Recently, a new $1.8 billion 3 mile light rail extension running from downtown north to Capitol Hill and the University of Washington opened in Seattle. And now there’s a new transportation proposal for the Emerald City and beyond. Last week, Sound Transit, the public light and commuter rail system (and rapid bus system) operating in King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties, released a draft proposal that outlines future major possible phases of development. Dubbed Sound Transit 3, the $50 billion plan could extend light rail to Seattle neighborhoods like Ballard and West Seattle, and further out to other parts of the three counties, in cities like Everett and Issaquah. But the projected timeline is expansive, with up to 75 stations proposed along 108 miles of new light rail and up to 20 rapid bus line stops in the next 25 years. “Some stations could open in the next few years, but some nearby neighborhoods will wait more than a decade for tracks,” KOMO News reports. “West Seattle won't have a station until 2033, and Ballard's would be completed in 2038.” The system could carry around 500,000 riders per day. Engineers will need to examine the feasibility of the plan, including the proposed tunnel that would run from downtown Westlake underneath Seattle’s tallest hill, Queen Anne. “From a technical standpoint, West Seattle comes first because of the severe complexity of building a tunnel and six stations from Westlake Station to Uptown (Lower Queen Anne), a part of the Ballard line, transit staff say. Challenges include a second Westlake station two stories lower than the current one,” writes The Seattle Times. Funding would come from a mix of sources: existing taxes, new taxes through 2041 (with $27 billion coming from around $400 of additional property taxes per household), federal grants, and debt. The proposal could go on the November ballot for voters living in King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties if the Sound Transit board approves the ballot packet this June.
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What could be better than film, urbanism, architecture, and design? When film, urbanism, and design unite, we get powerful and insightful results: there’s La Haine, a French film that follows three young men in the banlieues of Paris; there’s Mon Oncle, that pokes fun at the absurdities of residential Corbusian inspired architecture; and more recently films like My Architect, where Louis Kahn’s son seeks to know his father's work, and through his work, his father. For those of you in the Seattle area this week, a heads up: the Northwest Film Forum (NWFF) is hosting its annual design film festival, ByDesign 2016 that features films exploring architecture, art, urban design, and other design-related themes. The festival runs for four days: April 14-17.
BYDESIGN 2016 TRAILER (COURTESY NORTHWEST FILM FORUM)NWFF is screening the German film, Beyond Metabolism, which looks at the impact of Metabolism, an architectural post-WWII movement in Japan (that could be a distant cousin to Brutalist architecture with its imposing, monumental concrete forms) through the lens of Sachio Otani’s Metabolist 1966 International Conference Center in Kyoto. Then there’s Getting Frank Gehry, that presents Gehry's controversial and first Australian-built project: the one-year-old tree-house-inspired Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, which serves as the home for the University of Technology business school in Sydney. Farther north, Strange and Familiar: Architecture on Fogo Island, delves into Todd Saunder's architecture—an inn and artist studios that populate a rugged island in Newfoundland and Labrador in eastern Canada. The Chinese film, The Land of Many Palaces investigates the intersection of urban relocation, development, real estate, ownership, and coal in China’s largest ghost city, Ordos City, located over 400 miles west of Beijing. Built by the government with the wealth of newfound Ordos coal deposits, officials are moving farmers living in the countryside to the newly developed urbanized area. “Neighbors and friends,” says a woman with a microphone in the movie trailer who appears to be a government representative addressing new residents, “We are trying to create a more civilized city.” The festival opens with a film staring artist Tom Sachs, A Space Program, who will attend the Seattle premier. If you live closer to New York City and Los Angeles, the two cities will play host to architecture and design film festivals this fall (filmmakers: there's an open call for submissions).
In Seattle, the University of Washington (UW) is battling the city and three local nonprofits—Docomomo WEWA, Historic Seattle, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation—was discussed last Friday at a hearing at the King County Superior Court though a decision is still pending. The issue: whether the city can declare More Hall Annex, the 1961 Brutalist building on UW’s campus, a historic city landmark, and effectively stop future development plans on the site. The building is already on the national and state registers of historic places. Designed by The Architect Artist Group (TAAG) that included Wendell Lovett, Daniel Streissguth, and Gene Zema, the building was once home to a nuclear reactor for training nuclear engineering students. The lawsuit embodies the age old case between developers and preservationists, a “freedom to” vs. “freedom from” debate: the university wants to exercise their control, or freedom to develop, and for the city and three involved non-profits, it’s a case of protection, or freedom from demolition of historically significant buildings. “If the university wins it could set a precedent for exempting the UW and other state universities from local land-use laws,” writes Crosscut, an online nonprofit newspaper based in Seattle. "If the city prevails, Seattle’s landmarks ordinance could apply to buildings on campus, including the historic More Hall Annex, aka the Nuclear Reactor Building, which the UW wants to tear down but preservationists want to save.” UW is arguing this is a constitutional issue, while the city believes the UW Board of Regents must adhere to land-use regulations. The clash between the university and the city over More Hall Annex is not new. In 2008, The Seattle Times wrote a piece on the controversy, "UW building is hot, but is it historic?", that profiled a UW architecture graduate student’s plan to help save the building. After learning UW wanted to demolish More Hall Annex, she nominated it to the National Register of Historic Places. The university did not move forward on demolishing the building because of the recession. The student's application was successful. In 2009, More Hall Annex was added to the National Register of Historic Places, an unusual move as the building was less than 50 years old at the time and architects involved in the project were still alive. Yet the university re-examined its plans. In early 2015, according to GeekWire, UW hired Seattle firm LMN Architects to develop plans for a second computer science building. A draft environmental impact statement featured options exploring the More Hall Annex site. Microsoft pledged $10 million to UW to help fund the project. More Hall Annex has stood empty for more than two decades. The nuclear reactor was decommissioned in 1988 and fully decontaminated just under a decade ago.
Last week, we highlighted historic mid-century modern architecture photographs digitized by the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. And now farther north on the west coast is another new archive find. The Seattle Public Library Special Collections—located on the top floor (nope, not relegated to a dusty basement as is often the case) of the OMA / Rem Koolhaas and LMN-designed Central Library in downtown Seattle—just digitized over 2,400 historic Space Needle construction photographs (and a daily construction log, too). Local Seattleite professional photographer George Gulacsik captured the construction details of the famous 605 foot tall Seattle landmark that took less than a year to build: there are photos of the cement pouring preparation, the painting, the fin raising, the visitors, onlookers, and more. Gulacsik took the photos between April 1961 and October 1962. There is even a photo of former President John F. Kennedy's motorcade taken from above, as Kennedy made his way through Seattle to give a speech at the University of Washington in November 1961. Many Gulacsik images were used as marketing in a 1962 promotional publication, "Space Needle USA." Gulacsik's wife donated his photos in 2010 after he passed away. The collection is named after him. The Space Needle is said to be inspired by the Stuttgart TV Tower in Germany. The design is typically credited to architecture firm John Graham and Company, Victor Steinbrueck, and John Ridley, who worked with businessman Edward E. Carlson and his napkin sketch concept. "Graham was excited by the challenge, and assembled a large team of associates including Art Edwards, Manson Bennett, Erle Duff, Al Miller, Nate Wilkinson, Victor Steinbrueck, and John Ridley," explains History Link, the online nonprofit Washington State history encyclopedia. "In working to translate Carlson’s doodle into blueprints, they explored a variety of ideas ranging from a single saucer-capped spire to a structure resembling a tethered balloon. Steinbrueck hit on a wasp-waisted tripod for the Space Needle’s legs and Ridley perfected the double-decked “top house” crown." Now we can view the collection from our armchairs, couches, and desks.
Huge news (say that in your best Bernie Sanders voice) in Seattle. Google has plans to move its Fremont, California, office into a mixed-use four building campus in South Lake Union (SLU). The project was designed by Graphite Design Group with Runberg Architecture Group working as consultants on the residential portion. The property is on Mercer Street bounded by Fairview and Terry Avenues, south of the Museum of History and Industry, and east of the newly opened Allen Institute. The site, currently a surface parking lot, will eventually host four six-story buildings and two additional residential towers (each up to 9 stories tall). Google will move into all of the 607,000 square feet of office space for lease periods lasting 14 to 16 years. Also planned are 151 apartments, close to 14,000 square feet of retail space, and 780 parking spots. The design features large setbacks and is part of a $2.1 million woonerf (Dutch for a green street that prioritizes bicycle and foot traffic). Developer Vulcan Inc. (owned by Paul Allen) is working with Google on the project. It's an unusual move, as Vulcan tends to work with Amazon. Currently, there are about 900 Google employees in Seattle. The new office could hold up to 4,000 employees. Google also has an office in Kirkland with close to 1,000 employees working. “Vulcan will also contribute approximately $4.3 million in incentive zoning fees for affordable housing and daycare,” reported GeekWire. No word yet on the total cost of the project. Construction is planned in phases, with breaking ground slated for 2017, and an opening by 2019. There has been a flurry of tech development in South Lake Union over the past several years that some fear is homogenizing the neighborhood. Amazon is nearby and in Denny Triangle, Gehry is designing for Facebook, and now there'll be Google as well.
Operating out of a 1907 red brick schoolhouse on a leafy residential street in the northwest Seattle neighborhood of Ballard, the Nordic Heritage Museum has plans to move into a major new Mithun-designed home about a mile south, close to the waterfront and the Ballard Locks. The design team for the new museum is headed by architecture firm Mithun. The architecture, landscape, and interior design team also includes Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa, and museum exhibition designers, Ralph Appelbaum Associates, from New York. The project has been in development since 2003. The museum's current lease with the Seattle School District will end in the spring of 2017. While the museum, founded in 1980, hopes to extend the lease, the Seattle School District is reclaiming the space as a new school to better serve growing young families in Ballard. The museum bought property at 2655 NW Market Street in several phases. Currently on the site is the old Fenpro building, a warehouse that once produced glass for skyscrapers and currently serves as studio space for a variety of artists and businesses working in metal, glass, and other trades. These businesses are in the process of vacating, before the Fenpro building is demolished. This past December, local public radio station, KUOW, covered the controversy over the move. Design is still underway for the over three-story, roughly 58,000-square-foot museum. There is a planned ground-floor café, and an expected major feature is Fjord Hall, a large central atrium that would connect permanent and special exhibits with upper story bridges evoking the notion of crossing a river. The Nordic Heritage Museum declined to discuss architecture or interior updates or give Mithun permission to comment on the design, citing the timing was not right as the project is still under development. The $44.6 million capital campaign is almost complete, with $5 million left to go, said Jan Woldseth Colbrese, Deputy Director of External Affairs at the museum. The Nordic museum expects to break ground this spring, with construction starting this summer, and an opening at the end of 2017 or early 2018.
Anything but boring: World's largest tunnelling machine, Big Bertha, is stuck under Seattle, Tweets an interview
Big Bertha, Seattle's famous tunnel boring machine, is stuck underground again. Bertha was running for just under a month following a two year delay to fix a broken cutter head. And the machine has taken to Twitter, as we imagine it can get lonely so far beneath the city. A little over two weeks ago, a large sinkhole formed while Bertha was drilling the over-57-foot-diameter Highway 99 tunnel to replace the earthquake prone viaduct. No one knows exactly why it happened. Just earlier that day, a nearby Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) barge tilted, offloading tunnel dirt into Elliot Bay and dismantling part of a dock. The 15-foot-deep, 20-feet-wide, and 35-foot-long sinkhole was quickly filled with 250 cubic yards of concrete and sand. But Bertha is still stuck. STP wants to start Bertha again, but the Washington State Department of Transportation (WDOT) hasn't given them the necessary written permission to move forward yet. SDOT says they need more information. But enough of the dismal facts and figures. And now, for something different: The nonprofit blog Strong Towns interviewed @StuckBertha, Bertha's unofficial Twitter account, in January. Enjoy some excerpts from their tongue-in-cheek conversation, below. Check out the full interview on the Strong Towns blog. We all hope Bertha gets unstuck very soon.
This past fall, a Reddit post leaked a Seattle design proposal draft with massings of what could have been the tallest tower on the West coast. The images depicted a 102-story tower standing 99 feet higher than the current record holder, the 1,018-foot-tall U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles. The proposed Seattle tower, dubbed 4/C, is slated for a parcel that is currently a parking lot in Seattle's downtown central business district at the southwest corner of Fourth Avenue and Columbia Street. The developer, Crescent Heights International Living, based in Miami, has tapped Seattle design firm, LMN Architects. The mixed-use tower would house 150 hotel rooms, 165,000 square feet of retail space and offices, and 1,200 residences. But officials at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aren't approving the proposal. They issued a notice saying the tower would impede business at the Boeing Field airport. They cited that the height could interfere with navigable air space and that the massive size of a construction crane to build even a slightly smaller tower could cause issues with hospital helicopter flights. The FAA is giving Crescent Heights an alternative, take-it-or-leave-it deal: max out at 965 feet. With this revised height, 4/C would miss breaking the tallest Seattle building record by just two feet, undefeated since 1985 by the 76-story Columbia Center.
After a whirlwind round of conferences and forums this year—from New York, to Chicago to Miami—The Architect’s Newspaper and Enclos made the last stop of the year in Seattle for Facades+ AM. Over 150 attended our December 4th event at the Motif Seattle hotel. Nine speakers brought in diverse perspectives and engaging ideas, with room for productive Q & A. Here's a recap in case you missed it. After opening remarks by co-chairs Carsten Stinn, designer at Perkins+Will, and Mic Patterson, Enclos' VP of strategic development, the first session united three presenters under the theme of complex digital facade collaborations. Speakers included Jeffrey Vaglio, director of Enclos' Advanced Technology Studio, and Joshua Zabel, vice president of business development at Kreysler & Associates. David Sandinsky, senior associate at NBBJ co-presented with Marne Zahner, design engineer at Magnusson Klemencic Associates. They talked about the Amazon domes—more specifically, the conjoined Catalan spheres and their structural steel modules. Session two focused on models, methods, and materials for optimizing facade performance. Energy strategist and consultant Sangeetha Divakar at Perkins+Will presented workplan models for integrating engineers' and architects' work in energy and envelope modeling. Stéphane Hoffman, building specialist at Morrison Hershfield, discussed parametric visualization tools for mapping building energy performance and why architects and engineers should track thermal bridging. Richard Green, Principal at Front, Inc talked about custom fabrication and digital manufacturing. In the final session, Devin Kleiner, Perkins+Will architect, Peter Alspach, principal of environmental and building physics at Arup, and Daniel Brindisi, associate at ZGF Architects, spoke to the real-world effects of facade technology. Kleiner discussed post occupancy lighting evaluations, Alspach presented data on the cost benefits of the carbon life cycle, and Brindisi talked about his firms efforts to maximize daylighting. In the L.A. area or planning a trip to Southern California at the end of January? Catch the latest building envelope developments at the Facades+ Symposium and Workshops in Los Angeles, January 28th and 29th.
Kreysler & Associates' Joshua Zabel knows more than a thing or two about collaborating with architects to produce complex facades. "On the design side, increasingly complex projects call for earlier and earlier involvement from us for material and fabrication input," said Zabel. "With increasing frequency we're being called on by architects to contribute during SD and DD phases." Zabel will share the fabricator's perspective on teamwork in high performance envelope design and construction later this week at Facades+AM Seattle. His co-presenters on "Digital Collaborations: Applications, Realities and Opportunities in the Delivery of Complex Facades" include Jeffrey Vaglio (Enclos), David Sandinsky (NBBJ) and Marne Zahner (Magnusson Klemencic Associates). Digital design tools play a critical role in enabling an ongoing dialogue between designers and fabricators, said Zabel. "There's obviously a lot to be said for the ability to pass a 3D model back and forth or share drawings on a screen in real time with someone thousands of miles away," he explained. "It seems easy to forget it wasn't anywhere near as fluid, say, 15 years ago." More specifically, said Zabel, "It's interesting to me when we're able to communicate with architects at the level of programming the toolpath strategy for making molds with our CNC machine. Everything about that notion is enhanced by the collaborative use of technology." Zabel compares contemporary developments in design and fabrication technology to the introduction of another collaborative tool: the telephone. "CAD and digital fabrication processes are such useful tools for construction and collaboration, I imagine one day, like the telephone, we won't marvel at how useful it is, we'll just take it for granted," he said. At the same time, there remains room for improvement. Construction documentation standards, for instance, often necessitate creating traditional 2D models that are "simply impractical" in particularly complex cases such as SFMOMA rainscreen or Bing Concert Hall, said Zabel. The ease of communication "can also lead to overload and an environment where it can be difficult to find a foothold or pinpoint the important thing to focus on where everybody has access to all of the information all the time." Join Zabel and other movers and shakers in the facades world December 4 at Facades+AM Seattle. Register today on the symposium website.
Digital techniques including parametrization play an increasingly important role in the work of many architects, engineers, and builders, especially those involved in the design and fabrication of high performance facades. "Parametrization is a critical path for facade design," observed Perkins+Will energy strategist Sangeetha Divakar. "A choice set of digital tools are being used to achieve this, especially when design options are optimized in response to several end goal parameters." Divakar will share lessons learned from her work in Seattle and elsewhere next week at Facades+AM Seattle. Her co-presenters on "Combined Modeling Efforts for the Optimized Facade: Models, Methods, Materials" include Morrison Hershfield principal Stéphane Hoffman and Richard Green, of Front, Inc. As someone particularly attuned to environmental performance, said Divakar, "What excites me the most in facade systems optimization now is that the line demarcating design parametrization and energy analysis parametrization is fast disappearing." But while the worlds of aesthetics and energy analysis are more integrated than ever, gaps remain elsewhere. In particular, Divakar pinpointed a need for "a direct integration of facade parametrization with engineering parametrization." Hear more about cutting-edge digital design tools including parametrization from Divakar, Hoffman, and Green on December 4 at Facades+AM Seattle. The symposium, a half-day version of the popular Facades+ conference series, features three sessions on hot topics in facade design and construction, with a special focus on designing and building for the Pacific Northwest. Learn more and register today at the Facades+AM website.
Last February, Facebook announced the company was moving its Seattle offices. The company has hired Frank Gehry to design its new Dexter Station space in the burgeoning South Lake Union neighborhood. Now, we the floor plans have been leaked, revealing more detail surrounding the always-amenity-rich tech offices. Last week, GeekWire obtained blueprints of the Gehry Partners–designed outdoor areas and a photo of a model of the interior. The plans show a rooftop park with a curving, looping trail (the younger cousin to the nine-acre park on Facebook's Building 20 in Menlo Park, also designed by Gehry). There's a fire pit, meeting and covered dining terraces, as well as a barbecue prep area, all spread over three rooftops. "The over-the-top amenities are the latest demonstration of the lengths to which Facebook and other tech companies are going to recruit and retain talent in an increasingly competitive market for top-notch software developers," wrote GeekWire. Facebook Seattle is currently working out of Metropolitan Park. The company is expected to move into its new space by the middle of next year, and have enough room to grow to 2,000 employees. In 2010, they started with just two.