Archive for February, 2011

Aurora bridge suicide-prevention fence: All in how you look at it

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

This morning on my bus commute, I assessed the newly completed suicide-prevention fence on the Aurora bridge. How’d it turn out? Depends on your perspective.

Enhanced photo by Kenji Tachibana.
Aurora bridge lit up. Enhanced photo by Kenji Tachibana.

It isn’t so bad if you’re looking at it close up as the bus whizzes by. The view of the Olympics from the southbound coach was nearly transparent. Due to the speed of the coach and the narrow spacing of the fence “sticks,” I could hardly tell the new fence is in place.

Conversely, looking south and east at the skyline and Mount Rainier, the fence was as clear as the beautiful sunrise. But I do not deem it a disaster because you can still see the view.

Yes, it’s a change, but not too unsettling. People would have something to kvetch had WSDOT put an opaque fence in place

I doubt Seattleites will ever pine for the “good ol’ days.” Think how ridiculous such reminiscences would sound:

Remember back when depressed people jumped to their deaths off this bridge?

Yeah, that was sad, but at least we had slightly better views…

More condo design points

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

Before running off to a Super Bowl thing, I thought I’d share a few ideas about….the ease of entering/exiting residential buildings! (Channeling Steve Martin and the free oven mitt.)

A lot of this is criticism of my own building. As a preface, I love my place! These issues are pretty minor

Courtesy of
compared to stuff like floor plans and quiet. But don’t we all experience this stuff at least twice a day? Forgive me also for repeating from an older post.

Arriving as a pedestrian, the options are the front door and the alley door. The alley door is typically the most direct route, so I typically use it. Plus its card reader is at pocket height. You just stand there and the door unlocks. The reader at the front door is too high. You have to shift whatever you’re carrying, pull out your wallet or keys, and hold them up to the reader. (Purses must be easier.) Also, the door handle is about eight feet away, which can be a security issue in addition to being kind of annoying.

In the lobby, hard floor surfaces were a design problem that the building management has solved. Entering on a rainy day used to be an exercise in not slipping on the smooth tiles, and hoping that day’s shoes weren’t the squeaky ones. The tiles are now covered by carpet pads 30′ into the building. Carpet pads have also been added to the bare concrete hall from the alley door.

About the alley hall: It’s a fire exit and retail store back entry, but does it have to be so rudimentary? I’d rather walk along dinged painted walls than dinged unpainted ones. The interior doors could be kept in non-slam mode.

The alley can also be easier for exiting. The front door has an unfortunate touch-sensor system where touching the inside handle deactivates the lock. But this requires careful calibration. For years, you couldn’t exit while wearing gloves. Apparently small kids initially couldn’t trigger it at all. Today it works with thin gloves, though I haven’t tried it with thick ones. I’d suggest that whatever the code might say (?), an exit that doesn’t work unless it’s calibrated is inherently unsafe, and unfriendly to residents.

Elevators can be done well, or not. One is simple numbers — in a 200-unit midrise, three seems about right. Two is ok, unless someone is moving in, or it’s a busy time of day, etc. Door timing is key. Much appreciation to my building’s management for cutting a few seconds from the door closes, avoiding a lot of little waits (a few seconds is a big deal on elevators, just like the interwebs!) while also improving the system’s efficiency during busy times.

An architect slams architecture-speak

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Architect, professor and writer Witold Rybczynski writes in Slate about the “ridiculous way architects talk.” Here is the item.

Photo courtesy of