Boom Seattle’s New Architecture?
posted by December 27 at 10:58 AMon
Banal. Says the American Institute of Architects…
For a city with such strengths — education, culture, natural environment, wealth — the jury hoped to see more evidence of leadership and risk, and less comfort with an already well-digested regional design language. Great architecture occurs when a great designer creates new opportunity.
There’s no argument. Seattle’s design review boards even encourage developers to design new buildings that look like everything nearby. However, there are a handful of exceptions—such as the crystalline lower-half of the WaMu Center and the UW School of Law. And there’s hope for several of the residential towers rising in the Denny Triangle – some with designs presently evolving – that may prove more than glass tributes to prosperity.
But it’s hard to defend most of Seattle’s squat new residential buildings on purely esthetic grounds. A lot of them look like these.
Death to balconettes and flimsy steel beams tacked onto buildings like a fin on a Hyundai. We crave function and statements. But, realistically, new mixed-use development (and that’s most of the development ‘round these parts) can’t have the fine touches we want and remain affordable. Granite ain’t cheap and slavery is gauche. As hard as it is to defend mediocre design, it’s easier to defend than the underused parking lots they replaced, and it’s easier to tolerate than sprawl on the Issaquah plateau. Design review boards and the media should keep developers’ feet to the fire to create magnificent public buildings and skyscrapers. Those are the buildings that become landmarks and define our city. But replacing dilapidated houses and empty lots with multi-story residential developments, ugly as some might be, provide the affordable-ish housing we demand. That’s a balance we have to live with.