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12 landmarks of Seattle's future

What will be remembered of Seattle when all our craftsman-styles and Apodments have fallen down?

We've got the Space Needle, the P-I Globe — even a historic sewer line in the Arboretum — as current official Seattle landmarks. But, what about the future? What standouts of our current built environment might one day deserve landmark status? What will survive, assuming we don't blow our icons to kingdom come like the Kingdome? I asked some local experts — architects, scholars, designers, preservationists — to suggest some possibilities, then added a few ideas of my own.

1. The Bullitt Center (2013)

Our era is going to be known for pioneering "green" buildings, so assuming we're not entirely underwater due to global warming, an obvious pick is one of the newest additions. Whether it saves the planet or not, The Bullitt Center, designed by Miller Hull,  is already famous as a symbol of 21st century sustainability, touted as "the greenest commercial building in the world" and a harbinger of "performance-based design."

Photo: Bullitt Foundation

Its association with the famed Bullitt family and Earth Day founder Denis Hayes will also help justify the case for landmark status. It doesn't hurt that it's built to last at least 250 years, around the time people will catch on that climate change is "real."

2. Koolhaas Downtown Library (2004)

Love it or hate it, the Rem Koolhaas library is an icon of its times as the very concept of libraries is being reinvented. It is one of the few public buildings in Seattle that tourists come to see, more popular perhaps than the books within. It has been compared to a Rubik's Cube, an airport terminal, a greenhouse. In 30 years, will it still be a library? Probably not. Architecture critic Lawrence Cheek says by the time it becomes landmark eligible, it'll be ready for adaptive re-use. Cheek wonders if it'll be an "experimental agricultural facility for propagation of new Japanese maple." An indoor pot farm is more likely.

3. Chapel of St. Ignatius (1997)

UW architecture professor Jeffrey Karl Ochsner says that despite a Washington State Supreme Court decision that makes it difficult to landmark religious structures, a stand-out candidate would be St. Ignatius Jesuit Chapel at Seattle University. Designed by Bremerton native Steven Holl, the chapel is famed for its play of interior light, a place of meditation, prayer, and inspiration even for secular Seattleites.

Photo: Flickr user Jules Antonio

4. REI Flagship (1996)

A local outdoor gear cooperative that became a national retail sensation, REI's flagship store is notable for its attempt to bring the outdoors indoors, including its famed climbing wall. It's as if the lodge, the outfitter, the mall and the mountains have become one. Designed by Mithun, it embodies the Northwest outdoor ethic with recycled building materials, and it walks the green talk — in hiking boots, naturally.

5. Amgen Helix Bridge (2004)

This $10 million pedestrian bridge to Amgen's Seattle Helix campus over Elliott Ave. looks like a spiraled DNA molecule. It's a gorgeous piece of thematic design and engineering that reflects one company's research and more broadly Seattle's bio-tech aspirations. It also raises a question (are you listening WSDOT?), which is: Why do so many of our major bridges fail to inspire, excite and intrigue? As a member of the Seattle Design Commission told the Seattle Times about the Amgen bridge, "For something as potentially mundane as a pedestrian bridge, this is absolutely setting a new standard."

6. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation HQ (2011)

When Bill Gates builds something, it can only be contained by a campus or two or three (see Microsoft). The NBBJ-designed Gates Foundation headquarters is global in impact (a $36 billion endowment), restrained in its presence on the ground near Seattle Center, and manages to convey high-minded transparency and corporate casual at the same time. The boomerang buildings are distinctive  — especially when seen from above — and its open work spaces and green features are a model of workspaces for early 21st century knowledge workers. The campus also has contributions from significant others, including the Olson Kundig Visitor's Center. Global reach, Gates connection, place in history, top local architects, it hits on most landmarks criteria.

7. WTO Convergence Center (1999)


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Comments:

Posted Mon, Oct 21, 10:21 a.m. Inappropriate

This is a great list. I don't like #6 since it turns its back on the neighborhood, and I never fly over it. I would have replaced Amgen Helis by the Thomas Street Flyover which is a beautiful, simple and elegant solution to a difficult problem. Amgen flaunts ADA. I dislike it for that. I wish Kevin's apartment building in the North Parking Lot had been completed before Mossback published this list. It already looks like a real keeper. Perhaps Mossback would consider an annual update. Now that would be a contribution.

MJH

Posted Mon, Oct 21, 10:36 a.m. Inappropriate

I hope it's not true about the library being ready for adaptive re-use. If there isn't a central library on that block, there won't be a central library anywhere, and I do believe there is still a place for the library in this digital age.

Posted Mon, Oct 21, 11:58 a.m. Inappropriate

All of them designed by that same venerable Seattle architect: Cold, Ugly & Derivative Inc.

NotFan

Posted Mon, Oct 21, 6:18 p.m. Inappropriate

You are kidding, right?!

chapala21

Posted Tue, Oct 22, 12:27 p.m. Inappropriate

I hope B&M; Gates center is not a serious consideration for a landmark. While I have no objection to the architecture, it is completely misplaced. It is a suburban style building of gross scale, interfaces poorly with the street, and blocks of part of the street grid. Great landmarks either need some significant historical aspect or need to be great in an of themselves. This has neither.

pragmatic

Posted Wed, Oct 23, 5:15 p.m. Inappropriate

The urbanista art critic at the Weekly has just branded as mothball material the 80 year old, landmarked Volunteer Park Art Museum by Carl Gould, i.e. ready for adaptive reuse, primarily because "one has to drive to it," i.e. it is not downtown where cars are not necessary, to say the least. Were we to buy such nonsense, there goes all of your list, except for the library that you say Cheek has branded adaptive reuse in less than 30 years. Don't you guys have anything better to do?

afreeman

Posted Thu, Oct 24, 8:51 a.m. Inappropriate

Afreeman: The landmarks law doesn't protect use, only the structures themselves (that, for example, was the problem in "saving" the Blue Moon." Adaptive re-use is often a way to *save* the structures, though some uses can certainly degrade them over time. I'd be happy to see some mechanism to protect cultural uses in some circumstances. I haven't read the critic re: Volunteer Park, but it sounds lame. And the bus goes right there!

Posted Sat, Oct 26, 10:19 a.m. Inappropriate

This is not a bad list. But when I compare this one to the lists that people in other cities might make, I can't help but think we are pretty far behind. The new Amazon spheres will help, but I would hope we could make more unique and interesting contributions to urban architecture. We should be known internationally for more than the Space Needle.

Posted Sun, Oct 27, 9:38 a.m. Inappropriate

Is the criterion that these building must have been constructed after the year 2000? That would seem to be a fairly arbitrary way of determing "modern classics" that ought for one reason or another enjoy landmark, that is, the status of being consigned to being remembered.

I recall that my first impression of Seattle architecture, upon coming to these parts and admiring the fine display of craftsmen and turn of the 19th century commercial buildngs at P{ioneeer Square, was that it had then, as of the 1930s, becone a "city without an eye." There was even and probably still is a spot along the water front called "vista point!" whence nothing special was to be seen - although on a more contemplative, less cursory, look the hill and ship canal sides, white and mallard speckled, were reminiscent of a Nordic heritage - Protestantism is not known for the riches that flourished in Catholic Europe is one efficient way of defining the unspectacular and modest yet reassuring sight of the all around mediocrity. The craftsman style was watered down. I myself spent the better part of my first twelve years on this planet in a what you might describe a really big partly elegant cottage with a roof of thatched reeds - that building breathed, and it is the first mark by which you then either feel at home or don't in any other building afterwards.

If you approach Seattle by ferry, say from Bremerton, its downtown looks generic - especially to someone who lived in very downtown Manhattan and made the acquaintance of that museum of the various style of sky scrapers: there is no Woolworth Tower in Seattle, although I much like the Smith Tower, and there is the great ex-Amazon HQ ex-hospital hulk on the north slope of Beacon Hill, asd if you rummage around the generic modern downtown and its hillside there are some modernist gems tucked away, and the revolt against modernist uniformity makes sense, although the powerful initial resistance to the Kolhaas Library then comes as a surprise since it departs from uniformity, the explanation perhaps being that you get used to anything and then want to keep it that way, what Marx aptly called "the lethargy of history". I myself like the transformation of once heavy duty industrial building to other uses.

mikerol

Posted Mon, Oct 28, 10:50 a.m. Inappropriate

Correction: Sharp-eyed Crosscut readers (and Costco shoppers) have pointed out that the original Costco warehouse in SoDo was demolished when a new one was built on an expanded site in the early '00s, so my plea for future landmarking is already too late. Apologies for the error.

Still, there must be a good alternative to recognize both the significance of Costco and perhaps the impacts, positive and negative, of "big box" retailing on the built environment. Architecture critic Larry Cheek wrote about the topic for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 2006 in a story entitled, "The design of enormous warehouse stores brings out the worst in people." He wrote about the new, bigger SoDo Costco with these observations:

"Costco's architecture offers a refreshing bare-fisted honesty: It doesn't pretend to be anything beyond what it is -- a warehouse that doubles as a retail store. No airs, no frills, minimal effort at celebrating the merchandise. Value is all it's about, and the very starkness of the place underlines the point. The Sodo Costco does offer one remarkable vista, just as you enter: a terrace of widescreen TVs, all angled toward the entrance in greeting and choreographed in unison programming, while in the vastness behind -- 3.6 acres of it -- sunlight gushes through the skylight checkerboard and sparkles in the ceiling's structural gridwork.

"After this, there's no escaping the sense of oppression from the sheer scale of the place."

It might be that the newer warehouse is more indicative of the broader legacy of both the chain and the big box phenomenon.

If you have any landmark ideas re: Costco or anything else of that ilk, let me know.

Link to Cheek's column:
http://www.seattlepi.com/ae/article/On-Architecture-The-design-of-enormous-warehouse-1196994.php#page-1

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