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    Amazon's new campus: stiff architecture that stints on the fun

    A South Lake Union neighborhood that might have had the Pearl District's personable charm instead goes for ponderous, sober boxes. Exteriors are impeccably executed, but with few whiffs of whimsy or personality. Interiors reflect Seattle's ruggedly informal, improvisatory soul, but they ain't pretty.

    So how do we build “fun” into a conglomeration of gigantic corporate buildings? The usual way, a sprinkling of commissioned sculptures, long ago became cliché and it barely works anyway. The expensive way, hiring Frank Gehry or Zaha Hadid to design the buildings, is, well, very expensive and also yields uncertain results.

    Amazon’s way, now appearing on its sprawling new South Lake Union campus, is to celebrate its fabled cheapness with finishes, furnishings, and art that essentially poke fun at itself. For example, there are light fixtures fabricated out of the metal bands used for wrapping pallets, and hallway “art” consisting of graffiti on biodegrading plywood salvaged from the old buildings that previously occupied the site.

    Such decorations indeed help lighten the mood of the ponderous, sober boxes committed by three of Seattle’s largest design firms, Callison Architecture, LMN Architects, and NBBJ. But not nearly enough. If you test the message of the architecture against Amazon’s corporate slogan, "Work hard. Have fun. Make history," you see that the buildings suggest no end of hard work, but not much fun, and they fail at suggesting that anything historically momentous might be happening inside.

    The campus occupies 4½ full city blocks stretching from Mercer to John Street along Terry Avenue, 10 buildings so far, rising five to 12 stories, accommodating what Amazon will say only is “thousands” of employees. For a corporate behemoth now reporting more revenue than any Northwest company except Costco and Microsoft, the campus is remarkably anonymous. None of the buildings actually wears a sign saying “Amazon.” The aesthetic of the buildings is in perfect concert with the rest of Paul Allen’s South Lake Union portfolio: sleek, stiff, anonymous modern boxes, impeccably executed, with rarely a whiff of whimsy or personality.

    The one mildly interesting component here is NBBJ’s small centerpiece building at 426 Terry, which incorporates a piece of the 1915 Van Vorst Building, a brick warehouse with a vaguely Mission Revival parapet facing Boren Avenue. The eroded, uneven masonry façade smudges the corporate complex with a trace of humanity, and on the opposite Terry Avenue side, a convex concrete wall provides the lone interruption of the relentless straight lines composing the rest of the campus. There’s an energetic glass-tile mosaic swoosh by Seattle artist Ann Gardner decorating the wall. For architectural “fun,” this is about it.

    The buildings were developed and are owned by Vulcan Real Estate, Allen’s South Lake Union venture. Vulcan and Amazon deserve some credit for not turning the complex into an inward-focused campus, such as the Gates Foundation, and therefore helping to create a busy streetlife. Using three different architecture firms perhaps produced a bit more variety and urban texture.

    Also commendable is Vulcan's willingness to carve out some public space among the buildings. Three plazas facing Terry Avenue interpose the buildings, each landscaped differently, and all welcome public use (pending good behavior) alongside the Amazonian throngs. None is spectacular, although the southernmost one, designed by Callison Architecture, benefits from the spatial interest of two levels and the texture of another historic brick building on one edge of it.

    It’s hard to say this without sounding like a fossilized reactionary, but juxtapositions like this — where blandly competent contemporary buildings jostle against and tower over a survivor from early in the past century — serve to illustrate why so many people feel alienated by modern architecture. The scale of the modern buildings is outlandish, and there’s often no element in the architecture that a human can relate to. By contrast, a brick — the fundamental molecule of the two old buildings in the Amazon complex — is sized to fit a human hand, its structural function is something we all instinctively comprehend, and it ages gracefully.

    It just might be that the problem with modern architecture is essentially a matter of scale, not so much of form or style. (Which, competing retailers might say, parallels precisely the problem with Amazon itself.)

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    Posted Thu, Aug 4, 8:14 a.m. Inappropriate

    I have to say this analysis is right on. Your psychology going through the neighborhood now makes you feel like you're in Logan's Run, if only everyone had matching white jumpsuits on.

    The "fun" part of the corporate slogan could have been embracing some postmodern architecture, and maybe not losing sight of the human scale, as the neighbourhood now does. REI's flagship store not far from there does a better job, integrating water and trees, too. But, as you point out, REI is welcoming people and Amazon is saying "stay out."

    Incidentally, doors make terrific desks. You can get a door and legs for $80 or less, and the desk is roomier than any furniture sold as a "proper" desk.


    Posted Thu, Aug 4, 8:50 a.m. Inappropriate

    Mr. Allen's Neighborhood stands in curious contrast to his nearby venture into architecture, the Experience Music Project. Is the Amazon campus overcompensation or an Act of Contrition?


    Posted Thu, Aug 4, 9:17 a.m. Inappropriate

    Good piece, good start on looking (via the buildings, which in this case give us a view of both Vulcan and Amazon) at what these corporations mean to us in the city. Vulcan, as Cheek makes clear, missed a huge chance to make South Lake Union into a compelling place. I would argue that the main difference b/w SLU and PDX's Pearl District is that in the Pearl there is a lovely mix of old and new. Vulcan made a concerted effort to destroy the vast majority of the many interesting older buildings that once made up the place. Having old and new provides the very contrast that Cheek finds missing in the contemporary buildings- it mixes up scale and texture, shape, color and form. But this is quite consistent with Vulcan's posture throughout the city. Their buildings are cold, uninteresting and consistently mediocre. They add very very little to the cityscape. Paul Allen is reported to have a fine collection of fine art, but he keeps it to himself. And in the same way, his buildings don't offer the street much of anything. Allen has a huge yacht that he has parked in various places around the world. Its as if he never ventures ashore to see what makes those very places so desirable. His (and Vulcan's) view of urban design is incredibly sterile and one-dimensional.

    I was on a plane back to Seattle on Sunday seated next to two young Amazon workers. In our pleasant conversation I inquired why they thought Amazon didn't provide any cultural support for the city. They replied that the company also doesn't provide discounts for its workers- that is because they were told, that the company gives everything to the customer. Interesting pt of view. Amazon (Bezos) "doesn't much care to receive anyone"- including the culture of the place which has been so very good to him and his company. He moved here to create Amazon because he believed he could find the talent he needed to make his company, but he seems convinced that he has absolutely no obligation to help nurture the place at all. To an outsider, and stockholder in the company, it seems a terribly selfish and self-centered way of viewing the world. It should be no surprise to anyone that the buildings reflect that stance.

    "Too bad", says Cheek, indeed. Much of the failure of SLU must rest squarely on the city, especially during the reign of Nickels. There were many public meetings about the potential for SLU, going back several administrations. Design professionals were brought in to work with the communities there. Detailed neighborhood plans were drafted, and they stressed keeping as much of the older building stock as possible. City Hall threw all that out and let Vulcan have its weighty way with the place. The Pearl district is a success because of the zoning that prescribed how it would be re-structured, and it was built up in its current form by a variety of developers. Cheek points out that the Amazon building was designed by three different firms. But it, and almost all of the land around it are owned and controlled by one, very shortsighted company. City Hall folded to nearly everything Vulcan wanted. Since Vulcan is so unenlightened, it would seem the city's job to help them see.


    Posted Thu, Aug 4, 9:28 a.m. Inappropriate

    The area has become claustrophobic. One futurist solution would be projected
    imagery on all the blank walls. The new SLU park is no help either. Sad.


    Posted Thu, Aug 4, 10:08 a.m. Inappropriate

    In Seattle, it seems that we have this continuing paranoia that the "big guys" like Paul Allen are out to do devious harm for their own benefit, at the expense of the community. The irony is that this type of thinking is how we ended up losing the huge park that would have occupied these very blocks in SLU that Paul Allen had purchased to give to the city. Another aspect of this misconception is that Paul Allen has almost nothing to do with the operations of his development company, Vulcan. Its his sister, who runs the company, but we seem to like to have male boogiemen in the press.

    The author seems to have a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of what is going on in this neighborhood. The new buildings that are going up (not just those tenanted by Amazon) are speculative office buildings designed and built to tight financial pro formas which maximize the rentable area per the city's zoning code. This is the way that these projects obtain financing, and are the nature of the beast for spec office, not just in Seattle, but wherever spec office is built. The zoning envelope is filled out, and the building shells are typically designed as background buildings of "Class A Office" quality (just) as set by the rental marketplace. You can love it or hate it, but this is the nature of spec office development and it would be naive to expect otherwise. These type of buildings are not corporate or institutional headquarters campus buildings (like Microsoft or Gates Foundation)and don't have the budget or the desire to make such a statement. In fact, in SLU, city planners have intentionally discouraged groups of new buildings being designed as "campuses"- which tend to have a suburban connotation and don't reflect urban multi-tenant use. They have encouraged individual expression of buildings on each block. All-in-all these buildings in SLU tend to be better than the status quo for spec office in Seattle.

    Regarding the preservation and reuse of existing buildings in this area of SLU there was nothing remotely comparable to the Pearl District. These particular blocks were occupied by severely delapidated wood and concrete block low-rise warehouses of no charm and only tear down potential. The Van Vorst building was the only building of any character and it was dangerously unstable and damaged. The area that could be saved was saved. The other building of note that was able to be saved now has the Tom Douglas restaurant in it. Anyone who actually looked at the other old sheds and warehouses that were removed would have instantly understood that they were tear downs.

    Amazon is a tenant with a limited lease in these SLU buildings, not the owner and may or may not continue to be here at some time in the future. The first four buildings occupied by Amazon didn't even have Vulcan as the lead developer and were designed far before Amazon became a tenant.

    I'm actually not a fan of spec office buildings, but this is what the zoning and our market economy produce. Change the zoning or financial incentives if you don't like it, don't provide aesthetic criticism for what is a predetermined outcome.


    Posted Thu, Aug 4, 10:44 a.m. Inappropriate

    On Mr. Bezos not giving back to the community:

    I'd venture to say that he hasn't realized his own mortality yet. Paul Allen after a bout with cancer decided to at least have a little fun with his money. He's given Portland the Trail Blazers, Seattle the Seahawks, the stadium they play in, the Experience Music center. The Vulcan development arm sort of fell into his lap with the failure of the Commons. He was going to donate all that land to the city.

    As for interior cubical farms of Amazon corporate, the designers of the office space obviously never read DeMarco's "Peopleware". Oh well, people are pretty adaptable even to less than optimal working conditions which is I'm sure why it's the way it is. Cheaper.

    We are lucky that Amazon didn't decamp downtown Seattle for some suburban campus. That would have made a huge hole in the cities tax revenue and made traffic worse as Metro doesn't do all that well with cross city/region transportation.

    As for Amazon not plastering it's name on the building, I tend to think that it is a statement to the building owner that if they wanted to they could just pack up and move to another location. They have in the past moved around town several times. It may also be a statement to the city to not take them for granted.

    As for the number of employees, the Seattle Times has reported that the number is close to 7,000 people. That's a lot of high wage jobs in a time when most job growth is in the service sector at minimum wage. Even if the corporation doesn't donate money to the city, the employees spend their money in the city keeping all those restaurants and theaters full.

    And don't forget, Mr. Bezos also owns a spacecraft company "Blue Orgin." While the launches are in West Texas the headquarters is in Kent. No doubt to build on the space engineers that used to work for Boeing.


    Posted Thu, Aug 4, 11:26 a.m. Inappropriate

    @thoughts: No discounts to its workers? Does that mean no more 10% off for purchases up to $1,000 a year (for locally based Amazonians, that essentially amounts to a sales-tax refund)?

    @crtic2: I so regret voting against the Commons project.

    @GaryP: It was my understanding that Amazon is not as philanthropic as its peers because it was still in "growth mode," i.e., using profits to continue to lower prices for customers and expand its services. At least that's what we were told back in the day. The rationale may have changed since the middle of last decade. And, as you note, it is good to have all those employees patronizing local businesses.

    As for the corporate name, I don't believe Amazon has ever plastered its name on its buildings. If I remember correctly, there was a small sign at the main entrance to PacMed, and a larger sign at Union Station — but high up, and on the Fourth Avenue side — basically invisible. I think that's been it.

    Posted Thu, Aug 4, 11:33 a.m. Inappropriate

    GaryP, I have to say I didn't know that Paul Allen gave Seattle the new football stadium. Good piece but thank you Crtc2 for putting better background on view. I think the author is way too kind to the Gates complex and seriously wrong about the REI building, a mess from the parking to the circulation to the exterior (does nothing for 2/3 of the street frontage and displays a self-conscious pablum of plantings on the remainder). It's not urban, not really good suburban either; some of their shopping center outlets are more attractive and work better. SLU is not exciting, I'm sure Allen has (at least so far) lost a bunch of money but the area is coalescing into some kind of an employment center that is OK looking and is good for the rest of the city.


    Posted Thu, Aug 4, 1:41 p.m. Inappropriate

    Thanks for calling attention to the let down in public process, urban design and architecture that is SLU. It's office park meets urban scale. Who cares if Paul Allen was willing to donate land to make a park. When voters said they didn't want to pay to build and maintain a park, Allen removed any evidence of an industrial heritage and gave us a bland, uninspiring office park. Not only that, but Vulcan manipulated and man-handled the city to get it built that way. And got the most useless trollie ever built in the process as well. Imagine if the trollie had been built from 1st ave to capitol hill. It'd be packed!

    My only disagreement with this article is the author's gigantic crush on all things Mithun. He once called the Mosler Lofts by Mithun "the most interesting and provocative residential high-rise to appear in Seattle since World War II" (PI 12/25/2007). I'm never going to let him live that one down! REI is great, but it's not fair to compare a retail urban folie with commercial buildings. Retail is all about getting people there, commercial is more about providing maximum F.A.R. Apples and oranges.


    Posted Thu, Aug 4, 1:55 p.m. Inappropriate

    I totally agree with that trolley. The tracks are a menace to bicyclists. It doesn't have light priority. It runs so slow that you can beat it by walking during commute hours and if you have to wait for one to arrive on the 15 minute schedule, you can easily beat it by walking the whole length of it.

    And Paul did jam that trolley down the cities throat, but he's also paying for about 50% of it's cost.

    As for the stadium, there wouldn't be any Seahawks in Seattle without Paul. And he guaranteed on the cost overruns so that made sure there wouldn't be any. The downside is the one part of the Kingdom that made money was the exhibitions, and Paul got the revenue from that, which I suspect is enabling him to pay off the bonds on the construction that he was responsible for.

    Mr. Bezos could be a major donor to the local arts but he doesn't seem to be interested in it at this time. He's also still pretty young.

    Amazon.com the company is not founded on handing out money to anyone but it's customers. Witness the free shipping, Prime accounts etc. Stock holders are left at the sidelines if they are waiting for dividends.


    Posted Thu, Aug 4, 2:47 p.m. Inappropriate

    NONE of the extremely profitable corporations in Seattle has ever built a decent, much less inspiring building.
    Microsoft, Adobe, Amazon, Vulcan, Boeing, and on down the line- they all have settled for lowest cost per square foot commercial architecture like this.
    It almost makes you miss the old Monopolists of the past- at least, while Mellon and Scaife and Carnegie were machine gunning their own workers for the sin of striking, they built beautiful structures that last.

    Personally, I consider the EMP a "taking", not any sort of gift. It was a squandering of huge amounts of money on an ugly folly that the owner then fails to be interested in any more, and is unwilling to support programming in. Hopefully he will auction it off and we can revive the Jones Museum in the space.

    But aside from the EMP, please, somebody point out a single great building besides the downtown library, which was a government project, that has been built in Seattle in 20 or 30 years.

    Part of the problem is stingy corporations, part of the problem is conservative management, and a lot of it is the unwillingness to hire GOOD architects and then let them run with it.


    Posted Thu, Aug 4, 3:48 p.m. Inappropriate

    Rniemi, if we're talking about exteriors, I'd vote for 1201 Third Avenue (the former Washington Mutual Tower), built in 1988.

    Posted Thu, Aug 4, 4:07 p.m. Inappropriate

    If we're talking about interiors, my vote would go to Steven Holl's St. Ignatius Chapel on the Seattle University campus. The changing natural light and shadows are enough to make me want to go back to church. Almost.


    Posted Thu, Aug 4, 6:20 p.m. Inappropriate

    I would even remove the Downtown Library and SAM's "old" downtown building: they are both examples of famous architects "seconds"/second rate buildings, just like EMP. And don't forget the travesty that is the Westlake Mall.

    Posted Thu, Aug 4, 6:52 p.m. Inappropriate

    There are several reasons that the Pearl District, in Portland, is more interesting.

    First, the block size and road grid. The blocks there are just 200 feet on a side, much smaller than SLU. This makes the walking much more interesting, for it breaks up things into more bite size pieces.

    Those smaller blocks make for smaller projects and more diverse developers. No one developer can put up mammoth projects like this, save for one owner with a number of blocks, who treats these as separate projects.

    The Pearl District also started with more buildings. That set the tone. Interestingly, investors and developers there realize the district is getting less interesting as it moves north, where there were no buildings.

    This is partly offset by the fact that the developers made a deal with the city: that they would make land available and the city would put in alternating blocks of parks. That makes it a much more interesting place.

    And there are multiple developers working away. Each has his own financing and development team. Vulcan tried to get the same effect by hiring three different architectural firms, but when you have one client and one user, you will inevitably get one result.

    Interestingly, SLU has a clone in another part of America- the area of East Cambridge around MIT. Both are boring places, perhaps because both are so corporate. South Lake Union will always suffer from having so much of the land controlled by one firm, headed by people who are so secretive and separate from the public process. The trolley was indeed the creation of Vulcan and Nickels- nothing democratic about it. Allen simply has an enormous amount of land in the area, which he probably paid too much for it, and from an investment point-of-view, the operative word is "absorption": how much land can he get the market to absorb each year, how fast can he build it out to get a return on his investment. With that kind of outlook, with the clock running, questions of aesthetics, of long-term investment in the livability of the area, of sharing the developable land by selling it off all become secondary to questions of cash flow. Perhaps the folly here is the public expecting this area to become anything more. It is, after all, simply one giant office park, with a smattering of retail and residential space thrown in as "amenities".

    Posted Thu, Aug 4, 7:55 p.m. Inappropriate

    Good architecture of the past 20-30 years:

    * Safeco Field. There is an elegance and simplicity to this stadium that feels at once modern and old-fashioned. (Well, modernism is pretty old-fashioned anyway by now, isn't it?) This is probably one of the best modern stadiums in professional sports.

    * Columbia Center. Often overlooked, but the building is pure form: a strong example of modernism. People often overlook its subtlety for its size. It has curves and sculptural qualities that look intriguing from any viewpoint (across the Sound, on the street, from Smith Tower, etc.). Somehow also, despite its size, it manages not to dominate the skyline or upstage the Space Needle, but it never fully recedes to the background, either.

    * The Henry. The 1997 addition by Charles Gwathmey is a terrific echo in steel and glass of Carl Gould's original 1920s red brick structure.

    * Red Square. There is a similarly fun echo going on on Red Square. The red brick square itself is one of the coolest open squares in the American West, first of all. But the Kane Hall/Suzallo interplay is extremely effective. I don't think Kane Hall stands alone that well as architecture, but its context on Red Square opposite Suzallo creates a pretty ingenious tension.


    Posted Thu, Aug 4, 9:49 p.m. Inappropriate

    Smacgry, I'm with you on Red Square, but it's over 40 years old now. And as for the Henry, the addition strikes me more as a prefab shed from The Home Depot. The Columbia Center, though, is indeed a striking building.

    Posted Thu, Aug 4, 10:56 p.m. Inappropriate

    Is the Amazon campus overcompensation or an Act of Contrition? I would argue it's neither. It's simply cheap and ugly, and very much in keeping with Seattle's taste in modern architecture.

    Mud Baby

    Posted Fri, Aug 5, 7:33 a.m. Inappropriate


    There are many great examples of commercial architecture in our city:

    *The WaMu tower (the newer one, now Russell Investments)by NBBJ. I love this building. I look out my office window everyday, appreciating the way the mass of the building is shaped by different volumes with subtly varied textures. It's really quite nice. The SAM expansion part of it by Allied Works is a huge let down. But it's difficult to imagine how a museum plugged into a corporate tower could ever be successful architecturally.

    *NBBJ's own office is actually pretty nice as well. Much of the SLU crap that NBBJ has designed since picks up on some of the same materials and ideas, but their own office building was much more aggressive and innovative.

    *Weber Thompson's own office on Terry and Thomas (and it's in SLU as well) is very nice. By far their best building, as they are guilty of designing SLU crap as well. I have to say, I'm not a fan of most WT buildings, especially their downtown residential towers, but the Terry Thomas building is hugely successful as both a "green" building and an urban office building. The courtyard is awesome.

    As far as great non-commercial buildings in Seattle go, all these buildings are great: Safeco Field, Seattle Central Library, the Olympic Sculpture Park Pavilion, the Gates Foundation, Seattle University Law School, the St. Ignatius Chapel. You're right, the EMP was a total taking.

    @Urban_Observer, I totally agree with your comments about PDX's Pearl District. Hugely successful urban design. But Portland is also devoid of significant works of architecture. It's all background buildings, except for Michael Graves' terrible tombstone courthouse. The best thing going on in PDX architecture right now is Holst. Their work is mostly just style, but it's a significant improvement from the rest of the city's uninspiring new works of architecture.


    Posted Fri, Aug 5, 6:17 p.m. Inappropriate

    I'm not sure that architecture matters, except to architects. The great cities of Europe do indeed have memorable architecture- St. Pauls and the Houses of Westminster in London and the Eiffel Tower and the cathedral in Paris, but for the most part the buildings in these cities are undistinguished. And yet the places are great!

    What makes them great? Not architectural detailing, not "Here I Am!!!" design statements, but harmonious scaling, materials and street spaces. Same thing in downtown and Back Bay Boston: Boyleston Street has nice buildings, but few that would make it into coffee table books. These are simply nice urban places, and that is good enough for most of us. It is hard to have urban places when a few property owners control so much of the real estate.

    Posted Fri, Aug 5, 7:34 p.m. Inappropriate

    Amazon campus? It's soooo Seattle!


    Posted Sun, Aug 7, 10 a.m. Inappropriate

    Architecture matters because bad design influences how people interact. Large blank walls that face the street are horrible for good urban interactions. They invite unauthorized street art and intimidate pedestrians. That's not to say that artistic touches up on the top edges of buildings matter, they might not but no down staircases in the downtown library? That was nuts. Walking up and down stairs is good exercise and leads to discovery of books as one pauses on each floor to see what's there.

    The Vulcan buildings for Amazon in South Lake Union are just offices, housing for workers. But the open courtyards invite people to spend time outside in front of those buildings. That's a good thing and helps the workers have spontanous meetings which should lead to interesting conversations and possibly inovated work.


    Posted Sun, Aug 7, 9:43 p.m. Inappropriate

    Of course reasonable, functional design matters, but "architecture" as usually used today, has come to mean "starchiteture", buildings designed simply to be different and to be expressive, like EMP. More often than not, more creative energy goes into designing the facade of these buildings than the interiors or the way they relate to their surroundings. My point about London and Boston is that these are great urban places, in which the buildings have reasonably good designs but are not terribly distinctive. What we have in so many places is the individual building calling out for attention, perhaps in part because the surroundings are so truly forgettable, and unpleasant. The ultimate irony of EMP is that you can drive by it and not really notice it. It is a building not talked about, and yet the sponsor and architect clearly meant this to be a building that was noticed. And the fact that EMP has not had a significant impact on our community says that the programming and use of the building was not clearly thought through or committed to. Really great buildings and places have clear and great intent. Maybe that's why the Amazon assembly is mediocre- all it's meant to do is be a place for people to work. Should we expect more of a district that is basically a place where lot of people coming together to work on computers, have meetings, and then go home afterwards?

    Posted Mon, Aug 8, 11:14 a.m. Inappropriate

    The failure of good architecture of the Vulcan office campus is that what was driving "The Commons", an attachment to "SOUTH LAKE UNION!" ie the Lake! It's entirely cutoff from everything by Mercer and Valley. Two hideous roadways that are a constant traffic jam, an eye sore, pedestrian un friendly, bicycle dangerous.

    Paul & the city owned almost all of the land that was to be "the commons." By creating a local taxing district, same as was done for that trolley, they could have built a "park" or pedestrian corridor that would have increased the walk-ablity, and thus value of the properties. But no vision.


    Posted Thu, Aug 11, 9:19 a.m. Inappropriate

    If the list of buildings above is what Seattleites consider "great architecture", I have to wonder- have any of you ever been anywhere else?

    Columbia Center?
    The Washington Mutual Tower?
    The horrible facelift of the Henry?

    sorry, but these are very average commercial projects.

    and, not to pee in my own punchbowl (I worked on Safeco Field) but Safeco Field was probably the 20th iteration, nationwide, of the retro ballfield meme, and while I like the roof mechanism, the architecture itself is far from overwhelming- its comforting, like an old flannel shirt, but great? not hardly.

    We have THE richest guys in the world- would it kill em to hire Calatrava, or Norman Foster, or Zaha Hadid, Thom Mayne, Stanley Saitowitz, or any of HUNDREDS of interesting contemporary architects worldwide to build ONE building?
    NO, they gotta go with the same regional commercial firms that have built the rest of Seattle. I am not saying that GGLOW, or Olsen, or NBBJ, or the rest of the locals are bad- I have worked with most of em over the years- but just that they are much more likely to roll over and play dead when Paul or Bill barks.
    The proof is in the streetscape.

    And its boring.


    Posted Sun, Sep 23, 10:55 p.m. Inappropriate

    THE FAILURE of SLU can be put squarely at the feet of the Seattle voter. Back in the mid nineties Seattle had two chances to vote to build a 60 acer park from Denny Wy. to Lake Union. Paul Allen had donated $ 20 million to start buying property to make this thing happen. $20 million!!! Many property owners sold willingly supporting this forward looking vision of a central park in the geographic center of our city. But it was optimistic proposal for a cynical time and the voters looked a gift horse in the mouth and said NO! Then after the park was scaled down to cut public costs voters said HELL NO!. So now we have a nice little 12 acer park surrounded by a bland office park. Way to go Seattle! And we want to be some kinda "green" city..? We blew it!


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