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March 17, 2000

City gets a look at City Hall

Journal Staff Reporter

Transparency, sustainability and practicality will be the hallmarks of the design for Seattle's new City Hall, architects and city officials said Thursday at meeting that gave the public its first glimpse of the $66 million project.

Glass figures prominently in the design of the 183,000-square-foot building, one-third of which will be dedicated to public space. The roof of City Hall's main public lobby will be glass, and a glass, curved wall, which runs the height of the six-story building, will connect the office component of the building with the public lobby.

Adjoining the public lobby, on the south side, is the Council Chambers, a structure with curved walls. With the advantage of being perched on a fairly steep slope, the building is being designed to afford views of Elliott Bay. According to the schematic design concept, Council Chambers will be clad in copper or bronze, the base of the building will be stone, and the office block will be clad in masonry.

City Hall model
A cross section of Seattle's new City Hall shows six stories above ground and two below-grade levels.
The building features six stories above ground and two below-grade levels, which will used for short-term parking, possible commercial space and storage. A "customer service" area for frequently used city services will greet visitors on the first floor. City Council offices and departments, the Mayor's office and other city offices will occupy the upper floors. The main lobby, which bridges the office component and Council Chambers, will accommodate about 700 people standing or seat about 200 people. Underneath Council Chambers is another public reception area.

Marilyn Brockman, managing principal for the design team, said the goal is "to create a great place for city employees to work" and to ensure that the building is an enduring symbol of Seattle, lasting for a "hundred years plus." The design, she said, will use daylight and perhaps innovative technology to express sustainable design. The city's interest in technology and craft will be represented in how the building is detailed, she said. The structural components of the building will probably be expressed in the design, and the building will be constructed with long-lasting materials.

Peter Bohlin, lead architect, said City Hall must be a place that "engages everyone in the city," presents an "effective, humane face on city government" and relates to contemporary technology. One way to design a sustainable City Hall is to "make sure that it is a building that is loved," he said.

The city's goal is that the project attain a "silver" certification according to the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED standards.

Bohlin's firm, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, and Bassetti Architects are joint venture partners in the project's design. The design team includes subconsultant Ove Arup & Partners, an engineering firm specializing in sustainable design. Bohlin said the curved glass wall between the office component and the public lobby may be equipped with photovoltaic cells.

One of the design challenges, Bohlin said, is trying to incorporate the new City Hall on a site dominated by larger surrounding buildings, such as Key Tower and Columbia Tower.

He said the landscape architect, Gustafson Partners with Swift & Co., is now working on a way to make best use of the natural slope. They have proposed a "softly pitched, gentle stair" that will start in the heart of the building and cascade down a 1 1/2-block public plaza, a defining feature of the civic campus which includes City Hall.

City Hall model
Glass figures prominently in the design of the 183,000-square-foot building, with a glass-roofed main lobby and a glass wall running the height of the building.
Rendering by Bassetti Architects/Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
The $14 million plaza is being designed in conjunction with the City Hall architectural team.

Councilmember Jan Drago said that though City Hall is relatively small compared to surrounding structures and will not house the majority of city employees, it affords "beautiful public spaces and access."

The new City Hall will be located on Fifth Avenue between Cherry and James streets, across from the Justice Center, which will house municipal courts and police headquarters, and diagonally from Key Tower. The City Hall, Justice Center and Key Tower will be the three main buildings of the Seattle's new Civic Center. NBBJ is the architect for the $92 million Justice Center, which will break ground in June. Key Tower, which the city purchased in the mid-1990s, will house the majority of city employees.

City Hall is being designed to complement the Justice Center. Architects have matched the width of City Hall's office block with the width of the police portion of the Justice Center, and compatible stones will be used for facing the office blocks of the two buildings.

The city's existing Municipal Building and the Public Safety buildings will be demolished to make way for the new civic campus.

The total budget for the Civic Center is $226 million. Earlier information from the city stated the budget was $224 million. The discrepancy, said project spokesperson Janet Pelz, is simply a "math error" and does not reflect any change in the cost of any components of the Civic Center. Funds for the project will be spent over the next six years. The budget includes:

  • $92 million for the Justice Center
  • $66 million for City Hall
  • $14 million for the public plaza
  • $24 million for Key Tower renovations
  • $9 million for Arctic Building seismic improvements
  • An estimated $19.2 million to purchase the SeaPark parking garage, which is adjacent to the Justice Center.

The remainder of the funding is for building demolition and support facilities. City officials said the project is being paid for with councilmanic bonds, proceeds from the sale of the Dexter Horton and Alaska buildings, lease revenues from Key Tower and Park 90/5, a city-owned building on Airport Way, and ground lease of the public safety site.

The next public meeting on the design of City Hall will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. on March 24; for more information, call (206) 233-7905.

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