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Monday, February 11, 2008

Downtown’s Hope Diamond

posted by on February 11 at 9:19 AM

Today’s Seattle Times has a story on the crystalline Fifth and Columbia Tower, being shoehorned into the same block as the Rainier Club and the First United Methodist Church. In December, Daniel Development revised its plans from a 33-story office building to a 660-foot, 41-story tower, reflecting the surrounding metropolis in its 18 facets. This rendering by Zimmer, Gunsul, Frasca Architects puts it in context with the skyline.


Can the city expect more awesome proposals like this one?

The Seattle chapter of the American Institute of Architects is sponsoring a public conversation on the future of downtown today at noon at the downtown public library, 1000 Fourth Ave., in the Microsoft Auditorium on Level 1. Speakers include City Librarian Deborah Jacobs, Seattle Art Museum Director Mimi Gates, architect John Nesholm and developer Greg Smith. The event is free.

UPDATE: I just posted a rendering of the comparatively drab ground-floor after the jump.


The top is hot but the bottom is not.

As I said to Cascadian in comments… Most office buildings have grandiose street-level designs that are anathema to sidewalk activity. This building, based on the designs in the last proposal to the city, is an offender on that level. Though I hope it’s not as bad as the Columbia Center—with its cave-like entrances to food courts and mini-banks. The IDX tower, on the other hand, did a great job of integrating itself into the street, with a functional internal thoroughfare and a restaurant on the corner.

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Well, thank god they're having a free event, downtown, at noon on a frick'n workday. I'm sure the common folk of Seattle will be well represented at that motherfucker.

Posted by Judah | February 11, 2008 9:34 AM

How did Charles NOT write this post?

Posted by John | February 11, 2008 9:35 AM

awww, and poor linda won't be there to realize it's fruition!

Posted by holz | February 11, 2008 9:39 AM

I think it would have been *so* much better if they had put an extra 6 feet on that building.

Posted by bma | February 11, 2008 9:42 AM

that building would shame every other building around it.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | February 11, 2008 9:42 AM

I agree the building should be taller, and frankly it is quite attractive. I am kinda surprised.

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | February 11, 2008 9:43 AM

It's pretty... but isn't it a bit of a knockoff of the will-it-ever-finally-get-built "Freedom Tower"?

Posted by Andy Niable | February 11, 2008 9:43 AM

Freedom Tower is just a knock off of every other building in Dubai ... so what's your point Andy?

Posted by seattle98104 | February 11, 2008 9:46 AM

I though that, too, Andy.

Posted by Dominic Holden | February 11, 2008 9:47 AM


No, that's just a giant ugly exoskeleton pushing the fact that the terrorists have won.

Posted by Mr. Poe | February 11, 2008 9:47 AM

It's a fine piece of commercial architecture that as likely as not will be staffed by thousands of new commuters from Bothell and Bellevue. How's that GMA working out for everyone, again?

Posted by Mr. X | February 11, 2008 10:00 AM

This is the result of developer Nitze-Stagen's deal that let the church get some land in Belltown to continue their mission. It's good for Belltown. Nitze's got deep enough pockets that they may be able to hang on to this land until the long, slow commercial real estate bust has run its course, then construct. They're smart to get the permits now, though.

The church's commitment to feed the poor is the immediate beneficiary - awesome.

Posted by tomasyalba | February 11, 2008 10:07 AM

That's amazing how much brighter it is than all of the other buildings. Is that supposed to be realistic?

Posted by daniel | February 11, 2008 10:19 AM

It's a knock-off Norman Foster, but that's better than a real everything else in Seattle.

Vancouver, BC, has a real Foster...maybe someday we'll grow up and get one of those, too.

The best news of all is that the bugger's going up right across the street so I get to watch it grow from dirt hole to gleaming presence, just like I got to watch the new library!!! Yippee!!!

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | February 11, 2008 10:29 AM

The more I see of modern architecture like this the more I start to wonder if computers were really a good thing to invent.

Posted by Fnarf | February 11, 2008 10:30 AM

Foster would give it a regularized geometry. This is the Seattle Public Library turned into a generic office tower, with all the style and none of the reason.

Posted by Eric F | February 11, 2008 10:32 AM

Ooh, I hope they remember to include a way to get down from the top!

Posted by Fnarf | February 11, 2008 10:52 AM

I'm still not going downtown before noon.

Posted by superyeadon | February 11, 2008 10:52 AM

jim kunstler says building any buildings taller than walk-up height denies the reality of the energy-starved future.

"energy independence" doesn't mean you get to keep guzzling it.

think paris.

Posted by max solomon | February 11, 2008 10:57 AM

Looks good to me. At least it's not a boring box. It has a little style. If they're gonna build another office tower, it could be a lot worse.

Posted by Reverse Polarity | February 11, 2008 11:02 AM

max solomon, are cities designed by people, or are people programmed by the cities they live in?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | February 11, 2008 11:24 AM

@8--i think you restated my point--it's an unoriginal design, both here and in the Freedom Tower design.

Posted by Andy Niable | February 11, 2008 11:28 AM

I have a hard time getting excited about another office building, but as long as they're being built at least they should be as pretty as possible. This one looks a lot better than most, and it's being built in the right place.

I'd prefer that architects spend less time on the city skyline and more time on creating desirable developments on a more human scale. Even if Kunstler is wrong about the energy viability of taller than walk-up buildings, he's right that most neighborhoods will be more livable on a smaller scale. You can get a lot more density upzoning single-story retail to mixed-use development at 4-6 stories high. And you want to phase in developments in each neighborhood so that you don't get condo gentrification that pushes out affordable apartments. Basically everything we need to do is covered in Jane Jacob's 1961 book "The Death and Life of Great American Cities."

Posted by Cascadian | February 11, 2008 11:34 AM

Cascadian, I mostly agree with you. However, skyscrapers delight me beyond words. I admire them from afar, marvel at them as I walk underneath, and thrill to look down from their upper floors.

But, as you point out, more important than pretty towers is a human scale on the street. Most office buildings have grandiose street-level designs that are anathema to sidewalk activity. This building's proposal appears, based on the designs in the last proposal to the city, an offender on that level. *I posted a picture of the ground floor in after the jump if you want to check it out.*

Though I hope it's not as bad as the Columbia Center--with its cave-like entrances food courts and mini-banks.

The IDX tower, on the other hand, did a great job of integrating itself into the street, with a functional internal thoroughfare and a restaurant on the corner.

Posted by Dominic Holden | February 11, 2008 12:03 PM

That's funny. When a similar building was built in Hong Kong, people in surrounding buildings accused the architects, builders, and owners of trying to fuck with their feng shui, since the corners facing their buildings were supposed to send bad ju-ju. They put mirrors and stuff in their windows to reflect it back.

Posted by Gitai | February 11, 2008 12:21 PM

Yet another non-residential non-rental building ...

And you wonder why people drive?

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 11, 2008 12:24 PM

the only thing missing from that picture is a dozen cranes. have you looked downtown lately?

Posted by Boylston | February 11, 2008 12:29 PM

@15 - Seattle IS getting a Foster - and it's going in right down the street from the ZGF knockoff on the site of the old Public Safety Building.

Posted by seaarch | February 11, 2008 1:41 PM

This must be built.

And the ground floor is fine for that area.

Posted by Cale | February 11, 2008 1:55 PM

The tower’s form is far from arbitrary, it was the most effective way to cantilever over the church and rainier club gracefully, and the diagonal bracing was the most efficient use of steel, which is at a huge premium right now. The structure also requires fewer columns and none at the building corners, which in addition to some of the tallest floor to floor heights in the city will create very bright and scenic office space.

The building glazing will all be exterior of the building columns, and butt-joined, which will make it comparable in lightness and reflectivity to WAMU tower. Based on that the rendering shouldn’t be far off from reality.

At the street level, there will be a courtyard and water feature between the lobby and church, a glass canopy running more than the length of the tower on 5th, and a canted living wall along Columbia. All should be excellent examples of adding human scale architecture and amenities to the financial district.

I agree, however, that the tower should have been 6' taller.

Posted by cpseattle | February 11, 2008 2:17 PM

@19 - Building lower buildings (limited to what you can walk up) would cause more Urban Sprawl which causes more fuel consumption and pollution.

Posted by Todd | February 11, 2008 2:47 PM

@16: I did say knock-off, not copy -- and you are correct.

@28: Whatchootalkin'bout, Willis? Tell me more!!!

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | February 11, 2008 3:30 PM

@7-If you've seen the current design of the Freedom Tower you could never call this design a knock off or copy of that building. The orginal design of freedom tower wasn't even fully occupiable it was just an exposed urban garden

Posted by seaguy | February 11, 2008 4:00 PM

I was wondering what would go on that spot. I like it a lot better than the earlier designs I saw.

Posted by Greg | February 11, 2008 7:06 PM

It would be a nice addition to the Seattle skyline, but only 41 stories. Maybe that is all a city of Seattle's size needs, but I wish we had the guts to build tall. Why are the worlds tallest buildings in Asia and the Middle East, oh wait, because we are financing them with by buying their oil and consumer products.

Sigh, maybe (as some have pointed out to me) building tall buildings is just a juvenile form of "my dick is bigger than yours", but I see it as an engineering challenge. I also see it as a sign of a society's strength, like having good infrastructure: high speed trains, mass public transit, etc. We don't do that here either... I'm too depressed to continue my rant.

Posted by non sequitur | February 11, 2008 10:00 PM

@30 lets just hope they don't make the same engineering mistakes as Citigroup Center:

Posted by non sequitur | February 11, 2008 10:19 PM



Posted by OPPRESSION WATCH | February 12, 2008 6:57 AM

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