Archive for August, 2012

China to dominate tall building development

Friday, August 31st, 2012


Nine of the 20 tallest buildings under construction in the world are located in China, which is now leading the way in the development of supertall buildings, according to the latest research study by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

Bellevue-based MulvannyG2 Architecture designed the Wuxi Chong’an development, which aims to be one of the tallest buildings in Wuxi, China when complete in 2013. It is 755 feet high and has two hotel and residential towers above a retail podium.Rendering Courtesy of MulvannyG2 Architecture

There are 239 buildings taller than 200 meters in advanced stages of development in China, far more than any other country. In 2011 alone China completed 23 buildings taller than 200 meters, which was also the top in the world, CTBUH’s research found.

At the end of 2011, there were only 61 buildings taller than 300 meters in the world; by 2017 China alone will have more than 60.

China’s ascendancy represents a fundamental shift in the construction of supertall buildings. In 1970, 92 of the world’s 100 tallest buildings were located in North America. By the end of 2012 only 29 of the top 100 will be in North America.

“China is dealing with the issues and challenges of developing urban environments on a massive scale,” said Timothy Johnson, chairman of the CTBUH and a partner in NBBJ, in a press release.

The surge in tall building developments in China has drawn criticism recently, with some charging that the buildings are too big and too expensive. A recent newspaper editorial referred to skyscrapers as “white elephants.”

The volume and height of tall building development in China is unprecedented. In 1990 there were five buildings taller than 200 meters in China; by the end of 2012 there will be 249.

The list of towers under development includes the 660-meter Ping An Finance Center, which will be the second tallest building in the world when it is completed, most likely in 2015, and the 632-meter Shanghai Tower.

Seattle University hosts national happiness conference

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

What organizers are calling the first comprehensive conference on national happiness will be held Friday and Saturday at Seattle University.

The event brings together more than 150 professionals and activists from as far away as South Africa, and from more than a dozen U.S. states for discussions that range from economic and policy decisions affecting happiness to personal change.

Organizers see this as a way to begin to implement the United Nations’ call to refocus national policies on happiness, they said in a press release.

They said that in July of 2011, a United Nations declaration urged member nations to concentrate on “the pursuit of happiness” rather than unsustainable economic growth and to seek ways to measure their success.  A UN conference in April of this year urged a “new economic paradigm based on sustainable happiness and well-being.”

Topics at the conference include Spreading the Happiness Initiative ( in other communities and on campuses; planning for Pursuit of Happiness Day 2013 (former President Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, April 13); and developing better surveys and metrics to measure well-being.

The keynote speaker  is Eric Weiner, former NPR reporter and author of the best-seller, The Geography of Bliss, a story of his search for the world’s happiest countries.

Other speakers include Vicki Robin, author of Your Money or Your Life; local author Cecile Andrews; Tom Barefoot, director of the Vermont-based organization, Gross National Happiness USA; Rita Hibbard, director of the Compassionate Action Network; ecological economist Robert Costanza; Laura Musikanski, director of the Happiness Initiative; and psychologist Ryan Howell, creator of the Happiness Initiative national survey.

John de Graaf, director of Take Back Your Time and co-author of a new book, What’s the Economy for, Anyway? Why it’s Time to Stop Chasing Growth and Start Pursuing Happiness, said “There are those who think of the word “happiness” as something flakey, or a luxury in hard times.  But it’s really central to our identity as a country.  Thomas Jefferson was the first to use the language ‘pursuit of happiness’ and he declared that happiness ought to be the first goal of government.  In those days it was pretty hard to measure happiness.  But now we have a whole science of happiness and well-being that can tell us how well we are doing in meeting Jefferson’s goal.  We’ll be explaining how it works at the conference.”

Conference sponsors include The Happiness Initiative, Take Back Your Time, the Compassion Action Network, Sustainable Seattle, and the communications department of Seattle University.

Registration is at   Tickets may be purchased at the door, and the keynote address will be open to the general public without charge, based on seating availability, thanks to support from Humanities Washington. A conference program is at







Redmond company introducing construction set for Space Needle replica

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012


Redmond-based Eitech America will introduce into the U.S.  market by September a construction set for building a three-foot replica of Seattle’s famous Space Needle.

Image courtesy of Eitech

Bobby King, Eitech America’s president, said in a press release that the company wished to celebrate the landmark’s 50th anniversary with its Deluxe Space Needle Construction Set.

“After designing and engineering replicas of the famous Eiffel Tower and London Tower Bridge, we wanted to create one of our favorite U.S. landmarks. We decided on the Space Needle because of its innovative design and engineering. Plus, Seattle is home for us,” he said.

The company said the set is licensed by the Space Needle. It will have more than 740 interconnecting steel pieces, and tools and instructions.

Eitech will also be offering a smaller version of the Space Needle Construction Set for less ambitious builders or beginners.

Eitech America is a division of Eitech, a European steel construction and building set manufacturer that creates  toys in Germany.


Missed signage opportunities

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

In today’s world of signage and ads plastered everywhere, it seems odd to advocate more. But here we are…some local cornerstones might be missing out on customers, and signage could change that.

The Seattle Center offers great examples. Atop the Space Needle, two comments from the visiting throng seem most frequent aside from ones about Mt. Rainier: kids shouting “there’s McDonald’s, with the “M” on the roof,” and people of all ages asking “what’s that building with all the colors?” The Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum seem to have an awareness issue among tourists. Many of these people are presumably wondering what to do after the Needle, and might love to know about two of our best museums, which might even get the kids excited. Some signage viewable from 520 feet, not to mention some other angles nearby, seems worth the expense.

The Center House (ok, the “Armory”) is gradually adding new food outlets. But some break a cardinal rule of food courts: you can’t read the signs from across the room, particularly from some directions, and even if you can read the sign they’re not always clear from 150′ away about the cuisines they offer. Many visitors walk in, stand in one place, and decide what to eat, particularly families. The big signs seem to be winning. They’re aided of course by people’s familiarity with brand names, vs. local sellers who might have an artsy name and then, like Skillet, use smaller secondary signage to explain what they sell. For example Starbucks tends to have a line all day, often an absurdly long one (dammit), but a little coffee stand nearby goes mostly unnoticed, though in its defense it does say “coffee” if you’re looking from the south. For the Armory itself, a little of that “M” mojo would be useful too; why not tell Space Needle visitors above that food is available next door?

The new City Target is a welcome addition to Downtown. Their signage is clear – if you’re a block away, looking up, and familiar with their logo. But walking by, even the logo isn’t as easily seen. On high-traffic Pike especially, shouldn’t there be something pointed at pedestrians, a little above your head, that gives you some indication that it’s a Target store? Maybe even something that say they sell groceries, electronics, etc.? There’s a sign listing departments but it’s flush with the exterior and in small font, mostly useful as wayfinding for those about to walk in.

In Belltown there’s a place called Form/Space Atelier. It’s downstairs out of sight with only a small sign by the street entrance. After years of vaguely wondering what it is, this blog post was impetus to WebCrawler them. Turns out they’re an art gallery, not a furniture store. Good to know. Perhaps the sign by the door could have the word “gallery” added, unless this knowledge is
intentionally being closely held, or only for people who know that an atelier is typically the “workshop of an artist in the fine or decorative arts” according to wikipedia?

Again, the world has plenty of ads and signs. Actually far too many. But sometimes an addition is welcome – descriptive, not in anyone’s way, and pointed at likely customers.

University uses streetcar to get its message across

Friday, August 3rd, 2012
Photo courtesy of Nyhus Communications.

Northeastern University, a non-profit, private research university based in Boston,  plans to open a campus in  Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood in 2013. To generate buzz in anticipation of its arrival, it has taken to the streets with a bright red advertisement wrapped around a South Lake Union Streetcar announcing Northeastern University – Seattle.

Northeastern said last year it will open graduate campuses in several American cities. Graduate degree programs in business, engineering, health sciences and computer science will be taught online and in the classroom. Most course offerings in Seattle will start in January. For more information, go to

Northeastern has 20,000 students at its main campus. It offers more than 90 undergraduate majors and 165 graduate programs.

The Seattle campus will be in a modest space with a few classrooms, an administrative office and a reception area.

Northeastern likes the neighborhood because of its technology, biotechnology and biomedical industry focus, a university spokeswoman said. She said the neighborhood offers Northeastern the opportunity to collaborate with some of those enterprises in research.

In Seattle, the university hopes to attract graduate students who are mid-career professionals.