Seattle is abuzz about zoning. Last week, The Seattle Times leaked a draft report produced by Mayor Ed Murray's housing task force, a 28-member committee steering the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). While the report outlines a variety of strategies to increase affordable housing in the Seattle region, one bold recommendation is getting a lot of attention: the upzoning of single family housing in Seattle to multi-family housing. On Monday, Mayor Murray released an action plan outlining the overall vision: build 20,000 affordable housing units and 30,000 market rate units in the next decade through public and private investments. By 2035, the city is expected to grow by 120,000 people. "The exclusivity of Single Family zones limits the type of housing available, limits the presence of smaller format housing and limits access for those with lower incomes," reads the action plan. "The City will allow more variety of housing scaled to fit within traditional Single Family areas to increase the economic and demographic diversity. The broader mix of housing will include small lot dwellings, cottages or courtyard housing, rowhouses, duplexes, triplexes and stacked flats." A map on the HALA website shows that the proposed upzoning changes, if passed, would affect 16 percent of Seattle. But The Seattle Times reports otherwise. An architect and developer on the housing committee told the paper that the upzoning would affect all single-family lots. You can read the final version of the Seattle housing committee report at Seattle.gov.
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One Seattle architect’s much ballyhooed basement isn’t built from LEGO bricks, but it houses 250,000 of them in 150 meticulously sorted bins. Jeff Pelletier, who runs a small architecture practice Board & Vellum, has amassed a collection worth an estimated $25,000, with containers categorized by color, food, Lego leaves, heads, torsos, Lego latticework, satellite dishes, legs, gold bricks, red bricks, and lime. When Pelletier bought the unfurnished house in 2006, he found a lone red Lego brick in the attic and construed it as a sign that it was the place to put down roots–and his LEGO man cave. Like many aficionados of the self-adhering plastic bricks, Pelletier has been collecting since toddlerhood. At age 16, he relegated his collection to the storage room, unearthing it again in 2005 when he resumed collecting and acquired the collection he has today. When he remodeled his whimsical-looking lime-and-raspberry home in 2011, he decided to transform his basement into a media room, bar, and giant Lego repository, where Pelletier has built a Lego library, ships, bars, houses he’s lived in and even a miniature version of his brightly colored home. “Since I was 2 years old, I always wanted to be an architect. I think a lot of that was because of LEGO,” Pelletier told Komo News.
It’s been almost half a century since Jimi Hendrix passed away. And now after several delays, a 2.5 acre park in the Seattle Central District neighborhood where Hendrix grew up is being developed. Currently, the City of Seattle and EERG Inc. are seeking a construction contract. The plan for the site, which is near the Northwest African American Museum, will feature paths and plantings that, from above, look slightly like a guitar. The first phase will include “a new stairway and grand entrance at the southeast corner of the park, paved pathways, a chronological timeline of Hendrix’s life and career, rain infiltration gardens, a butterfly garden, and a performance plaza,” reported Curbed Seattle. The second phase will include features like a performance space and a “sound wave wall” with silhouettes of Hendrix. The Jimi Hendrix Park Foundation and the Friends of Jimi Hendrix have raised over $1 million dollars and were given $500,000 through the Seattle Parks and Green Levy Opportunity Fund Grant. “The importance of having a park about Jimi is really about honoring and memorializing him as a musician, and as an artist," said Janie L. Hendrix, Jimi’s sister and director of the Jimi Hendrix Park Foundation. "He’s given so much to the world, which we continue to enjoy and listen to."
It looks like it's bad news again for the in-progress Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel in Seattle, and for Bertha, the nickname for the world’s largest tunnel boring machine being used to create the underground highway. Bertha has been idle for much of 2014 due to a broken cutter system. And now the complex process to reach Bertha 60 feet below the surface has been halted. Recently a team of engineers discovered that the soil around Bertha is sinking as much as 1.4 inches in some places. The project will be further delayed as engineers get a better reading on the settling of the soil. Originally the viaduct was scheduled to open in December 2015, but now the date has been set to sometime in 2017. Somewhat ominously, the Seattle Times reported: “The viaduct settlement this fall could mean that some portions of the structure have sunk more than 6 inches since the 2001 Nisqually earthquake—exceeding a safety limit that WSDOT publicized last decade." Let’s hope the engineers and officials get to the bottom of this soon.
It was the warmest December on record in Seattle, but that didn't stop local architects from designing their annual round of gingerbread houses at Christmas. The 2014 theme, “Jingle All the Way,” was inspired by holiday songs, with donations raised during the event (as in years past) going to the JDRF Northwest Chapter. There were the usual suspects: crystalline candy windows, gumdrop roofs, candy cane sleds, and of course, pounds and pounds of gingerbread. But there are plenty of surprises too. Callison’s interpretation of three popular holiday tunes brought gingerbread to Hollywood; MulvannyG2 put Santa in a lounge chair on a Hawaiian beach; and 4D Architects rendered the Seattle skyline in candy, with highlights like the Space Needle, a ferry, kayakers, and what looks like a sedate version of the Gum Wall, done up in multi-colored jelly beans rather than previously chewed gum. There’s also a tree-topped construction crane and a roller coaster. Can you spot them? Have a game of Where’s Waldo or I Spy. Below were the other four Seattle gingerbread houses of 2014.
On December 3 Seattle opened its first Downtown parklet, at 1516 Second Avenue, a block from Pike Place Market. Designed by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, built by Krekow Jennings, and funded by Urban Visions, the Chromer Building parklet is named for the distinctive red building—an early home to Amazon—that it fronts. Stretching the distance of five streetside parking spaces, the project consist of a series of wooden platforms bridging between bright red concrete seating blocks and topped with movable tables and chairs. In addition to providing a space for lounging and eating, the parklet is also designed for performances, with the platforms and blocks doubling as stages. Thanks to Seattle's Pilot Parklets Program the city's Department of Transportation has already opened four previous parklets, in Wallingford, the Central District, Chinatown, and Capitol Hill. The program will create fifteen total streetside parks. Check out pictures of the Chromer Building parklet, and other new Seattle parklets, below.
As AEC professionals who have practiced in different cities know, each place has its own unique architectural culture. That is one of the lessons Mic Patterson, VP of Strategic Development at Enclos, has learned during his years of involvement with the Facades+ conference series. “Instead of holding one annual conference, we’ve been doing three a year in different cities,” said Patterson. “My observation is that each of those has been different.” The newest event in the Facades+ stable, Facades+ AM, was inspired in part by a desire to bring the conversation about high performance facade design to more locales. The inaugural Facades+ AM four-hour program takes place next week in Seattle. “Everywhere makes sense to talk about building envelopes,” said Kerry Hegedus, architect at NBBJ and seminar chair of Facades+ AM Seattle. At the same time, he added, “in Seattle, we have a great architectural community that can be very experimental and, most importantly, aspirational. We need a forum like this to share these thoughts and developments.” A prime example of the seaport city’s aspirational architecture is the Bullitt Center, the subject of one of three panels at Facades+AM Seattle. Designed by Miller Hull and often referred to as “the greenest office building in the world,” the Bullitt Center embodies a no-holds-barred approach to sustainable design. “The Bullitt Foundation is that missing link the profession needs to evolve to a new, higher density, sustainable future,” said Hegedus. “We will find, I suspect, that this is not just a skin, but an integral part of the strategy of how this living building became a success. We need to build on this project’s great success.” But while some of the Facades+ AM program next week will be specific to Seattle, much of the discussion will hold value for designers and builders working in different contexts. More importantly, the lack of a script makes way for spontaneous, collaborative problem-solving. Speaking of another panel, on innovations in facade design and construction, Hegedus observed: “The beauty of this format, with this wildcard ‘Facade Futures,’ is that we don’t know what is going to come out of this.” To learn more about Facades+ AM or to register, visit the event website.
Despite the fact that most state licensing boards require registered architects to pursue continuing education, not all AEC professionals take full advantage of the educational opportunities available. That’s a shame, says Mic Patterson, VP of Strategic Development for Enclos, given the value of the many workshops, seminar programs, and conferences aimed at practicing architects. The Facades+ conference series, co-sponsored by Enclos and AN, is one such offering. “The intent was to start a dialog involving the building skin that bridged the various fragmented sectors of the building industry,” said Patterson. “We’ve been very successful in doing that. Now I’m interested in taking this dialog to other locations.” Accordingly, Facades+ will launch a new initiative next month: Facades+ AM, a half-day forum debuting in Seattle on November 11. “Skin in the Game: Seattle 9-for-19” distills the best of the Facades+ 2-day conference into a four-hour event including nine 19-minute TED-talk-style presentations by the movers and shakers of building envelope design and construction. The speakers, who include Kjell Anderson, Architect and Sustainability Coordinator for LMN Architects, Perkins+Will’s Carsten Stein, Miller Hull principal Brian Court, and Brad Liljequist, Technical Director for the Living Building Challenge, are grouped into three themed sessions. “Biting the Bullitt: Facade Futures and Living Buildings” will take Seattle’s own Bullitt Center as its focus, while “Facades Futures: Drivers, Innovations, Integrations, and Renovations” will examine dominant trends in facade technology. The third session, “Bright Lights Big City: Daylight and Glare in the Urban Environment,” will explore the challenge of balancing competing concerns in designing energy-efficient skins. In addition to participating in the Q&A period following each panel, Facades+ AM attendees will have the opportunity to network with speakers and fellow audience members at a continental breakfast and mid-morning networking break. To learn more, or to register for Facades+ AM’s Seattle premiere, visit the event website.
In the last few years, urban bike sharing has popped up all across the United States: in cities like Boston, New York, Washington D.C., Miami, San Francisco, and Chicago among others. Finally Seattle is getting it's first bike sharing program, Pronto Cycle Share, today. The program, operated by Portland-based Alta Bicycle Share, opens with 500 bikes distributed to 50 stations throughout downtown and central Seattle, with many near grocery stores. Stations will hold between 12 and 20 Arcade Cycles. There are short term passes available: 24 hour and 3-day passes ($8 and $16 respectively), with an annual membership starting at $85. Trips under 30 minutes are unlimited; after that there are additional usage fees. Riders can borrow free helmets, with pick up and drop off at every kiosk. And there will be automated helmet vending machines, but they aren't ready yet. For now, it's an honor code system. And yes, the helmets will be sanitized. Alaska Airlines is the major brand sponsor, at $2.5 million for five years. So what's next? There are plans to expand to the Central District in 2015. More info about Seattle's new bike share program on Pronto's website.
The Open Streets movement is a wildly popular tool in the Tactical Urbanist's arsenal. The concept is simple: shut down city streets to automobile traffic for a day so pedestrians and cyclists can fully utilize our most plentiful public spaces. Cities from New York to Los Angeles now celebrate their open spaces with programs that are about to kick off for the summer season. Here's a roundup of some of the top programs around the country. The first open streets event made an informal debut in 1965 as “Bicycle Sunday” in Seattle and the movement was later popularized in Bogota, Colombia as the Ciclovía. Today, cities across the United States and the world hold their own open streets programs, inspiring citizens to rethink how public space is utilized in their own hometowns. The Open Streets Project has collected data about open streets programs around the world, making information about upcoming events or starting your own event in a new city very easy. In New York, the open streets program is called Summer Streets, and will take place three days this summer. Summer Streets has grown to be one of the country's most popular events, with a scenic route that spans from Central Park to the Brooklyn Bridge. Summer Streets 2014 will take place over three successive Sundays in August, closing roughly seven miles of Manhattan's normally car-choked streets for people to exercise and enjoy the outdoors. Check out upcoming open streets events below or check the Open Streets Project website to lookup programs in other cities. Mark your calendars now! Arizona Cyclovia Tucson – Sunday, November 2th Silent Sundays – Every fourth Sunday of the month California CicLAvia – Sunday, October 5th Ciclovia Salinas – August Oaklavia – Saturday, July 12th Open Streets Santa Cruz – Sunday, October 12th Santa Barbara Open Streets – Saturday, October 25th District of Columbia Rock Creek Park – Every Saturday and Sunday Georgia Atlanta Streets Alive – Sunday, September 28th Illinois Evanston Streets Alive – Sunday, September 28th Kentucky 2nd Sunday Kentucky (The country's only statewide program)— Sunday October, 12th Massachusetts Circle The City – Sunday, September 28th SomerStreets – Sunday, July 27th New York Summer Streets – Sunday, August 2nd, 9th, and 16th Westchester County Bicycle Sundays – Sunday, September 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th Oregon Sunday Parkways—July 27th, August 24th, September 28th Texas Siclovia – Sunday, September 28th Washington Seattle Bicycle Sunday – Sunday, July 6th and 13th Seattle Summer Streets – Saturday, August 9th and 16th Spokane Summer Parkways – Friday, July 18th
The Seattle Central Library celebrated its 10th anniversary this year on May 23rd with live music, free treats and refreshments, and guest appearances from some of the chief architects and minds behind the construction of the building. Regarded as the prize library of Seattle’s library system, the Seattle Central Library, designed by Rem Koolhaas' OMA, has also garnered criticism and acclaim for its unique architectural design. To celebrate the decade, AN has compiled a collection of ten great photos that will give the online viewer a virtual tour of Seattle's unique cathedral of reading. Unveiled to the public on May 23rd in the year 2004, the immense library can hold more than 1.4 million books and houses over 400 publically accessible computers. The library was the brainchild of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) and LMN Architects who arrived at the conclusion that the library should stand out as the singular attraction of Seattle’s downtown area. The building features a glass exterior supported by a steel frame and was designed as an expression of creativity, modernism, and adaptation. The exterior of the library is unique and carries a quasi-abstract quality behind its design. The interior of the library was designed to accommodate the utilities or modern equipment on each floor, while still maintaining the integrity and basic structure of a classic library. This aspect of the library’s design is most evident in the renowned “book spiral”: a collection of non-fiction books that spans the length of four levels, ramping up in a manner similar to a parking garage. The exotic architectural design of the Seattle Central Library has been the target of praise by some critics but harsh reproach by others. Despite critique or adulation, however, the Seattle Central Library irrefutably stands today as one of the most iconic buildings in the States.
Although Seattle's Big Bertha—the giant tunnel boring machine powering the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel alongside Seattle's waterfront—will be delayed until next March for repairs, the nearby Seattle Aquarium is moving steadily ahead with its plans for a major expansion. The institution has just brought in San Francisco–based EHDD principal Marc L'Italien, who will lead concept designs for the project. A veteran of aquarium, museum, and zoo design, his firm helmed the Monterey Bay Aquarium design and renovated a dormant pier along the San Francisco Embarcadero into the new home for the Exploratorium. The Seattle Aquarium plans to grow by 70percent, to a total of 184,500 square feet. The additional space would provide room for new exhibits and educational facilities, building upon the draft concept program by Seattle firm Mithun. The aquarium is working with L'Italien to assemble a design and engineering team. In September, the team will present their plans to the Seattle City Council for review. Construction and fundraising for the aquarium expansion will take place over several phases, with anticipated completion by 2020, to coincide with the opening of the new waterfront.