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Architecture & Engineering

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September 1, 1999

Renovation charts a new course

  • AIA Project of the Month
    Special to the Journal

    As the southwest shore of Lake Union trends steadily upscale, those hip-roofed hangouts of the Seventies and Eighties stand along the waterfront like a flock of albatross. But one of them is here to stay, with a new skin, some additional dormers and a very different outlook.

    Renovation of the former restaurant's second level demonstrates there is life after singles bars. The look is environmentally sensitive, urbane and very Seattle.

    When six longtime partners in maritime business decided to locate their offices together, they embarked on a voyage of discovery and collaboration with architects of Studio Jaso. Though they are all nearing retirement age, they wanted to continue their working lives in an informal and collegial place of their own.

    office space
    Circulation patterns in the new offices are defined by hard floor surfaces and subtle ramps.
    The partners were looking for an environment that reflected their maritime interests, according to architect Nora Jaso. They weren't searching for the classic Northwest style, but they wanted the new space to reflect a feeling for the region. They wanted it to be business-like, personal and private.


    Project: Offices for a maritime company, Fairview Avenue North, South Lake Union
    Architect: Studio Jaso, Nora Jaso, principal,Celso Guitian, project architect and Robin Cinamon
    Project size: 8,200 square feet
    Project type:Office renovation
    Completion date: Fall 1998
    Structural engineer: R.L. Morrison
    Artist: Jon Gierlich
    Furnishings: NB Design
    Planning and project management: John W. Stewart
    Landscape architecture: Tom Zachary
    General Contractor: Rafn

    The South Lake Union site offered the best of all worlds -- mid-Seattle location, marina and city views, easy access and parking. The adjoining marina also accommodates two historic boats owned by the group.

    In the renovated space, partners offices are arranged around the perimeter of the second floor. To create more space and open the entire floor to more natural light, the project includes a dormer addition on the east side. That extension makes way for a new reception area.

    In addition to partner offices, there are five additional offices, a new kitchen and two conference areas. The renovation includes a new lobby for the building and a board room on the first floor. The rest of the first floor is leased to a catering company.

    The upstairs suite of rooms is bathed with natural light, open to direct and screened views and richly layered with art and natural materials

    "It's like living in the work of art," said partner Fred Goldberg, who worked closely with the design team creating a concept for the offices.

    Fred Goldberg
    Client Fred Goldberg enjoys his new environment, sitting in an area known as "the lodge." The space provides an informal gathering place for visitors and company partners.
    The center of the space is dominated by an informal gathering place under a large, vaulted canopy. Christened "the lodge," the open room is anchored by a stone fireplace. Demonstrating a shipbuilder's reverence for wood and sculptural form, the canopy and posts are crafted by artist Jon Gierlich in yellow and red cedar, fir and recycled mahogany. Natural light filters through the open woodwork from overhead skylights.

    Behind the lodge, a ramp leads down to an open corridor that serves the partners' offices. The renovation has deftly exploited the varying floor levels of the existing second floor, providing an important element of privacy to the offices and adding a dimension to the interior landscape.

    Office window
    A window wall alternates framed marina views with the watery patterns of handmade glass.
    Photos courtesy of Studio Jaso

    Hand-cast glass in a variety of watery patterns fills many of the panels of the largely transparent wall that screens spacious individual offices from circulation and gathering areas. The clear glass panels along the wall provide postcard views of the water from the center of the floor.

    With the delicate balance of openness, visual screening and acoustical privacy, the partners can come and go, working apart or visiting each other as they often do. After nearly a year in the new offices, no one seems any closer to retirement.

    The reasons for this might be found in the view from Goldberg's woodcraft rocker, which includes the inviting, light-washed screen wall and lodge on one side and the marina and city on the other. If life is a continuing trade off between rest and responsibility, this may be one place to find the right balance.

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