade Installer tbd, Prototyping Phase
  • Facade Consultants NBBJ Digital Practice group (concept development)
  • Location Seattle, WA
  • Date of Completion 2016-ongoing
  • System unitized curtain wall with integrated LED
  • Products pyranometer sensors; Goldilocks app (by NBBJ)
The prototype, called Sunbreak, is a responsive system of louvers that raise and lower dependent upon solar radiation, temperature, and user override variables. The project has its roots in the Seattle office, which is one of the first buildings in the country to integrate automated exterior blinds that raise and lower with pre-programmed sun paths throughout the day. Although these sunshades have been a popular feature from the start, they block employees’ views when deployed, inspiring the firm to improve them. McKeever attributes this to a lack of user control and the fact that the blinds operate without regard to radiation data. Sunbreak runs off of pyranometers—sensors measuring solar radiation and infrared light. When shading is not needed, the panelized system folds up to, in McKeever’s words, “hide from view,” while performing as a light shelf to direct daylight further into the building. The modular shades feature narrow slats that operate along vertically oriented tracks. As the system contracts, individual panels fan out to form curvilinear shapes, which NBBJ’s team has fine-tuned to produce optimum shading responses throughout the diurnal cycle. The project is panelized so that individual units can be controlled by a smartphone app, allowing authorized users to operate the shades in real time. Since Sunbreak was developed, user-control and responsiveness to sensored data has extended beyond the facade to the interior workplace. "The user-driven ultra-controllable workplace is the desirable workplace of the future and present.” In response, NBBJ’s Digital Practice group has developed an app called Goldilocks that utilizes real-time data to track acoustics, temperature, daylighting, and activity within open office environments, giving employees the option to find an ideal working environment for their current tasks. McKeever believes facade projects are more challenging to implement for the industry due to their complexity: "I think dynamic facades are still in a ‘prototyping’ phase for much of the industry. To deliver a project of this ambition at full-scale you need collaborative partnerships among teams of specialists and capital investment… I'm excited where the industry is going, but it feels like we can't get there fast enough!"