Architecture The Brutal Beauty of Concrete
posted by January 8 at 13:09 PMon
Under construction is the 25-story Seattle Sheraton Union Street Tower.
When completed in spring it will make the Sheraton the largest hotel in Washington, with a total of 1283 rooms and 18,000 square feet. But these are just dull facts. What’s remarkable about this tower, which owes its design to the big and global Seattle-based firm Callison Architecture, is the amount of concrete used in its make up.
Callison Architecture calls it the “modern aesthetic,” which may well be the case, but what’s certain in our day and age is that corporate structures of this kind, and expense, $130 million, almost never allow concrete to dominate the design. The north face of the Seattle Sheraton Union Street Tower is entirely composed of pre-cast concrete. The south face has the usual aluminum and glass style that deliberately resembles One Convention Place, which stands just north of the hotel and was also designed by Callison. As far as I can tell, not since Freeway Park has concrete played such a large role in a work of big architecture. Just look at it—so dense, so brutal, so raw.
The greatest of all manmade stuffs is concrete. It is the very substance of a city. It is unforgiving and never stops getting harder. When we speak of reality, we rightly speak of it as being concrete.
At the delicate age of fourteen, I hit the real real-hard: The handle of my tennis racket got caught in the spokes of my bike, the front wheel jammed, my body flew over the handle bars, and my forehead crashed into the side of the street—it was a messy matter of blood, skull bone, and concrete. The pain was terrific—cranial thunder, screaming stars, brain bolts—but to this day I treasure the experience: a head-on collision with the no nonsense of concrete, the ur-stuff of civilization. I almost lost my eye to it.