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Friday, February 29, 2008

The Trophy Building

posted by on February 29 at 14:15 PM

Most of the block bordered by Denny Way, Yale Street, and Howell Street has been redeveloped in the past decade—save for a patch of land owned by Northwest Trophy Inc.


The family-owned award manufacturer holds the one-story building sandwiched between the Marriott SpringHill Suites and the Downtown Emergency Services Center on Howell Street. In 2006, the land was rezoned along with the rest of the Denny Triangle to allow for skyscrapers, so the Anderson family, which has owned the property for 25 years and resented the drunk new neighbors, put the land up for sale. Seattle design firm and developer Pb Elemental submitted a bid to buy it. “This is urban infill basically,” says Elemental principal Chris Pardo. On less than a 3,000 square foot parcel, the firm plans to build a 440’ tower.


The incredibly small footprint poses a structural challenge that Pardo says required guns from Magnusson Klemencic Associates, engineers behind the downtown Seattle Library. “It ends up being a flagpole,” he explains. The tower is supported by a 30’ hollow concrete spine, rooted 90’ deep in the ground. Each floor is only about 2,100 square feet.

“The name has nothing to do with ego or anything,” Pardo says of calling it the Trophy Building, a description normally ascribed to prestigious civic architecture. Nevertheless, the distinctively slender and flaring design makes for the sort of landmark that will define Seattle. But such monuments rarely contain residences afforded by ordinary folks. The Trophy will be no exception. Lower units will begin at $2 million; upper penthouses, which consume two levels, will top out at $18 million.

The building will contain only 19 units.

But because there are fewer than 20 units, the building is exempt from the city’s design-review process, according to Pardo. He says that falling through the loophole was inadvertent. (My calls to the Department of Planning and Development to verify this loophole haven’t been returned.) It’s interesting, perhaps even alarming, that a skyscraper can be built without some sort of design guidance from the city. And in the case of the Trophy Building, it’s particularly surprising because it will be 40’ taller than surrounding proposed skyscrapers, such as 1200 Stewart and the Stewart Minor Tower, which are subject to extensive design guidance.

The Trophy is allowed to exceed 400’ by optimizing its rating for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The Trophy facade may include solar panels, the roof could hold a postage-stamp garden, and the roof might integrate a wind turbine.


Despite the tower’s fuzzy, green potential, my only criticism of this building is how it relates to the street. The narrow base requires a vertical parking mechanism that either sends cars down or up to their spaces. It will consume the basement and bottom five floors of the building. This means the residents closest to the street will be sixty feet up, removing eyes from the sidewalk, and thereby making an already-sketchy area ripe for criminal activity.

But that concern may be for naught. NW Trophy’s Mike Anderson says, “Well, we think it’s not going to go through from what we found out. The gentleman has changed his mind or is not going to step forward with money.” He continues, “It’s still for sale and we have a few more offers in the works. “ However, when I called Elemental this morning, the receptionist told me that plans for the design were featured in the company’s March newsletter.

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Posted by happy renter | February 29, 2008 2:18 PM

Given the small footprint, it's likely that they'll use automated/robot parking as you can pack cars in a lot tighter that way. So, it's possible that there won't be as many floors of parking as you would normally expect.

Posted by Krrrk | February 29, 2008 2:23 PM
3's nice to see people who are creative enough to take in-fill high rise sites to the next level.

Posted by SeattleMan | February 29, 2008 2:28 PM

i love it.

Posted by infrequent | February 29, 2008 2:28 PM

This is awesome!

Posted by Hey wait | February 29, 2008 2:29 PM

Will In Seattle thinks this is what affordable housing looks like.

Posted by Fnarf | February 29, 2008 2:29 PM

That's only $8,571 per square foot for the upper floors--what a bargain!

Posted by NapoleonXIV | February 29, 2008 2:31 PM

Um, no I don't.

But it would make a great location for a totem pole. Carved by the tribe that our city is named after ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 29, 2008 2:33 PM

What tribe would that be?

Posted by ouch | February 29, 2008 2:36 PM

PB Elemental also made these:

and the houses across from ezell's.

they make some of the the most interesting buildings in the city.

Posted by cochise. | February 29, 2008 2:37 PM

if there are only 19 units and the building is 440 tall then the top units are likely to be two story units and thus not $8,571/psf...way to think before you talk. I think someone out there has crazy enough money that would like to pay for a 4000sqft unit on the 44th floor of a tower with only 18 other neighbors...sounds pretty awesome to me.

Posted by antinapoleon | February 29, 2008 2:42 PM

i like the design but i don't like the location...that building is going to look odd plunked into that doesn't fit.

Posted by michael strangeways | February 29, 2008 2:44 PM

I think it will look awesome to have this crazy, skinny building randomly stuck there. I'm not being sarcastic; I could give a crap about "fitting in with the neighborhood," especially when the design is interesting (as it so rarely is).

And considering how much first floor condo owners whine about noise, isn't it good that they're far above the street?

Posted by exelizabeth | February 29, 2008 2:47 PM

It's fine by me.

The Anderson's should have sold years ago but got stuck when the other projects moved forward and ignored them.

I'm glad that there are still opportunities for that parcel that will make the family some money.

Posted by This works for me | February 29, 2008 2:53 PM

Just when you fuckers had me ashamed at my trust fund, this comes along to make it all worth it.

Posted by elenchos | February 29, 2008 2:59 PM

Are there NO F.A.R. limits in this zone? Obviously, there's no minimum lot size.

Sorry but I do not like the proportions. One needle in Seattle is enough.

Posted by Perfect Voter | February 29, 2008 3:06 PM

if they'd just make Design Review cover EVERY NEW BUILDING then there wouldn't be any loopholes left to drive semis through.

i salute their ingenuity.

Posted by max solomon | February 29, 2008 3:07 PM

Antinapoleon @ No. 11: It is my fervent desire that I may play my part in electing someone with the fortitude to tax you back into rationality come this November.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | February 29, 2008 3:11 PM

I'd be concerned if the people with this kind of money moved in there. I bet they'd start by doing whatever they could to shut down the Downtown Emergency Services Center (which I assume is the same as the 1811 Eastlake building) and then I'm sure El Corazon would be next on their list to go. People who pay that much money don't tend to be friendly neighbors to social services and loud punk venues.

Posted by Gabe Global | February 29, 2008 3:19 PM

Dear Napoleon: put the bong down hippie...I am not rich I just merely know who to add and subtract. I am not sure if your vote will even count come November....

Posted by antinapoleon | February 29, 2008 3:20 PM

sorry not "who" but "how" my mistake...

Posted by antinapoleon | February 29, 2008 3:23 PM

I love it. Who wants something that fits in? Would you want it to look like the hotel or the wet housing? We NEED more buildings that have their own personality, that stick out... yes like the Space Needle does.

Posted by Original Kyle [TCBITR] | February 29, 2008 3:28 PM

I think it should be orange.

Posted by Blaine | February 29, 2008 3:35 PM

@23 or plaid, maybe herringbone

Posted by vooodooo84 | February 29, 2008 3:38 PM

i was think that boat glitter paint from the 70's. preferably turquoise.

Posted by cochise. | February 29, 2008 3:51 PM

Five stories of parking for 19 units?

Posted by DOUG. | February 29, 2008 3:56 PM

I like it except for the lower 50'. They need to integrate with the neighborhood at street level and find a different way to deal with parking.

Posted by Cascadian | February 29, 2008 3:58 PM

This is the same engineering firm that approved the base for the tower crane that fell over in Bellevue...

Posted by JD | February 29, 2008 4:04 PM

While this doesn't address it, someone needs to have the balls to step up in Seattle and start supporting high-density urban housing.

Everybody hates a condo in their neighborhood and votes accordingly. Our city politicians fearing voter backlash are so timid that nothing ever gets done in this city to address the affordable housing issue though.

People have to live somewhere. What do we hate more condos or suburban sprawl? I'll vote suburban sprawl everytime.

We need leadership to step up and lead. Re-zoning of the Denny triangle was a step in the right direction. We need thousands of condo units downtown to increase supply and thus lower cost.

Posted by Mr. Nick | February 29, 2008 4:04 PM

Do I hear a taproot foundation? I LOVE that!

But I suspect that bugger will sway like one of the neighborhood drunks in anything over a 6.0

And as for "fitting in" -- thank god is WON'T fit in. The architecture in that neighborhood is a skanky soup of Low Rotterdam housing for drunks, the ghastliness that is El Corazon, looming hulks covered with mauve Dryvit EIFS and other charming tidbits of late-20th Century design. It's a gorgeous arrow through the heart of that garbage and I hope I meet someone on Manhunt who lives there.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | February 29, 2008 4:07 PM

If the market will bear U.S.$18,000,000.00 condominiums sandwiched between a shelter for alcoholics, a day center for at risk youth, and a freeway on-ramp, genuinely affordable housing downtown will always be just an illusion.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | February 29, 2008 4:17 PM


Seattle is named after Chief Sealth of the Duwamish Tribe.

Posted by elswinger | February 29, 2008 4:23 PM

Napolean 14 - a fair point.

It has to start somewhere though and re-zoning was a step in the right direction.

Ballard needs to be re-zoned next.

BTW the condo market may bear, as you point out, a limited number of very high-cost homes but to be fair this number is finite.

If this was truely a builders market we wouldn't see condos being converted to apartments.

Posted by Mr. Nick | February 29, 2008 4:26 PM

I think people forget to remember that in order to go above 290' in this zone that you have to donate about $19 per buildable square foot to the low income housing fund. This why the rezone in the Denny Triangle happened. For this building that calculates to about $750k going toward low income housing funds. Napolean I'm pretty sure that you haven't given that much to low income housing.

I would say that high rise builders and the buyer's are more of a solutions to the problem of affordable housing than the people that complain about there not being enough affordable housing. Plus this building adds maybe $200M worth of taxable real estate to the city. Just the penthouse unit alone will have maybe $100k+? a year in real estate taxes that go to help pay the cities bills.

Posted by Rezone | February 29, 2008 4:29 PM

#30 I agree. Has anyone seen some of the other stuff they are working on? I get there newsletter he was talking about. Google elemental architecture. They do a lot of projects where other people wouldnt and have been successful at it i.e. South Park, Rainier Valley, Beacon Hill.

Posted by Better Design | February 29, 2008 4:45 PM

Come the revolution, it'll be hard to get those rascals on the upper floors...

Posted by It's Mark Mitchell | February 29, 2008 4:53 PM

@32 - exactly. We're not named after Columbus or Fernandez from Spain, we're named after the Chief of a local tribe, the Duwamish.

Even if the Feds haven't federally recognized them, thanks to Slade Gorton and other scum.

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 29, 2008 4:57 PM

oh, and @16 - I think technically, they own air rights up to the federal aviation height limitations, and since they abut a federal highway I-5 they get exempted from the set aside for street front once they are high enough to have the freeway airspace adjacent to the property airspace - so they only have set aside on the street front on the southern edge ...

But IANAL even if I think zoning codes are fun to read.

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 29, 2008 5:01 PM

This out-of-place building will not prevent one suburban housing unit or commercial project from occurring - but it likely will bring a bunch of whining yuppies into the neighborhood to bitch about the wet-bed housing and El Corazon, as someone above pointed out.

Y'all would-be "New Urbanists" can go right on kidding yourselves, though...

Posted by Mr. X | February 29, 2008 5:44 PM

pb elemental are hit or miss. some of their projects are sheer genius, most are better that the average banal shit going up but nothing to write home about.

this project, while structurally interesting, is awful.

for an interesting project that does pretty much the same thing, check out neil denari's highline23

on a side note, i know an architect in the city that went to school w/ neil and isn't fit to even sharpen his pencils!

Posted by holz | February 29, 2008 6:19 PM

Wow Holz..... I guess you haven't studied much architecture, the project by Neil is a knock-off of 1970's Japanese modern. It was dated before it was built. Besides that it is ridiculous to compare sites (2900 sqft vs 8000+) and heights (40+ levels vs. 20) that vary so drastically. The image on seems vary schematic to me, I assume it will be articulated further as they progress. Overall I am just glad someone is working to get Seattle caught up with the rest of the world.

Posted by eames | February 29, 2008 6:28 PM

Is the Northwest Trophy building a landmark? I heard that it used to house a Denny's....

Posted by Googie | February 29, 2008 6:32 PM

let's see, the 70s...

would that be the brutalists or the metabolists? isozaki, kisho, ando, shit... they weren't doing projects like that.

also, it does make sense to compare.

NYC can support this kind of structure. denari's highline fits in well w/ the surrounding buildings. even if it is a "knock off" (btw, all architects steal. the good ones just don't get caught)

also, the site is less than 4000 sf and will house 14 units, so it is in fact a good comparison. denari's also won't look like a giant dildo in the texas plains.

Pb elemental's abortion will stick out like a sore thumb for at least a decade or two. the scale is really out of proportion w/ the existing neighborhood. plus, it really makes a lot of sense to build a 440' tower that will only house 19 families.

i'm all for progressive projects and higher density, but this definitely isn't the way to do it.

go back to detailing your door schedules and don't let mr. gensler catch you surfing the web.

Posted by holz | February 29, 2008 7:23 PM


Nothing that a couple of industrial-diamond tipped concrete saws and a few dozen out-of-work loggers couldn't handle.


Posted by COMTE | February 29, 2008 7:33 PM

@40: Jesus fuck Holz, are you forgetting what city you're in? There's audacious architecture in cities all over the world that may or may not be "better" than Pb Elemental's tower. Whatever. Try to control your inner pompous architect. For Seattle, that tower is outrageous, and it gives me hope for the future of Seattle architecture.

So if Pb Elemental is just a little better than average, what firm in Seattle is doing more interesting housing design?

Posted by Henry Miller Lite | February 29, 2008 8:01 PM

Beautiful design. One word, though: Earthquake?

Posted by Andy Niable | February 29, 2008 8:11 PM

Holz is guitar, and Eames is banjo. They are playing the theme from Deliverance. A bunch of cross-eyed, inbred Gehrys are standing around, drooling.

Squeal like a pig.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | February 29, 2008 8:45 PM

henry miller lite - the tower is outrageously bad. seriously, there is nothing overly redeeming about it - the slabs are way too thick. grantes, it's still early on, but then why release the images?

for firms doing interesting residential, this is tougher for me. i've got a swiss/german aesthetic so i'm not really into what most firms up here are doing....

multi family - weinstein (w/ agnes as a starting point), build, works partnership, holst

single family - kundig or suyama if you've got the dough. hutchison & maul. david coleman, eggleston|farkas, anderson + anderson...

don't get me wrong, Pb Elemental have a great model going, Pardo et al are obviously doing well for themselves, but there is lack of refinement in a lot of their projects.

anyway, back to my competition and ukelele.

Posted by holz | February 29, 2008 10:15 PM

"i've got a swiss/german aesthetic so i'm not really into what most firms up here are doing.... "

Wow then your tastes are really refined.

Your list is very interesting and in the same vain of all of your other comments, in outer space. Now you are compaing residential projects that cost over $500-1000 sqft to build (Kundig, Suyama) with Pb's affordable under $200 sqft housing (affordable for Seattle). I think people like you are why us normal people can never live in good architecture, by slandering the only good firms that are trying to provide it for us. We should incourage anyone that is producing work that is reachable. I would argue that it takes a much more talented architect to do what Pb is doing (on their single family and multifamily projects) than an architect to design a house with the budget Kundig gets. Lets give Pb that budget and then compare?

Eggleston/Farkas did an exact exterior rip off of Pb's Alexander Residences in Ballard. They are still on the market because they don't know how to make good spaces in multifamily housing..... I agree their single families are good, I like the old flower shop on Queen Anne.

I am also suprised with your admiration of Weinsteins Agnes lofts, did you watch its wood framed construction going up and then after it got siding on they poped on a fake exterior moment frame made out of C- channel. Wow impressive, may as well tack on a few marble columns.

I agree with #45 I am glad to see anything like this in Seattle, it hopefully will inspire others to do more unique projects.

Posted by Dell | March 1, 2008 12:41 PM

holy crap!

if an $18 million dollar penthouse is considered affordable, it's time for me to move back to japan!

Posted by mike | March 1, 2008 1:39 PM


i wasn't comparing Pb to kundig et al. i was asked which firms were doing interesting residential projects. those are the architects i think are doing interesting or innovative work (in the case of anderson + anderson, anyway)

i know a lot of these architects projects are in the $500+ range, especially george's. what's your point? ah, young grasshopper, architecture is for the masses! yes, well the masses want a lot for a little, whine too much and don't pay the bills.

could you show me a project Pb is working on that is $200/sf. i priced out 7 that ranged from $340-520/sf. turns out Pb HAS been working with those numbers. they turned out the sterling residence, which won an AIA award - and is also being sold already.

w/ regards to the agnes lofts...
i didn't see the weinstein lofts under construction, i assumed the steel was a moment frame, that is a shame.
still, they squeezed 24 attractive units under 70', all with a site area of less than 5,300 sf.
ms. dunn's project still beats out 99.5% of all other development in the city, including the proposed abomination of Pb. The fact they would get this LEED rated also shows the fatal flaws of the LEED system. bring on the passivhaus and minergie standards, please.

also, don't blame me because YOU live in a shitty place. the minute you want to change that, there are tons of hungry young architects all over this city, including Pb elemental. i wasn't slamming 'the only good firms trying to provide for' you, i was slamming their proposed tower, which it sounds like you can't afford, because most of us can't afford million dollar houses.

Posted by holz | March 1, 2008 11:16 PM

Again Holz you amaze us with your lack of knowledge..... Kundigs projects cost $500+ for construction, Pb's are less than $200 sqft. (you are quoting sales prices for Pb and construction costs for Kundig) It's amazing how you can skew fact to make your arguement correct.

As for LEED it is very flawed but not fatal flaws. 19 units on a 2900 sqft site is better than a trophy shop that doesn't like it's neighboors. I am glad someone is willing to build something here, it is great to see sites considered not desirable built.

I think it is sad that you are projecting such a negative image of Seattlites.

Posted by dell | March 2, 2008 11:16 AM
Posted by hana | March 2, 2008 1:23 PM

This thread is getting a little stale but...

So holz, your big objection to the tower design is that the slabs are too thick? Is that it? Picky picky.

And your other big beef is that it doesn't fit with the context and will stick out like a sore thumb. What context do you mean? Would you be happier if it looked more like I-5? Or maybe it shouldn't be one inch higher than the peak of the Denny Way bridge.

I like Agnes lofts too (but I hadn't noticed the faux moment frame either until today -- weird!). But the fact that you can only think of one medium-scale multifam project that you like should only make it more obvious that Pb Elemental is exceptional. Alley 24 is the only other med-scale project that I can think of (at the moment) that has inspiring design. And these are the buildings that matter most to the average Seattle resident, unlike single-fam trophy homes.

For more on Pb's tower, go here.

Posted by Henry Miller Lite | March 2, 2008 1:45 PM

stale it is.

i was picking on the slabs because they are too thick. granted, it's still in schematics so i am being overly picky. it's what i do. i have several issues with this project. the total volume of the project is over 1.32 million cubic feet. for 19 units. this isn't density. packing 50 units into something this size would be adding density. they found the loophole around design review (by going less than 20 units) and frankly, it's a big middle finger to the land-use code, design review process and LEED all at once. the scale shift will be really grotesque, turning it's back on the street is also another negative. that's where i find "trophy building" grossly offensive. when you want to talk about really progresive architecture that adds density like these i'll be happy to discuss.

as for other projects adding density, i referenced build llc - the park modern ravenna.

pdx has some up and coming projects that look really good.

here in seattle...
alley 24, completely agree. would love to see several more projects of that size and caliber.
5th & madison - ruffcorn mitt started out ok. definitely some weird things going on and the views aren't ideal.
olson walker - pike & virginia (yes, i know this is old, but it's clasic and is a good model)

yeah, i can't really think of anything beyond that right now. obviously there is a huge need and not a lot of great options right now. hopefully some devlopers will step up for some really innovative and progressive projects. i dunno how many more really bad driscoll projects on capitol hill the city can take...

Posted by holz | March 2, 2008 5:27 PM

Holz -
Did you ever stop to think that in adding density where you are going to park all those cars? I think that the number of units is more determinded by the amount of parking they can fit in. Think of how insanely expensive 19 spots are then double or triple that with no real apparent reason other than adding density. Then put common areas in each floor when the floor plate is already only 2k sq.ft., a hallway eats up a quarter of an entire floor. Why don't we let the architects be the architects. A note about the slabs being too thick. If the units are two stories and if you've ever been in a Pb project they are probably lofts. I have a hard time remembering a project I've been in of theres that wasn't some type of loft configuration. That being said the "slabs" you might be referring to probably arent the actual slabs.

Posted by Parking | March 2, 2008 6:19 PM


I just went through all your links and basically everything you mentioned was either unbuilt or on a large piece of land. Totally uncomparable from a potential density stand point. You can't blame any architect for working with the code that was given to them. Last time I check nobody at Pb was on city council. As long as we have the city council that we do (that don't understand anything about zoning) there will always be one loophole closing and two opening up. In regards to turning there back on the street. Have you driven past the current trophy property ever, I did earlier today on my way home? Most of the grades around this are at least a story above street level. There really is no street presence short of a street that looks in to the freeway. The property does look across an alley at a ten story blank wall for the hotel. I think the only thing we might agree on is your point about Driscoll.

Posted by Land Use | March 2, 2008 6:38 PM


Also even if it their project went through design review it still appears to meet all of the current landuse codes. There would just be a long discussion on where to place the awnings, or maybe that they should use more stucco. Design review is in place for departures and promoting poor projects by commitee.

Posted by dell | March 3, 2008 7:13 AM

So this building is Awesome... I live right across the freeway from it and it will consume the rest of the mountain view thats left after being taken up by the "mirabella" building. But you know what, I love it! Im a urban thinker and want taller structures everywhere, especially higher up on the hills , it'll stand out, raise the value, and look and function the way a real city should, kinnda like Tokyo!!! Can PB Elemental develope the rest of the city? please!

Posted by Will | March 5, 2008 10:25 AM

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