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January 8, 2003

2002 Projects of the Month defy the predictable

  • Project chosen have in common an element of surprise -- a sense of playfulness, sensitivity or preservation.
    Special to the Journal

    "In good design, there is almost always an element of surprise. But it doesn’t have to be a profound statement or a stagy performance to get a second look." So begins the AIA/DJC Project of the Month feature for last October, on the Kessel Building.

    Now in its 12th year, the AIA/DJC Project of the Month gives local design projects a second look. These are mostly commercial, institutional and multi-family projects, well into the first year or two of use.

    In selecting projects to feature, jurors and writers have sought out and found surprise -- a product of the imagination that goes beyond the predictable and the adequate. That discovery might take the form of playfulness, sensitivity, short and long-term economy, environmental responsibility or preservation. Sometimes the surprise is just a matter of doing the right thing, despite the immediate pressures to make a mark, win an award or just save a few dollars.

    This kind of architecture requires collaboration between owner and designer, and a willingness to explore possibilities and take risks. The benefits of this type of collaboration move out from owners and investors to users, the community, the public and back to the owner.

    The feature is jointly sponsored by the Seattle Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, and represents a range of project types, excluding only single-family residential. Each project has been selected by an invited jury that includes two or more architects as well as representative of one or more of the following groups: developers, public and non-profit clients, academics and artists.

    Juries meet twice a year to select six projects after perusing those submitted for the AIA Excellence Awards for Washington, along with ones submitted independently to the Project of the Month Program. To be eligible, they must be designed by registered architects and located within easy driving distance from Seattle.

    January’s feature, the King County Library Service Center, was selected by developer Michael Trower and architects Jennie Sue Brown, Chris Carlson and Mel Streeter. The projects featured February through July were selected by developer Val Thomas with architects Peter Hockaday, Marilyn Brockman and Bill Fuller. King County Housing Authority director Stephen Norman sat with architects Jim Suehiro and Leslie Bain to select projects featured in August through December.

    Feature writer and AIA/DJC Project of the Month co-founder Clair Enlow sat in with each jury, and AIA Seattle programs director Peter Sackett coordinated the selection process. With the exception of the January feature on the King County Library Service Center, which was written by Peter Sackett, all of the articles were authored by Enlow.

    The features of 2002 reflect an interest in project types outside the range of typical architectural practice, and they seem to come in pairs. Two have religious themes. Two of them are part of transportation systems. There are two higher education projects and two libraries. Two more are civic buildings, and there is one office building and a restaurant.

     King County Library Service Center
    Photo by Steve Dubinsky
    King County Library Service Center in Issaquah

    Strengthening the heart of circulation. (January) Moved from downtown Seattle, where it was often mistaken for a Seattle library, King County library’s central circulation center found a new home near the center of its service area in Issaquah. The King County Library Service Center was designed by The Miller/Hull Partnership to make a functional warehouse into an identifiable civic building, with flexible space for a future branch library. The large, outward-looking design shows a masterful combination of industrial and human scale.

    The Temporary Central Library for the city’s library system
    Photo by Fred Housel
    The Temporary Central Library for the city’s library system

    Storing books in a playful box. (February) The Temporary Central Library for the city’s library system, designed by LMN Architects, packs a lively, user-friendly facility into a small budget and a short life span. Seattle’s downtown library is in operation across from the Washington State Convention and Trade Center as it awaits the completion of its new home. With hot colors set against icy panels of polycarbonate plastic, the architect has given full play to the sculptural reception and vertical circulation elements in the atrium core. Stacks are efficiently arranged around service desks and wayfinding elements in large, raw spaces behind. When the library moves out this year, the site will house Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry.

    Mercer Island Presbyterian Church
    Mercer Island Presbyterian Church, designed by Paul Thiry

    Space for contemplation. (March) Inspired by small, meditative spaces in other religious traditions, a Protestant congregation carved out a irregular corner of the large, Modernist envelope of Mercer Island Presbyterian Church to make a place for private or small group prayer. The Prayer Chapel was designed pro bono by architects Susan Jones and Steve McConnell, both of NBBJ. Simple elements -- a wall, a window, and focal objects that include a stone from the site and a forged candle -- are arranged to invite and transport.

     Woodinville City Hall
    Photo by Clair Enlow
    Woodinville City Hall

    Making a center for an edge city. (April) Woodinville's new City Hall embraces an open park, creating a nontraditional civic space. The open structure, soaring ceilings and a jogging circulation spine designed by Lewis Architecture + Interior Design make for exciting interior streetscapes and indoor-outdoor views. The new building, which includes council chambers and houses the city administration, will be on a through way once current street plans are complete. For now, it serves as an example for development to come.

    Mann Building
    Photo by Sam Bennett
    Wild Ginger now fills the first floor of the historic Mann Building.
    Fusion food in an old Seattle frame. (May) Wild Ginger has become more civilized in its expansive new setting within the classic Mann Building. NBBJ designed a functional yet elegant environment where devotees of the decade-old restaurant feel completely at home. From a U-shaped mezzanine that now wraps the main part of the restaurant, patrons can view a lively urban scene inside and outside the walls of the restaurant, with the historic bones of the building -- originally designed by renowned architect-engineer Henry Bittman -- exposed.

    Hec Ed Pavilion
    Photo by Jay Dotson
    UW's Hec Ed Pavilion

    New muscle in an old field house. (June)Sometimes simplicity is the most difficult feat in architecture. With the help of structural engineer Skilling Ward Magnusson Barkshire, LMN Architects lifted the lid of the historic Hec Edmondson Field House and set it back down again on an innovative structural system that spans the length of the arena and clears views to the court and to the newly exposed field house walls and windows. The Bank of America Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion at the University of Washington brings new functionality to the heart of the Husky athletic empire.

    Photo by Ross Ishikawa
    Embassy Center Apostolic Church, Bremerton
    Breaking out of a Bremerton box. (July)Inspired by the ministry of Rev. Larry Robertson, McClellan Architects turned a modest meeting hall into an iconic presence in Bremerton. Striking sculptural effects and lighting make the renewed Embassy Center Apostolic Church into a beacon, a landmark and the functioning center of a reviving community.

    The Kirkland Teen Union Building
    Photo by Clair Enlow
    The Kirkland Teen Union Building

    Welcoming teens on their terms. (August)There was no place for teenagers to congregate among the upscale coffee bars and shops in downtown Kirkland, but now the Kirkland Teen Union has arrived. A lively presence at the edge of the city’s centrally located park, the center offers young people a chance to try their music and recording skills, delve into art and photography, attend a dance or concert or just hang out. With multiple roof lines and a youthful personality, the center, designed by Lewis Architecture + Interior Design, adjoins an existing senior center at the site.

    Photo by Ed LaCasse/LaCasse Photography
    Bellevue Community College New Instructional Building

    Teaching sustainability through example. (September)The new classroom and office building that anchors the edge of Bellevue Community College’s inner campus sets a new standard for environmental responsibility. The list of sensitive and beneficial features is long and deep, including a geothermal heating and cooling system based on 97 wells beneath the new courtyard. The Bellevue Community College New Instructional Building -- Building R -- designed by LMN Architects, also provides a series of comfortable public spaces indoors and out, part of a strategy to create a true campus environment and move this key community college beyond the educational equivalent of the suburban mini-mart.

    window wall
    Photo by Pro Image Photo
    Kessel Building

    Getting street smart in Kirkland. (October)Hovering just above streetlevel along a thoroughfare of Houghton, north of downtown Kirkland, the Kessel Building rules the road. The sleek, linear building blends warm wood with high-tech cool. It was designed by Baylis Architects for twin high-tech firms, with an open, symmetrical plan, spectacular views and finely calibrated details. Parking is tucked beneath the structure, behind supporting columns and an entry from the sidewalk.

    King Street Station
    Photo by Art Grice
    King Street Station

    Putting commuters on a clear path. (November)The future of transportation in Seattle is clearly visible along the Sounder tracks that run beside the Amtrak stop at King Street Station. Serving the needs of commuter rail passengers, glass and steel structures provide shelter from Seattle rain as well as views in and around the station and its urban environment. The King Street Station platforms, stairways and canopies for Sound Transit Commuter Rail and Amtrak, along with platform amenities, were designed by Otak in association with DKA.

    Northeast 90th Street Bridge
    Photo by Vince Streano
    The Northeast 90th Street Bridge in Redmond

    From bridge to gateway. (December)The Northeast 90th Street Bridge in Redmond reinstates the natural scenery of the river at the same time it expands the urban environment. Collaborating with engineers at Entranco and landscape architects at Brumbaugh & Associates, LMN Architects has redefined the graceful bridge for the city of the millennium.


    Clair Enlow can be reached by e-mail at clair@clairenlow.com.

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