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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