Posts Tagged ‘Landmarks’

Seattle architect to study Aussie seawall design

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

AIA Seattle has just given its first Emerging Professionals travel scholarship to Mithun‘s Cristina Bump to study innovative seawall design in Australia and Canada.

Sydney's Botney Bay seawall
The $5,000 scholarship will pay for her travel and research. She’ll visit seawalls in Sydney, Melbourne and Vancouver,  exploring the impact alternative approaches have on urban development and natural habitat.

Bump plans to work with partners at the University of Washington, the city of Seattle and the U.S.  Army Corps of Engineers to develop a series of recommendations for Seattle’s seawall replacement. She will present her research through an exhibition and model at AIA Seattle’s gallery in late 2009.

The scholarship is funded by contributions by Seattle-area Fellows of the American Institute of Architects and AIA members.

Oakland: A parallel universe

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Writers often dream up worlds that are very similar to our own but have fundamental differences that shine a light on what’s wrong with ours. Thomas More’s Utopia and Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels come to mind.

But I had a chance to visit just such a parallel world this week in California called Oakland.

Oakland has long been San Francisco’s ugly sister derided for its crime and Gertrude Stein determined that there was no there, there.

It is a small city and it has had its share of issues with crime. But there is a great deal of natural beauty, cultural and compelling architecture not to mention some fantastic historic landmarks.

What makes a trip to Oakland revealing is what its urgent desire to create more multifamily housing in the downtown area. There don’t seem to be the debates we have in Seattle about whether we have growth and whether Seattle should accommodate it. Instead former Mayor Jerry Brown developed the 10K Initiative which set as a goal to create 10,000 new units of housing.

Shocking! Imagine a housing agenda with an actual numerical and geographic target. And add to that the fact that the projects that are listed range from subsidized low income housing to large mixed used projects like the one on 23rd and Valdez Street. The amazing and historic Cathedral Building is also being converted to condominiums.

My walking tour of these projects took the better part of a day and some of the projects were completely ugly, others run of the mill and some appeared to really be reaching for new ground in design and function.

The sad thing is the effort may not be working. The flailing economy and the uphill climb to reverse the doughnut effect is creating a high vacancy rate—at least anecdotally. Some locals say they are the ones that should be living in the new units, but Oakland just doesn’t work for them.

So while some in Seattle want to shut the door behind them and keep out new growth, or nickel and dime developers with disconnected housing goals (How many? Where? Why?) Oakland is actually going out of its way to identify under utilized parcels and recruit efforts to build housing on them. I am

sure Oakland wishes it had our problems. And the Lesser Seattle folks, I’m sure, wish we had theirs.

It’s not a landmark, but developer won’t demolish it

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

The Southwest Design Review Board will check in tonight on a strangely familiar West Seattle development.

As built in 1927

The project is at 3811 California Ave. W. The developer initially proposed tearing down the Charleston Court building to build an entirely new project. Then, partway through design review, Charleston Court was nominated for landmark status. The project went on hold for a year.

The landmark board voted in April against landmarking the 1927 building, designed by William Whiteley, clearing the way for demolition. (Original building shown above.)

But the developer is back with new plans that will give the neighbors deja vu.

What the developer wants
The new design (seen at left) proposes retaining the wings of the original building and the building’s courtyard.

The rear portion of the old building would be torn down, but the developer wants to use that brick to create a new building front between the wings.

Steven Butler and Paul Cesmat bought the building in 2007. Project architect is Nicholson Kovalchick.

Phinney Ridge 92-year-old reflects on a lifetime of Seattle design

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008
Old downtown
Gray's Seattle
Architecture writer and editor Relta Gray was born in Mount Vernon and moved to Seattle in 1934 to attend UW.

She remembers taking the ferry from Madison Park to Kirkland for her first reporting job, and said the streetcars that criss-crossed the city cost a nickel each. Bellevue was a meadow, she said, while Kirkland was a vibrant little town.

Gray worked for Architecture West for about 20 years and led Relta Gray Associates for nearly 30 years. She also founded Environmental Design West and edited Northwest Architect.

I spoke to Relta about how today’s Seattle compares with that town of old and about her memories of earlier Seattle architects. Here’s a selection from our conversation.

Relta Gray
Relta Gray

Q. How has downtown changed?
A. To me, it seems like when I go downtown I begin to feel like I’m in New York or Chicago. I do like the energy of going downtown and feeling people around, but if feels like we’re taking away the whole character of the Northwest with the way they’re putting all these high-rises up and crowding it all together and taking down some of the little stores and things you always enjoyed.


The Arctic Hotel is getting close

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

Renovation of the historic Arctic Building is nearing completion.

Arctic Building
The Artic's signature Walruses

(Quick, before you click the link above, name the architect. Hint: He also designed the old King County Courthouse.)

The Arctic Club Hotel will celebrate its grand opening in May, according to the Web site for Summit Hotels & Resorts. Summit bought the walrus-adorned historic building from the city in 2005 for $5.1 million. Check out a slide show of rooms and more here.

The city purchased the Arctic and the Alaska Building in 1988 for more than twice their 2005 selling price.

Summit has been busy converting the 1916 social club turned office building into an upscale hotel. The landmark building at Third and Cherry needed a full seismic upgrade in addition to repairs and refurbishments.

It’s been fun to see the building getting spruced up for its new purpose. Check out the room design here, and get a glimpse on the left of the refurbished ceiling and chandelier.

The building is no longer limited to those who made it big in the Alaskan Gold Rush, but rooms start at about $250 a night.

(Fun fact, from Jeffrey Ochsner‘s “Shaping Seattle Architecture:” The Arctic Building’s Architect, Augustus Warren Gould, had no academic training and transferred from the contracting business to architecture in the late 1890s.)

Bell Square’s tugboat won’t be docked for long

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

Bellevue Square's tugboatI’m sure I’m not the only one here who remembers pushing past other kids to make it to the top of the tugboat at Bellevue Square. While I’m not proud of all the things I did when confronted with that tugboat teeming with other determined kids, it was a memorable part of growing up in the Northwest.

The Square is renovating the tug’s old home on the first floor and the tug has been removed, but according to the Square’s Web site, the tugboat will be getting a new play area on the third floor this fall.

The new play area will have a seating area, and the tugboat and smaller ferry boat will both be moved there. The Square’s site says the new play area will also have “added structures and nautical-themed elements for playing and climbing.” And room for a little pushing, I expect.