Archive for the ‘Historic’ Category

Frank Lloyd Wright campus to get updated lighting

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s imaginative Taliesin Spring will receive an update from award winning lighting designer and founder of Studio Lux, Christopher Thompson, who will introduce energy-efficient technology to the historic site.

Photo courtesy of Studio Lux

Taliesin Spring was Wright’s home and drafting studio in Spring Green, Wis. The property was donated to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation upon Wright’s death in 1959. It is now one of two campuses for the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture.
Taliesin Spring suffers from antiquated and poorly performing lighting systems throughout the campus.
Studio Lux will design systems that use high efficacy sources such as LED lamps, which will improve light levels, restore the original design intent, and decrease campus-wide power use while being sensitive to the site’s historical nature.
The foundation first sought out Thompson’s firm to create a Net-Zero energy zone for Taliesin West, the main campus of The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. That campus is in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Wright was a leader of the Prairie School movement of architecture and developed the concept of the Usonian home, his vision for urban planning in the United States.

New bilingual signs in Chinatown-International District

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Bilingual street name signs will be installed this summer at more than 30 intersections in Seattle’s Chinatown and Japantown neighborhood through a partnership of the city and the Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area.
Mayor Mike McGinn said in a press release that the translated signs in English and Chinese, or English and Japanese “will help us celebrate the ongoing diversity of the Chinatown-International District, as well as help people navigate the neighborhood.”

Photo by Jen Nance, Office of the Mayor

The CIDBIA worked with neighborhood stakeholders, family associations, local ethnic media, the University of Washington and translators from the Seattle Municipal Court to translate the existing street names into traditional Chinese and Japanese.
Don Blakeney, executive director of the CIDBIA, said “Not only is it a wonderful reflection of the neighborhood’s rich cultural history, but a reflection of the international hub that Seattle has become.”
Translated street names will be in white lettering on a brown background below the current legal name. The first sign is at Sixth Avenue South and South King Street.
Funding was provided by a $20,000 Small and Simple Matching Fund Grant through the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.
The Seattle Department of Transportation also contributed $6,000 from the voter approved Bridging the Gap ballot measure.

MOHAI is Awesome

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013
Photo courtesy of LMN Architects

The new Museum of History & Industry, which recently relocated to its beautiful adaptation of the Naval Reserve Armory at South Lake Union Park, sounded worthy of a good hour at most. Nice little museum in a small building, with some recreated storefronts, some trinkets and photos of old Seattle, and the odd neon “R.” Entering at the large central atrium reinforced this impression, as there’s plenty of room for further installations in addition to the transplanted landmarks and interactives.

Photo courtesy of LMN Architects

But then came the second floor, and the surprisingly large volume of stuff there…captivating stuff. If you’re curious about this city, how it got where it is, the people involved, and who and what we are today, then (shaking you by the shoulders) go now. My hour turned to two hours just to see the first 40%, then a second visit. A third will be needed to see the rest.

Perhaps it’s always been a great museum. Some of it matches distant memories of decades ago. But some is new, or refreshed.

Want to better understand our regrades, the suburbanization trend, or our one-time wealth of old theaters? Or the Great Seattle Fire complete with intentionally cheesy but catchy and informative multimedia show every 15 minutes? Boeing airplanes and worlds fairs? The surprisingly long list of movies filmed here? Local civil rights efforts?

MOHAI does a nice job of covering these and many other topics, including multiple viewpoints on many topics, and deeper dives on numerous touchscreens. In some areas it’s primarily boosterish, such as the 1962 fair, though that may be par for an event that was about boosterism. In others it’s surprisingly honest on topics such as Microsoft’s past missteps. They’ve done a good job mixing media — photos, text, spoken word, video — a key since people learn in different ways, and are drawn to different modes.

Part of going to MOHAI is South Lake Union Park. Be sure to leave time to stand at the end of the pier and look at the city. Or grab lunch as the Compass Cafe (part of MOHAI) and sit on the pier and look at the city. Prepare to be happy…Seattle looks great from here, especially now that you understand more about how it happened.


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.


Redevelopment planned at Melrose and Pine

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012


Ground Zero – Melrose and Pine

Madison Development Group plans to redevelop the “Bauhaus Books and Coffee” block on Capitol Hill. Photos by Patrick Doherty

To read the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog and its various commenters, that’s exactly how you might describe the current local sentiment about the impending redevelopment of a site at the southeast corner of this key “gateway” intersection, as it’s identified in the City of Seattle’s Pike/Pine Design Guidelines.
But seriously the collection of structures at this site (most recognizable as the “Bauhaus Books and Coffee” block) is definitely a character-defining element of the Pike-Pine Corridor, both in terms of its historic structures and some much-loved, iconic businesses located therein. In addition, as its “gateway” identification connotes, it’s one of the first remarkable collection of older, character-defining buildings as one arrives to the neighborhood from Downtown.
And now comes Madison Development Group (MDG) with a proposal to redevelop the entire site with a mixed-use building, which naturally raises local hackles.  Why, ask many locals, do these sites need to be redeveloped when they contain such lovely buildings?
Well, market forces are obviously at play here, combined with permissive zoning that allows substantially more development potential than the existing buildings embody – as the City implements its growth-management-sympathetic goals of accommodating urban growth, supporting transit-oriented communities and generally building urban villages.  In fact, the zoning has allowed greater development there for decades.  But market forces are finally catching up with that development potential.
What tempers the all-out higher development potential of the underlying zoning are the above-mentioned Pike/Pine Design Guidelines that contain some very specific language encouraging the most sensitive design possible where “character structures” are involved.  In essence, within the Pike/Pine Conservation Overlay District such “character structures” should be incorporated to the greatest extent feasible within the new development scheme.  Some purists scoff at this, labeling it as a “façadectomy” approach  to historic-building conservation, but frankly, short of full-on landmark or preservation-district level of control, that’s about the most the City can do legally to “conserve” these character-defining elements of such a neighborhood (be that Pike/Pine, Fremont or Greenwood).
What we should all hope for now is that MDG and its architects live up to the challenge to bring a truly sympathetic solution to this thorny design problem.  Somewhere between preservation of the buildings as-is and a pastiche-level façadectomy approach should be the right, elegant solution that melds the character and essence of these historic buildings with a handsome, contemporary companion.  This can be done, but it takes a high level of finesse not often seen in this neighborhood or elsewhere in Seattle . I won’t drag you through my list of successes and failures, but suffice it to say there have been some recent examples in this very neighborhood of both elegant additions, breathing new life into character buildings, and awkward, heavy-handed boxes abruptly shoved down on top of historic buildings.  Let’s hope the former examples inspire MDG, not the latter!

To learn more about the planned redevelopment, go to

City to remove Madison Park fence

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

The city of Seattle will remove a fence in the Madison Park neighborhood that for decades has blocked public access to a block-long swatch of Lake Washington shoreline, one block north of Madison Beach park.
The decision by Acting Seattle Parks Superintendent Christopher Williams follows a campaign by Patrick Doherty in SeattleScape to get that area opened to the public.
Removal of the fence was opposed by some Madison Park residents who cited safety concerns.
The city expects to start taking down the fence in early 2012, Williams said on
He said that all the 20-plus miles of city-owned shoreline along Lake Washington and Puget Sound and associated tributaries is accessible to the public except that stretch.
The fence was installed in the mid-1940s.

This block-long stretch on Lake Washington has been behind a fence for decades.

Popular Mechanics looks at 520 replacement project

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011
Rendering courtesy of Washington State Department of Transportation
Popular Mechanics has the inside story on how exactly crews will replace the 48-year-old  state Route 520 floating bridge across Lake Washington with a new six-lane bridge. If you’re wondering how they will get a quarter-million tons of concrete to float, this story tells you.

Is Third and Pike a bad area for retail?

Friday, November 4th, 2011

Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce reporter Marc Stiles recently quoted a source as saying that J.C. Penney has pulled the plug on plans for a store in the Kress Building at Third Avenue and Pike Street in downtown Seattle. Neither J.C. Penney nor the new owner of the Kress would comment on whether the deal is off, Stiles reported. But a local retail specialist said he was surprised about Penney’s lease at Third and Pike, because it struck him as “outrageous” given the scruffy character of the corner. Third and Pike is within a six-block area that, according to an analysis by The Seattle Times, had nearly 1,000 crime incidents over the last year. They included 98 reports of shoplifting, 86 narcotics violations, 83 assaults and 49 robberies. As Stiles noted “Not exactly roll-out-the-welcome-mat numbers for retailers and their customers.”

Do you think retailers are reluctant to locate in that area, or should be? What can be done to make it better?

Groups work to save Bowery’s historic buildings

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

The New York Times has an interesting article on real estate development in New York’s Bowery. It looks at preservationists efforts to save historic buildings on the “original boulevard of broken dreams.” The story notes that generic glass-and-steel towers, trendy hotels, art galleries and chains like Whole Foods have been chipping away at the street’s character, threatening to make some blocks resemble the sleeker stretches of Avenue of the Americas or Third Avenue in Midtown.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Trees and vines are taking over the ghost tower

Monday, July 18th, 2011
Image courtesy of
Just fourteen years ago, the Sathorn Unique skyscraper in Bangkok, Thailand was being built as one of the city’s fanciest residential addresses,  according to, which chronicles abandoned buildings. Never completed, it is yet another “ghost tower,” notes the site, which says trees and vines are beginning to take over the  four story archways and romanesque feature columns. It was built during the mid nineties, when the Thai economy was booming. In 1997, the Asian Financial Crisis changed all that. Developers stricken with debt were unable to finish many projects, the site notes. In the case of Sathorn Unique, the main concrete structure made it all the way to the top. The apartment fit-outs had begun in earnest, with wooden floor boards installed and polished. Connected bathtubs, wardrobes, and electrics show just how close this one was to completion. At ground floor, two escalators have been installed, climbing to nowhere in particular, the remnants of protective plastic still clinging onto their stainless steel sides.  With an amazing location close to the Chao Praya river that snakes its way through the center of Bangkok, it’s easy to see how this abandoned building would have been luxury living at its finest, the website says.