Posts tagged with "Seattle":

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Seattle overtakes New York City and Los Angeles in list ranking construction cranes

A recently-released report by construction and building consulting agency Rider Levett Bucknall has determined that for 2016, Seattle has surpassed New York City and Los Angeles as the city with the highest concentration of construction cranes in operation. The Pacific Northwest city is currently experiencing an unparalleled construction boom: In addition to high-rise, mixed-use construction projects going up across the area, a new neighborhood of high-rise skyscrapers is sprouting up adjacent to the new, NBBJ-designed headquarters for online retailer Amazon. More to the point, according to the report, Seattle has 58 construction cranes in operation. That’s more than New York City and San Francisco combined, which have 28 and 24 cranes each, respectively. This total more double Chicago's count (26 cranes) and is 18 cranes higher than the second-highest city in ranking, Los Angeles (40 cranes). The report also sheds light on the expanding scope of large-scale construction projects dotting the West Coast. Seattle’s booming Denny Triangle neighborhood, the aforementioned Amazon-adjacent condo-town, and various other downtown developments are leading a city-wide push for new construction. In San Francisco, the Transbay Center and Salesforce Tower complexes, as well as the surrounding and also-booming South of Market neighborhood, are raising the skyline higher. And in Los Angeles, luxury developments like the Metropolis, Oceanwide Plaza, and Wilshire Grand Hotel projects, each of which will ultimately cost more than $1 billion to build, are throwing up cranes there. The report also lists 22 cranes dotting the skyline of Portland, Oregon, a city with a comparatively lower skyline populated by a higher number of the mid-rise, seven-story and up structures that require cranes for construction. According to the report, Seattle has seen a 43-percent increase in crane counts since this time last year, led by the commercial, mixed-use, and residential market sectors. One unknown from the rapid pace of construction, however, is if the overall increase in development will have a noticeable impact on housing prices across the region, which from San Diego to San Francisco and Portland to Seattle remaining stubbornly high.
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Seattle’s waterfront transformation by James Corner Field Operations prepares to break ground this year

Seattle, Washington’s waterfront redevelopment, an endeavor James Corner Field Operations (JCFO) has been working on diligently for nearly a decade, is steadily moving closer to being implemented, as the $700 million project heads toward beginning construction this year. 

The development cleared a major hurdle in August when supporters of the project garnered over 80 percent of the cast ballots needed to reject an initiative that would have derailed the JCFO scheme. JCFO’s vision for the two-mile-long promenade would stitch together city’s burgeoning downtown with its isolated, post-industrial waterfront, converting the space currently occupied by the Alaskan Way Viaduct into a broad pedestrian-oriented waterfront park and roadway. The Alaskan Way Viaduct, built in 1953, is currently in the process of being replaced by a partially completed underground highway tunnel that would free up the city’s coastline for public recreational activities. The redevelopment will be funded via a new tax levied on downtown businesses and will continue a nationwide trend of replacing or repurposing aging infrastructure with a mix of public amenities and new development.

Andrew tenBrink, a designer at JCFO who has been working on the project since it started in 2010, said the firm had been “struck by the ‘big nature’ of the area,” as it developed a project for a city sitting “on the cusp of the wilderness, between the bay and mountains.”

Aside from creating a new recreational spine for the city’s downtown, the new route will also string together existing cultural destinations along the waterfront like the famed Pike Place Market to the south, the Bassetti Architects–designed Seattle Aquarium at its center, and the Weiss/Manfredi Architects–designed Olympic Sculpture Park to the north. Charles Anderson Landscape Architecture was a landscape architecture consultant for the project. 

The aquarium, built in 1977 on the waterfront’s Pier 59, can currently only be reached via a disruptive landscape of viaduct overpasses and parking lots. In the new plan, it will be located at the end of a broad public plaza accessible by a scenic lookout designed in concert with the waterfront scheme, reconnecting it to the city center.

JCFO’s redevelopment plan would also connect to the iconic Olympic Sculpture Park located at the northern edge of the development, connecting the city’s network of bicycle and walking trails, currently divided between north and south, together along the waterfront. TenBrink described the history of the waterfront as something that has “constantly evolved” over its transition from native habitat to industrial area and transportation corridor. In the near future, Seattle’s waterfront will transform once again to become a line between the “pristine nature of Pacific Northwest and a very manufactured (urban) landscape,” said tenBrink.

Another major and partially completed component of the project entails rebuilding an existing seawall used to mitigate Puget Sound’s constantly fluctuating tides. Between epic “king tides,” monthly lunar tides, and other seasonally variable waves, the water’s height can vary by as much as 12 feet, so the design team has deployed specially-designed panels, some codesigned with local artists, to create spots for tidal wildlife to live and grow. The wall also marks the area’s mean, low, and high tides and contains walkway areas with embedded glass blocks that allow for daylight to permeate the water, as to not disrupt sensitive spawning grounds.

The remaining areas that feed into the promenade and roadway will also receive improvements to their streetscapes in order to facilitate the pedestrianization of surrounding areas while also inserting key landscape components.

This article was part of our Oct. 12 issue which focused on how water is shaping today’s landscape architecture and urbanism. Communities face deluges and droughts—for some, the stakes can be survival itself, but others see opportunities for decadence. To explore these stories from around the U.S. and the world, click here.

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Perkins+Will integrates healthy materials into their new Seattle office

On an early May day, Perkins+Will Seattle gave The Architect's Newspaper a tour of their new offices in downtown Seattle, the first of their global offices designed to incorporate their in-house healthy materials initiative research. The Seattle office moved east in April from their prior space on First Avenue above the Seattle Art Museum, to Minoru Yamasaki’s 1977 Rainier Tower on Fifth Avenue. The relocation gave Perkins+Will the opportunity to live-test their healthy materials initiative—putting their research on toxic building chemicals into action on themselves. In 2009, Perkins+Will developed a precautionary list of harmful building materials, compiling governmental agency information about building chemicals that may harm our environment and ourselves.

“We wanted our workspace to reflect who we really are, and to some extent use ourselves as a little test lab. Can we walk the walk?” said Ed Palushock, associate and senior project designer at Perkins+Will who heads up the firm’s Material Performance Research Lab.

“There were a bunch of people who did some research and started recognizing, hey, these chairs that we’re putting in the space have flame retardants [in them] that have a fallout for people’s health. Or, we’re using copper on exterior roofs, and noticing some research being done about elevated copper levels in runoff water. Some copper is good, but too much copper is not so good,” said Palushock. “The goal was to take ourselves out of the equation.”

The Perkins+Will Vancouver office led the Seattle office design, working with Perkins+Will’s Seattle team. The precautionary list informed how the firm approached their new space on a micro level: 32 of the 34 products and finishes met the firm’s healthy materials standards. The vetting process involved a bit of investigation, as some product manufacturers’ ingredients lists were proprietary or incomplete. (Two products that didn’t meet the architecture firm’s requirements: A chromium alloy plating process used to lend a chrome finish to products, and the solar shades. The firm found out after installation that the shades contained 15 percent PVC.)

There was a slight up-charge for specifying healthier materials. “But once [these materials] become an industry standard, it will level the playing field,” said Oliver Wuttig, an architectural designer at Perkins+Will. “The more we ask manufacturers about these products, the less it becomes a commoditized item.”

The Seattle office spans two floors. The main office is 16,500 square feet while a lower level houses a 1,400-square-foot materials library and model shop. But even with close to 120 employees working in the office, the main level—with most of the surfaces white and soft gray—is bright and spacious due to an open, square-shaped floor plan. Workstations with employees organized by teams, a corner kitchen, and meeting and conference rooms run along the perimeter with direct access to natural light and views of downtown and Puget Sound. The firm also has phone rooms for privacy. “We sit people together who are working together,” said Palushock. “Every month or every other month there is a switching around in the office.”

At the core are elevators and an entryway featuring white perforated branded metal screens backlit by LEDs. Along the outer core walls, the firm can display projects and hold critiques. There’s also a social component to the design. Each corner of the office is reserved for flexible workspaces—a kitchen in one corner can double as a meeting room for the whole office. “The kitchen engages people and gets them from their desk, said Wuttig.

The sustainable building industry has made headwinds in the past decade—the United States now has an abundance of certification opportunities such as LEED, the Living Building Challenge, and Cradle to Cradle—the presence of toxic chemicals in products is a persistent issue. “We have wiring lined in polyvinyl chloride (PVC), but it can contain endocrine disruptors like phthalates and Bisphenol A,” Palushock explained. A safer alternative to PVC may be polyvinyltulene (PVT). But it’s not ready for market. “It’s one thing to design a building in terms of the orientation and use healthy materials, but the question is, what are those healthy materials?” he continued.

Perhaps we lag behind Europe on the healthy materials front because of our legal framework and mentality. As Palushock put it, Europe’s approach is to “prove this material is not harmful” while in the U.S., it’s “safe unless deemed otherwise.”

Resources General Contractor: Turner Construction Company Lighting Consultants: Candela Corporation and Stantec Electrical Consultant: Evergreen Electric HVAC, Plumbing Consultant: American Mechanical Corporation
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Kirkland Urban development outside Seattle breaks ground

Construction has started on the Kirkland Urban, an 11.5-acre mixed-use development designed and master planned by Seattle-based architects CollinsWoerman for the Seattle-adjacent city of Kirkland, Washington. The complex, a redevelopment of an existing shopping mall, is being redesigned around the notion of an “18-hour city,” a designation typically reserved for the mid-sized metropolitan centers that offer the density of amenities, jobs, and housing present in larger cities but do not necessarily run around-the-clock. The model relies on the mixed-use configurations to maintain a more balanced streetlife than prototypical purpose-built business districts, which typically shut down after business hours. In a press release for the first phase of the project, partners PGIM Real Estate, Talon Private Capital, and Ryan Companies, US detail their plans for the first phase of Kirkland Urban: 390,000-square feet of Class-A office space, 140,000-square feet of retail, 185 apartments, and 1,700 parking spaces. The office spaces will take the form of a pair of six-story towers resting atop a multi-tiered retail podium. The developers are in the process of filling the towers with tech workers—tech companies Wave and Tableau have already signed on as anchor tenants—and plans also include a 50,000 grocery store to be operated by Kroger. The complex aims to include public art-lined “multi-family open spaces” and will feature a series of plazas oriented toward an adjacent recreational park, Peter Kirk Park. The residential component of the project, housed in a brick-and-balcony-clad apartment block, will be designed by Seattle-based Weber Thompson and feature a roof deck, club room and fitness center. Seattle-based firm Hewitt will provide landscape design services for the project. The developers and architects are aiming for LEED Gold certification for the project. The second phase of the Kirkland Urban has not yet been announced, but phase one is scheduled for completion in 2018.
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LMN Architects to expand Seattle’s historic Asian Art Museum

The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) has revealed renderings for LMN Architects’ expansion of the organization’s Asian Art Museum (AAM) location in the city’s Volunteer Park. The $49 million expansion and renovation will be to the historic home of the SAM, an art moderne building originally built in 1933 to house the original SAM. (The flagship SAM collection moved to a Venturi, Scott Brown-designed complex downtown in 1991). The LMN Architects-designed project will entail the first substantial renovation in the structure’s history. Historically-significant aspects of the original building, like the stone facade, will be preserved, accompanied by the wholesale addition of new programmatic components to the existing structure, originally designed by Carl F. Gould of the architectural firm Bebb and Gould. The 83-year-old building will receive crucial upgrades like Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-related improvements and the addition of an air conditioning and humidity control system. The building, which was not listed on the National Register of Historic Places until July of this year, will also receive a new wing along its eastern side containing a 2,650-square foot gallery, a community meeting room, and a set of new office spaces relocated from within the existing building. Aside from hosting new, dedicated educational spaces and potentially, a new, publically-visible Asian art conservation studio, the extension will aim to increase connections between the museum and its surrounding park spaces. Renderings released by LMN Architects and the museum show a straightforwardly-articulated, masonry-clad, L-shaped extension overlooking a gently sloping park. Along the top floor of a three-story expansion, a large portion of the extension’s articulated facade is clad in glass and projects out over the landscape. The floors below are more solid in their massing and surface treatments, but also feature large expanses of punched openings. The SAM is currently making preparations for the two-year renovation process, which is set to begin in the fall of 2017. The AAM will hold community meetings to discuss the project throughout the following weeks, as the project moves forward. For more information on the Asian Art Museum renovation and expansion campaign, please visit the museum’s website.
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Seattle activists succeed in blocking police “bunker”

Social and community activists are rejoicing across Seattle this week as long-running efforts to stop the construction of the $149.2 million North Precinct police station appear to have (at least temporarily) prevailed. Late last week, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced that his office and the city council would no longer pursue the development. According to the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, in conceding to the protesters’ demands, Mayor Murray said, “I inherited the [North Precinct] proposal and I made mistake about not stopping [it],” adding that his administration had failed to use the city’s “racial equity toolkit” while considering the project. The proposal in question, a 105,000 square foot facility designed by Portland-based firm SRG Partnership, has been in development since 2014 and was expected to begin construction next year with an estimated completion date of 2019. The recent move throws that timeline out the window. Over the last several months, a group called Block The Bunker coalesced to fight the proposal as public outcry regarding the new station, expected to be the most expensive in the country, reached a fever pitch. Councilmember Kshama Sawant, one of the leaders of the Block the Bunker movement, celebrated the group’s victory, stating at a rally, “Yesterday, racial, social, and economic justice advocates scored one of the most important victories nationally since Black Lives Matter began in 2014. Our movement has blocked the bunker!” As the opposition to the precinct crystallized, Block The Bunker aligned itself with the goals of Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, with the local group seeing its opposition to expanded investment in police infrastructure as tied to national efforts aimed at putting an end to mass incarceration and the overall fight against racial inequality in American society. The Seattle-based group has built upon BLM’s slate of causes by specifically demanding that the funds appropriated for the police station be spent instead on 1,000 units of affordable housing. It is unclear if the city will bend to those demands, but after the activists took control of a City Council meeting Tuesday night, their calls for reform grew more pointed. Speakers reiterated the group’s push for other political objectives, including blocking the construction of a new youth jail as well as stopping the city from hiring more police officers. Either way, the Bunker isn’t dead yet. According to Sawant’s comments, the City and City Council are still planning to build a police precinct in North Seattle eventually, with the measure only being only temporarily tabled until next year. For more information, follow Block The Bunker’s website.
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Seattle’s new North Precinct project could be the most expensive police station in the country

Seattle is in the process of replacing their outdated North Precinct building, but under the project's current cost estimate the new structure will set the city back $149.2 million. Even after a recent cost reduction (down from an original estimate of $160 million) that will make it the most expensive police building in the country. Among the recent cost adjustments to the original plan were the removing one level of the parking bay, opting out of finishing the basement, and removing rooftop solar arrays. Construction costs are expected to number $92.5 million, while development costs will run $52.6 million. Another $14.3 million was allocated for the cost of land acquisition as well as the cost of relocating the site's current tenants at Aurora Avenue North and North 130th Street (namely, a car dealership and several office buildings). The high cost of the new building has raised red flags for many residents. According to The Seattle Times, the project was initially only expected to cost $88.5 million, and the new figure might still be more than the city can afford. The Times points out that the city is also badly in need of new sidewalks, which the city claimed not to have the money to build. The Portland-based firm SRG Partnership is leading the architecture and design team, having won a Request for Qualifications in 2014. Turner Construction, which is headquartered in New York but has a Seattle office, will be the general contractor and construction manager. The predesign phase started in 2014. Plans for the new precinct building call for a 105,000 square foot facility with a life span of 30 to 50 years. The building will accommodate projected staff growth through 2038; it will also be used by the community in emergency situations and will be built above typical standards for withstanding an earthquake. LEED Gold certification is another goal for the project. The current schedule calls for construction to begin in 2017 and finish in 2019. The Seattle city council is expected to approve the design, but may require further cuts to the overall cost.
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Inside LMN Architects, the studio designing major urban projects from San Antonio to Vancouver

Awarded the 2016 AIA National Architecture Firm Award in December 2015, LMN Architects is having a moment. Perhaps most well known for its large urban projects—convention centers, performing arts centers and urban infrastructure—the Seattle firm has worked out of its downtown Seattle office in the 1959 international style Norton Building for the past 30 years. Founded in 1979, LMN is a one-studio firm with close to 150 employees. Its 40,000-square-foot office spans two-and-a-half floors.

“We believe the best way to comprehensively understand a space is to build physical models,” said LMN partner John Chau. “Models don’t lie...That’s why we like this building. It allows us to have spaces to do that.” The LMN office is mainly an open plan with downtown views, column-free studio spaces, model building areas, and conference rooms. A lower floor hosts LMN’s in-house digital fabrication shop. There’s a dual gantry CNC mill that LMN built about a year ago that features two cutting machines on a single cutting bed.

LMN discussed the challenges of building in the future: With less available land, sites will get smaller, necessitating building more efficiently and vertically to accommodate denser layers—more people, more infrastructure, and more ecology in the same space. “We no longer are just simply architects,” said Chau. “The need for all of us to collaborate more, communicate more, is even more critical—it’s important to know what the city council is thinking about, what its leads are. And it’s going back to being very informed citizens—we have the gift, ability, and the responsibility to help solve a lot of issues that arise.” 

Tobin Center for the Performing Arts San Antonio, TX

The performing arts center opened late 2014—an effort to reinvigorate the 1926 San Antonio Municipal Auditorium designed by architect Atlee Ayres that had become outdated. “We built a new auditorium, but rotated the geometry to create a new outdoor space and new entry to the San Antonio River Walk,” said LMN partner Mark Reddington. LMN kept the historic facade and added a new structure, clad in a textured metal veil. The shroud encloses the auditorium and filters the light in different colors and angles. The interior lobby hosts custom tiles that curve in plan and section—each row shifts, creating a negative volume.

Inside the main concert hall, a perforated wood fascia backlit with LEDs allows for an array of colorful effects. The hall can hold up to 1,738 seats and 2,100 people with a flat floor setup. The performance hall also contains the first gala floor system in the U.S. The seats sit on motorized platforms that can fold over, creating a flat floor that can be used for other types of events like rock concerts. Inside the performing arts center is a 295-seat studio theater and the outdoor plaza facing the San Antonio River can hold up to 600 seats.

University of Iowa Voxman Music Building Iowa City, IA

Opening October 2016, the new 180,000-square-foot music school for the University of Iowa will replace the previous one sited along the Iowa River that flooded in 2008. LMN moved the new building 50 feet up the hill, orienting it with the center of the college town. The mostly glass exterior building will hold a 700-seat concert hall, a recital hall with 200 seats, and rooms for pipe organs, classes, rehearsal areas, and faculty. “We wanted to create a building that was an extension of the public experience of the street, so that people could wander in, go to a performance at the music school, or students could come in and visit a professor,” said Reddington.

The building’s small footprint necessitated going vertical, stacking up to five stories of isolated music rooms. LMN developed a theatroacoustics system, a high-performance ceiling system that optimizes acoustics while hiding some of the structural elements such as speakers, microphones, fire sprinklers, and stage lights. “[The theatroacoustics system] was actually a money saving move,” said LMN partner Stephen Van Dyck. “They’re all put together in one gesture. It kind of becomes transcendent beyond any one of those individual pieces,” said Reddington.

Vancouver Convention Centre West Vancouver, BC, Canada

After a series of false starts and shifting sites, LMN knew its design for the west addition to the Vancouver Convention Centre would finally happen if Vancouver won the 2010 Olympic Winter Games bid. The project was included in the bid as the media center. When the architects saw the front page of the Vancouver Sun with the winning news, they knew they would get the green light. “That’s how we knew it was real,” said Chau. The 1.2-million–square-foot convention center addition was completed in 2009. It occupies 22 acres—14 acres on land, eight acres over the water—of what was once a brownfield site.

The convention center boasts a six-acre green roof with 240,000 bees producing honey for the convention center restaurant. The interiors feature local British Columbia wood. The project also supports the maritime harbor ecosystem. “It’s linked into the landscape, habitat, and shore system,” said Reddington. “There’s a marine habitat that goes around the edge of the building and underneath.” LMN used the concrete loading dock as the infrastructure to support a reef, said Van Dyck.

Sound Transit U Link University of Washington Station Seattle, WA

LMN designed the University of Washington light rail station and surrounding open space that opened in March 2016. The boarding platform can accommodate up to 1,600 people. “We had to link in all of this stuff—a bridge, a bicycle pathway, a head house, escalators, stairs, and then the station block underground that is 500 feet long,” said Reddington. Perhaps the most challenging, but rewarding, part of the project was designing the smoke chamber. “For fire requirements you have to create a big smoke chamber,” said Reddington. “If there is a fire somewhere, it helps isolate the fire so people can get out and not have smoke running all the way through the entire station.”

LMN worked with Seattle artist Leo Saul Berk, who created “Subterranium,” an installation made with nearly 9,000 square feet of custom deep blue metal backlit panels that wrap the smoke chamber. The panels tell the story of the site’s geology. “By integrating a lot of things into a single system, you have the capacity of one system to solve many problems—like a smoke enclosure that is now the main sculptural expression of a subway station,” said Van Dyck.

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What costs $300 to $500 per square foot but disappears at the touch of a button?

Perhaps the most famous disappearing pool is the one in the Beverly Hills High School gym, or maybe it is the one used in the Cirque du Soleil show O, at the Bellagio Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Either way, both will have some serious competition in the new disappearing pool tucked inside an otherwise conventional recreational center in Bonney Lake, Washington, 39 miles outside of Seattle. Belgium-based HydroFloors built the pool for the Seven Summits Lodge clubhouse at Trilogy at Tehaleh, a Baby Boomer residential housing development by homebuilding giant Shea Homes. While the clubhouse and lodge designed and built by Zetterberg Gregory Design and Zetterberg Custom Homes comes in the classic, Pacific Northwest vernacular of exposed wood and timber framing, the pool brings high-tech flexibility to the residential community. In fewer than 10 minutes, the 49- by 29-foot lap pool converts into a floor for meetings, dances, and other events. When lowered, the movable floor “opens” the pool, which can hold close to 44,000 gallons of water. When the floor is raised completely, it hides the pool. The pool floor, which costs around $300 to $500 per square foot, sits on a metal grid supported by Styrofoam blocks and relies on a hydraulic ram and cable system to move up and down.
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Seattle Public Radio Station KEXP’s new headquarters opens near the Space Needle

It was a bright spring day in Seattle’s lower Queen Anne neighborhood when nonprofit alt-rock radio station KEXP (90.3 FM) opened the doors of its new 25,000-square-foot digs designed by local firm SkB Architects. The new KEXP space—part of Seattle Center, a 74-acre park, arts, and entertainment area that includes the Space Needle—was packed for its soft opening. There was a hushed tone as English singer-songwriter-guitarist Robyn Hitchcock performed. He ended his set with the cheeky ode to Seattle, “Viva! Sea-Tac”—the first song KEXP played when staff moved into its new office in December 2015 after the phase one completion.

SkB designed the new KEXP headquarters in a structure originally built as an exhibition hall for the 1962 World’s Fair with tech and studio designer Walters-Storyk Design Group. It includes on-air studios, DJ booths, production rooms, staff offices, and more—KEXP expects to continue to host over 500 in-studio performances each year, which the public can now view live from an adjacent room that can hold up to 75 people. The new KEXP also houses a 4,500-square-foot public community space with a coffee shop and showroom.

“We wanted to bring the outside in,” said Shannon Gaffney, SkB cofounder and co-lead designer on the project. Circulation was a challenge and required striking the right balance between openness and decompression, public and private. Gaffney explained, “It was like a puzzle.”

KEXP builds on the growing trend of public-private collaboration—where privately owned space (or privately-publicly owned space, as with KEXP’s new home) is open to and used by the public. In St. Louis, for instance, the independent community radio station KDHX operates out of the Larry J. Weir Center for Independent Media, with a ground floor venue space that can hold up to 140 people.

The public gathering space is open and light-filled, pulling together exposed silver and white ductwork with turquoise accents, low-key stenciled concrete floors, and roll-up garage doors. It’s an effect that transforms the area into an indoor plaza and public extension of the courtyard to the east. Many of its materials were donated, said Gaffney. This includes the dark wood paneling, sourced from Puget Sound, that frames the glass-windowed DJ looking into the space. When not being used for live concerts, the gathering space converts into a lounge.

A key feature of the new HQ is KEXP’s 50,000-album music library. The library is non-circulating, but it embraces the public-private concept by being located at the most extroverted part of the KEXP site, hugging its southeast corner. There is large floor-to-ceiling UV-protective glazing, so albums are protected, but still visible from the street.

Back inside the public gathering space is a cafe, La Marzocco, which SkB designed with creative branding agency States of Matter. It is the Florentine-founded espresso machine manufacturer’s first cafe and showroom. Seattle company Mallet, Inc. built the cabinets locally. The colored-glass panels were made in Italy using traditional techniques, said Gaffney. Each month, the cafe features new roasters and a curated coffee menu.

By weaving together public-private elements in the new space, KEXP is able to connect more closely with its listeners while the public can hear (and watch) musicians, meet friends, study, have an espresso, and peek into the daily workings of an indie public radio station.

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Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles vie for tallest tower west of the Mississippi

The West Coast’s largest cities are reaching for the record books as a succession of towers vying for the mantle of the “tallest west of the Mississippi” go up across the region.

Los Angeles’s 1,018-foot-tall U.S. Bank Tower, a prismatic 1989 blue and white skyscraper designed by Pei Cobb Freed and Partners, currently holds that title. However, developers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle are seeking to depose the U.S. Bank Tower—all three cities currently have high-rises in the works set to surpass the record. These projects, ranging from in design review to nearing completion, are unified by their record-breaking potential and densely urban locales. Each is sited in transit-oriented districts poised for radical redevelopment. Merely inching above the current record, the towers speak to West Coast cities’ cautious approach to reshaping their skylines, as contemporary considerations regarding the nature of density, regulation, preservation, and affordability begin to play out over these post-recession metropolises.

In Seattle, local firm LMN Architects has had to take its 1,111-foot-tall proposal for the 4/C Tower from Miami developer Crescent Heights back to the drawing board several times, trimming the tower’s height with each iteration. A boxy, mixed-use monolith containing groups of mixed income “vertical neighborhoods” with neighborhood-specific common areas above office space, parking, and commercial zones, 4/C is unique among the group in its inclusion of an affordable housing component.

4/C has had to straddle a delicate line in terms of massing and geometry—it’s located across the street from Chester L. Lindsey Architects’ 76-story Columbia Center, currently Seattle’s tallest at 967 feet, and nearby Minoru Yamasaki’s iconic Rainier Tower. It was 4/C’s height, however that came under scrutiny earlier this year when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a report citing possible interference with medical helicopter flight paths and the navigable air space of the nearby King County International Airport. Although the FAA has mandated a 965-foot maximum height for the structure—a limit that would keep it just feet below the record—plans submitted early April, call for a 100-story, 1,029-foot tall structure containing up to 1,020 residential units and 100 hotel rooms above 20,000 square feet of street-level retail, 85,000 square feet of office, and 750 parking spaces.

700 miles to the south, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects’ (PCP) 1,070-foot-tall Salesforce Tower is slowly rising out of San Francisco’s Transbay Center. The currently under-construction $4.5 billion transit center, touted by the managing Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) as the “Grand Central Station of the West,” is topped by a PWP Landscape Architecture–designed 5.4-acre park. The six-track, multimodal hub will bring together the region’s tangled web of transit agencies and California’s future intercity high speed rail line. Its construction follows the demolition of the seismically deficient Embarcadero elevated highway that once ran along San Francisco’s waterfront. With the Embarcadero’s massive, swooping on- and off-ramps south of Market Street now gone, the city has been free to develop an area that was previously roughshod and derelict. Salesforce Tower is touted as the crown jewel of this new high-rise neighborhood.

PCP’s curved and tapering design, built in concert with the firm’s transit center, will contain 1.4 million square feet of Class-A office space and be topped by a 100-foot-tall “crown.” Billed to rise 1,070 feet upon completion in 2018, it will soar 217 feet above William Pereira’s 1972 Transamerica Pyramid, currently San Francisco’s tallest.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles’s Wilshire Grand Tower, a 1,099-foot-tall spire, topped out in March and is nearing completion. Aside from Gensler’s L.A. Live Ritz-Carlton Hotel built in 2010, the Wilshire Grand is to be the only other tower above 40 floors built in Downtown L.A. since Arthur Erickson Architects completed their 750-foot-tall Two California Plaza in 1992. A partnership between Korean Air, Turner Construction, and architects AC Martin, the tower will boast 400,000 square feet of Class-A office space and a 900-suite hotel, as well as a 400,000-square-foot retail podium with ballrooms, meeting halls, and a 1,250-spot parking garage. The 1,100-foot-tall Wilshire Grand is due to finish construction in late 2017, when it will become the tallest tower west of the Mississippi River.

While the jury is still out as to whether Seattle’s 4/C Tower’s Crescent Heights will prevail, a trend is becoming clear: Developers are testing the waters and envisioning tall, mixed use, transit-oriented futures for the West’s downtowns.

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A new facility unites Seattle’s architecture and design organizations under one roof

For the first time in Seattle history, four architecture and design associations have come together under one roof as the Center for Architecture and Design. While the four organizations—AIA Seattle, Seattle Architecture Foundation, AIA Washington Council, and Design in Public—are still operating independently, they are sharing office, exhibit, and community meeting spaces in a renovated storefront space downtown, close to Pioneer Square. Local Seattle firm Suyama Peterson Deguchi Architects led the design.

One challenge was finding the right sized space that was also walkable and within an appropriate price range. After looking at multiple possibilities, the Center settled on a ground floor space in the 1905 brick National Building. The 4,500-square-foot Center rests on the southeast corner of Western Avenue and Spring Street—just a couple blocks from the waterfront. The space stood empty for a long time. At one point it housed an Italian restaurant owned by former Seattle mayor Paul Schell.

The Center is not the first storefront space for AIA Seattle. In fact, AIA Seattle was the first AIA chapter in the U.S. to take a storefront space, said executive director Lisa Richmond. Before the move to the Center, AIA Seattle operated out of a street level office on 1st Avenue near Pike Place Market for over thirty years. Later, Design in Public, an AIA Seattle strategic initiative founded in 2011, started working in their office too. By then, the 1,900-square-foot space was getting cramped. (A high-end cigar shop is expected to move into that space soon.)

For the Seattle Architecture Foundation (SAF) a move was imminent, as the building that housed their old office downtown—Rainier Square—will soon be demolished to make way for a close to 60-story boot-shaped tower designed by NBBJ. (Full disclosure: I volunteer at SAF.) The University of Washington owns the land under Rainier Square and is developing the project. The curved shape of the planned tower is expected to help preserve views and sight lines of the neighboring 1977 Minoru Yamasaki Rainier Tower—the downtown Seattle building famous for its inverted pyramid base. (Should the big earthquake hit, some say Rainier Tower may be one of the most stable buildings, due to a lower than normal center of gravity).

The fourth organization, AIA Washington Council, had the farthest move, relocating from Olympia, the Washington State capitol.

“We’re really excited to be part of this project. It’s an opportunity to connect with the public more,” said Stacy Segal, executive director of SAF. The Center hopes their professional and public shared home will help facilitate greater collaboration and dialogue between designers and the public. Seventy percent of the Center is open to the public.

The program allows for a mix of uses. There are gallery spaces at the front, a multi-purpose homasote-paneled meeting room with pivoting panels for flexibility and soundproofing, a smaller conference room, an office area with large desks, a kitchen and work area, and more. Suyama Peterson Deguchi provided pro bono services. Their major design goals were many: to get the public excited about design, allow for ample spaces to feature rotating displays, to celebrate existing materials found in the historic building (aged wood and concrete slabs), to maximize natural lighting, and most challenging, flexibility.

“We also wanted to have the least possible disruption to the wonderful heavy timber column and ceiling structure and still provide for the complex program,” explained Ric Peterson, a partner at Suyama Peterson Deguchi. “Instead of dividing the space, the new parts are fashioned as flexible elements within the entire space.” 

Over the next ten years, the Center expects to grow incrementally and hopes to attract and connect not just built environment professionals, but also designers in other fields, policy makers, and the general public.

The Center relied on $1.2 million in cash and in-kind donations from a mix of corporate, individual, and foundation support.

The grand opening was the first week of March, and the Center is hosting its third exhibition April 21–June 25. Living Small: Ideas for Living in the City looks at the impact of urban growth and density on micro-housing.

In its programming, the Center is integrating more design disciplines outside of architecture that are exploring urban issues. “Seattle is a little below the radar,” said Richmond. “We want the public see the very significant and important role good design plays in our economy and our city.”