Seattle Architecture Awards
"It's almost like a new school," said juror Maryann Thompson, commenting on a theme she perceived running through many of the projects. "It has to do with a sophisticated sense of tectonics and craft. The sense of craft is much more contemporary and intellectual. The beauty and elegance of details is incredibly inspiring."
The Agosta House
The design of the Agosta House by the Vancouver, British Columbia firm of Patkau Architects celebrates its unique setting on a forested 43-acre (17-hectare) site on San Juan Island, Washington, by offering itself as a space-defining element in the landscape.
The house is located on a grassy meadow, enclosed on three sides by the dark fir forest but open to the northwest where it looks out over rolling fields below and beyond to the waters and islands of Haro Strait. The house stretches across the ridge of the meadow, almost like a spatial dam. This placement creates an enclosed forecourt of meadow, a reservoir of space that is released through the house to the panorama below.
The building section has walls and roof angled to respond to the gentle slope of the site. In the words of the awards jury: "it feels as if, after a long walk through the woods, one might come upon this house... grown out of the ground, an elementary poetic structure."
Maple Valley Library
In awarding Johnston Architects and James Cutler Architects an Honor Award for the design of a new public library for the town of Maple Valley, Washington, jurors emphasized the building's importance as a demonstration that a modest budget need not limit a public building's quality.
Built in a small, 1-3/4-acre (0.7-hectare) forest in the midst of a rapidly developing suburban area, the new library is designed to connect library patrons with the living world around them. Transparent walls of wood-framed glazing invite the forest into library spaces. A U-shaped shed roof minimizes the visual impact of the building on its forest side while presenting a "crown" of wooden eaves to a busy arterial road on its urban side.
But the library's connection to the forest is not simply visual. The roof's configuration allows it to collect all of the rain it receives to one central open downspout that will release up to 300 gallons (1100 liters) of water per minute into a central gravel pool. Serrated edges of the pool catch organic debris which will serve as nutrients for a moss pool.
This vivid expression of the water displaced by the building and the life that water can foster invites patrons to enjoy and ponder their own place in the relationship between built and natural environments.
A visit to the Eggleston Farkas Architects' Mathieson Residence brought joy to jurors' faces with its minimalist elegance of detail. "We marvel at the imaginative transformation of a former flower shop into a reductivist and thoroughly modernist cubic expression," they observed.
Located on the historic Olmstead Brothers Queen Anne Loop at the corner of two arterial streets in Seattle, where buses wait to begin their route, the site suffers significant street noise. The project's budget was modest, with the owners intending to contribute sweat equity to offset construction costs.
Responding to these factors, the architects configured a three-story open loft residence and accessory studio building around an elevated interior courtyard. The design offers a feeling of density at the street while buffering the residence from noise.
Thoughtful detailing turns cost-effective materials and the owners' unskilled labor into the simplicity that drew jurors' praise: "a modest and elegant expression in an exciting but calm and disciplined new voice."
In addition to the three Honor Awards, the jury awarded three Awards of Merit.
The new home of WRA Advertising is a former shoe store located in downtown Spokane, Washington. In renovating the century-old structure, the architecture firm Heliotrope faced two key challenges: to introduce daylight into the long narrow space for a healthy and energetic office workplace and to contribute to a revitalized street life along Riverside Avenue.
For daylight, the architects devised a light scoop to collect and redirect daylight from a new clerestory window to the workspaces below. The light scoop also defines a multi-story space that serves as lobby and gathering space.
To offer interest for pedestrians in spite of its non-retail function, the building uses tools of the agency's trade: interactive audio and visual media fragments have been integrated into the building. Mostly devoid of meaning beyond that of communication itself, these elements can be altered for a client meeting or to address a local festival or event.
"The design shows a good instinct for strategic focus, clarifying the existing fabric of the building with newly-integrated architectural elements," the jury commented. With a few key moves, "this building comes to new life in a dramatic and useful way."
1310 East Union
The building parti for Miller/Hull Partnership's mixed-use mid-rise building in Seattle is simple: an expressed steel-frame glass box flanked by solid party walls encased in stained cement-board panels. The north and south facades, fully glazed from floor to ceiling, maximize light transmission and preserve a connection to the outdoors for eight loft-style units and street-level commercial space.
"On a very difficult building site, the design creates a variety of living units that accept the vernacular of an industrial/commercial building," the jury said.
Glazed, aluminum-frame garage doors roll up, converting living and dining spaces to exterior balconies. Interior materials include concrete floors, exposed steel structural elements, steel railings, steel plate baseboards, and modular metal kitchen casework. Parking is provided in a stacked configuration using European parking lifts.
The building is meant to invest an image of structural architecture, conveying a sense of economy, efficiency, discipline, and order, essential characteristics of urban loft living. In the words of the awards jury, "we see this project as a bright harbinger of the future of dense infill housing."
A School of Law
The design for Seattle University's new School of Law is informed by the philosophies and traditions of the university's Jesuit heritage, in particular that of service to the community. The building, which won an Award of Merit for Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects, respects the modern architecture of the existing campus buildings without sacrificing its own identity and seeks to foster a sense of community among teachers and students in a comfortable, open environment.
The design uses a central atrium with southern exposure to express this attitude of openness and community. The atrium introduces generous amounts of daylight into the building while visually connecting the interior levels of the structure.
"One senses the lineage of Alvar Aalto in this elegant building," said the jury. "In cross-section it reveals a multilevel dynamic space, filled with light, that clearly brings people together. It works well on the street as well as inwardly for its occupants at their tasks of learning."
Jurors for the AIA Seattle Awards program included Steven R. Ehrlich FAIA, (Steven R. Ehrlich, Los Angeles), Brian MacKay-Lyons Hon. FAIA, (MacKay-Lyons Architecture, Halifax), and Maryann Thompson AIA, (Thompson Architects, Boston).