Posts tagged with "Seattle":

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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.” 

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Olson Kundig is designing a new home for the Burke Museum

The oldest state museum in Washington state—the Burke Museum at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle’s U District—will get a new home slated to open in 2019. Seattle-based Olson Kundig is designing the new building for the museum that centers on natural history and culture. Construction started last week on the new museum at 15th Avenue NE. The site neighbors the existing museum building at NE 45th Street and 17th Avenue NE. The new museum design opens up and unites the collection galleries, labs, research, education, and storage areas. The 113,000 square foot building will have 60% more space—breathing room for the over 16 million scientific and cultural objects from the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Olson Kundig's design weaves in Northwest elements, such as wood siding and a shed-style roof. “The University of Washington and Burke Museum were incredibly important to me during my student life, and the Burke was a place for me to engage with and connect to our rich local history and tradition of innovation,” Tom Kundig, Principal and Owner of Olson Kundig, said in a statement. The museum has called many different places home. In 1879 a group of Seattle naturalists started collecting historical and scientific objects. They hosted them at the University of Washington, when the university was downtown at University Street and Fourth Avenue (what is now part of the Metropolitan Tract owned by the University). Then in 1899, the Washington state legislature designated the museum an official state museum. The Burke later moved to northeast Seattle, finally settling in the current space at NE 45th Street in 1962. “The new facility will allow us to take science and cultural education to the next level by connecting students with the scientists and researchers at the Burke—role models who will inspire the next generation,” said Frank Chopp (who, incidentally, designed and built these two urban cabins with his father in Seattle's Central District), Washington State Speaker of the House (43rd LD) in a statement. Over the years, remodeling the Burke building became less financially feasible. Storage space was tight and lacked climate-control protections. The old museum will be demolished once move-in is complete to make way for the landscape design and parking. Demolition includes the Burke Café. A conservator will remove the cafe's circa 1720s wood paneling. The new Burke will display a portion of the paneling. Another local Seattle firm is leading the landscape design. Guthrie Gustafson Nichol (GGN) is creating the courtyard and entryway filled with native plant species. Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center in Carnation is growing the close to 70,000 native plants needed for the project. For every two trees removed, the design will add three trees. The University of Washington and Burke officials hope to reuse some of the wood in the construction. “The landscape of the New Burke is designed to be as multifaceted and welcoming as the museum,” said Shannon Nichol, GGN founding principal in a statement. “It will serve as a new campus quad, a colorful garden experience, and a living emblem of our state’s natural heritage.” The project budget is $99 million with the majority of funding coming from Washington State, with additional support from private gifts, University of Washington, as well as in-kind donations.
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Seattle's City Light facility in the running for landmark status

The Landmarks Preservation Board (LPB) in Seattle has nominated the former Seattle City Light Power Control Center, located at 157 Roy Street on Lower Queen Anne, to become a city landmark. Designed by architecture firm Harmon, Pray & Detrich in 1962, and completed the following year, the building, which is now a homeless shelter, echoes the modernist styling of Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye, practiced in the Pacific Northwest by the likes of Paul Thiry and Pietro Belluschi.
The application to the LPB, compiled by The Queen Anne Historical Society and its President Michael J. Herschensohn, argues that the building's significance ties in with Seattle’s Century 21 Exposition held in 1962. It also adds that the "Power Control Center reflects the futuristic enthusiasm of the fair that survives today in two designated city landmarks, the Space Needle by John Graham and Victor Steinbreuck and Minoru Yamasaki’s Pacific Science Center."
"The creative and unusual pairing of eight and six-sided forms is a noteworthy feature of the Power Control Center which is not only an exceptional example of the modern movement, but also of the unique blend of European and American design traditions that flows from Louis Sullivan to Frank Lloyd Wright and which is clearly seen in the work of Bruce Goff such as the Japanese Pavilion at LACMA and other Southern California mid-century architects," the application says. While using concrete massing synonymous with the European modernist movement, the former Control Center, in the eyes of Herschensohn also represents "the efforts of American designers to break free of European design and create a uniquely American vocabulary." The board voted unanimously in a 10-0 majority to put forward the site, exterior and interior of the building for landmark status meanwhile, another meeting is set to be held on June 15. "The Power Control Center and its site much like Le Corbusier’s 1929 Villa Savoye and his Cité de Soleil in Marseilles integrate the requirements of the automobile age by including parking under the building between the pilotis supporting the office segment of the center."
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WA State Convention Center expansion developing even as lawsuit looms

Design plans are moving ahead on the convention center expansion in downtown Seattle with a design recommendation meeting scheduled for May 3rd. The Washington State Convention Center—which runs over Interstate 5 and holds large annual regional events like the February northwest garden show and the Emerald City ComiCon—opened in the spring of 1988. The just under 415,000 square foot center has reached capacity and has hired LMN Architects to add 440,000 square feet of convention space, 5 stories above ground, with underground parking (anywhere from 600-800 vehicles). The site for the expansion is about a block northeast at 1601 9th Avenue, what is currently the Convention Place bus station that routes buses through a bus tunnel. With more light rail coming in the near future and slated to use the bus tunnel, the city will make all buses run on the street by 2021. The convention center expansion plan requires demolishing the station. The project is part of what the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections is describing as a “planned community development component.” In 2014, the convention center also bought property on two additional blocks, with plans for mixed-use projects on each. There’s a proposal for a 29 story building with 6,000 square feet of ground floor retail space and 438 residences at 920 Olive Way (currently hosting two restaurants, a two story light rail transit facility, and parking lots). There’s also a planned 16 story office building on top of 11,000 square feet of commercial space at 1711 Boren Avenue (right now it’s a Honda dealership and car lot). Such a massive project is not without legal battles, however. The proposed construction timeline is on hold. Skanska and Hunt Construction, the hired contractor team, sued the convention center this March after the center dropped them from the project (reportedly to search for a cheaper firm). Earlier this April, the King County Superior Court issued a ruling: “King County Judge Beth Andrus on Wednesday denied Skanska-Hunt’s bid to be reinstated as the contractor, but granted the request to stop the convention center from starting to select a new contractor,” wrote the Seattle Times. “The question of whether the convention-center authority wrongly terminated Skanska-Hunt should be decided in a trial, beginning within 120 days, the judge ruled.” The total cost of the convention center project is estimated at $1.4 billion, with construction at $750 million. If the project moves beyond the lawsuit and finds a builder without delay, breaking ground could start early 2017, with an opening in 2020. On a side note, back in the fall of 2015, a Seattle firm proposed to cap a section of I-5 with a 2 mile long park that would run near the convention center expansion. At the moment, the project is just conceptual, but it would not be out of place close to Lawrence Halprin’s 1976 5.5 acre Freeway Park.
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Bohlin Cywinski Jackson reveals design for major commercial project on Puget Sound

Early this March, online travel giant Expedia released a first batch of renderings of its new campus. The company, founded in Redmond, Washington, in 1996, and now headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, has grand plans to move close to downtown Seattle on a site overlooking Puget Sound.

The company hired Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (BCJ), of Seattle, to lead the design. BCJ is working on a new four-story, 600,000-square-foot building and has plans to renovate four existing buildings—once laboratories for the biopharmaceutical company Amgen—into open-style office spaces. Expedia bought the 40-acre Amgen property last spring for $229 million.

The images reveal lots of glass and green. Details are reminiscent of major West Coast tech campuses: There are hints of Apple’s curves and courtyard, along with Google’s openness. For Expedia, BCJ collaborated with PWP Landscape Architecture, campus landscape architects on projects for LinkedIn, Pixar, IBM, and Boeing. Expedia’s campus will connect to the Elliott Bay Trail—a biking, running, and walking path that links Ballard and the Olympic Sculpture Park.

If all goes as planned, construction on the first phase will start late this year, with a target move-in date of 2019. The new and renovated spaces from this phase will total 1.2 million square feet. There are two more phases under development, which could include a total of 730,000 square feet of office space, built over 15 years. The final cost of the project has not yet been set. 

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Microsoft HoloLens partners with the first holographic real estate leasing center

The new holographic headset by Microsoft, HoloLens, has just started shipping to U.S. and Canadian developers last week for $3,000 (the consumer version release date is still unannounced). Now we hear the tech company giant is partnering with global real estate developer Skanska to create the first leasing center in the world using holographic technology. No word yet on the leasing center’s location, but the space is expected to open this June. The center is slated to help sell Skanska’s proposed and unbuilt project, 2+U, a downtown Seattle high rise planned between First and Second Avenues and Seneca and University Streets, with expected completion early 2019. Seattle-based digital production agency Studio 216, which specializes in real estate virtual and mixed-reality visualizations, is partnering with Microsoft and Skanska on the 2+U project. Unlike other virtual reality headsets such as Oculus Rift (which Facebook's acquired for $2 billion), HoloLens is untethered, and incorporates a more “mixed reality” or an “artificial reality” setup: users can still be present and aware of the space they are in and other people around them. Holograms are “projected” onto real objects in space. “Developing for Hololens is similar to developing for VR headsets, but you have to ask yourself different questions,” said Kyle Riesenbeck, Technical Lead for the 2+U Holographic project in a press release. “With VR, you have to create both the environment and the content, but with Hololens, the challenge is determining the best way to have your content interact with your existing world, and enhance your real life experience in a unique and necessary way.” According to Microsoft’s website, the device features sensors, a processing unit, special high-def color lenses, and built-in speakers. Microsoft is also collaborating with Lowe’s, the home improvement company, to help customers visualize new kitchen or living layouts, finishes, and more. Since we are on the topic of holograms, enjoy this YouTube video of the Seattle skyline, featuring a different type of holographic technology.