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August 20, 2003

Lindsey brought flare, height to Seattle skyline

  • Chester Lindsey will be remembered as much for his towering, glass-and-metal designs as for his mentoring of local up-and-coming architects.
    Journal Staff Reporter

     Fourth and Blanchard Building
    Photo by Sam Bennett
    Lindsey’s design for the Fourth and Blanchard Building called for roofs that faced the east and west. Originally Lindsey wanted solar panels on each side, but that idea was too expensive.

    Chester Lindsey, who took Seattle architecture to new heights, died Saturday. He was 76.

    Lindsey's designs left an indelible mark on Seattle's skyline -- from the soaring, slender 76-story Bank of America Tower to the dramatic, sloped tops of the Fourth and Blanchard Building.

    Associates this week remembered Lindsey also as an influential mentor, shaping the values and design approach of the many Seattle architects he took under his wing.

    Curtis Beattie, who worked for Lindsey when he graduated from University of Washington, said during his 12 years at Lindsey's firm he was allowed flexibility to experiment.

    "Chet was really good about letting the people who worked for him have the opportunity to express themselves," Beattie said. "He was always mentoring. He didn't push a design philosophy; he just listened to the client."

    Such was the case with the Fourth and Blanchard Building, lightheartedly referred to as the "Darth Vader" building. To save money on energy, Lindsey had in mind a building with a sloped roof facing east on one side, and sloped roof on the west side. Each side would capture the sun's energy with solar panels in the morning and afternoon.

    Developer Martin Selig said the solar panels idea turned out to be prohibitively expensive, but he was fond enough of the sloped roof concept to keep it. The Airborne Express building, on Western Avenue and Denny, took its design cue from the shape of a wing.

    Selig's initial work with Lindsey was on about a dozen shopping centers around the greater Seattle area. Selig went on to commission Lindsey's firm, Chester Lindsey & Associates, to do about 25 Seattle area buildings.

    Selig had Lindsey design buildings at Fourth and Battery, Third and Broad and the Elliott Bay office park. "He was fun to work with," Selig said. "He was a great mentor to a lot of architects in practice today."

    In his initial work with Lindsey, Beattie did mostly office and retail centers. "It was a great place to work," said Beattie, who stayed at the firm from 1969 to 1981. "Chet was a very jovial guy, who always had a good story and a good laugh."

    Asked which of his buildings Selig liked the most, he responded: "At that time, whatever he was working on."

    Lindsey was from Yakima, and graduated in 1949 from Washington State University with an architectural and structural engineering degree. He is survived by his wife, Tulle, son Mark and daughter Karina Briscoe, and six grandchildren.

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