by The Miller Hull Partnership and J.M. Cava
At the edge of the Pike Street and Pine Street corridor in downtown Seattle is a public transit-oriented neighborhood populated by mixed-use developments. The 40-by-80-foot (12.2-by-24.4-meter) site for the 1310 E. Union Lofts was an infill (midblock) plot, smaller than a typical single-family residential lot in Seattle.
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This reality made program fulfillment and construction a unique challenge. However, both the client and design team felt strongly about creating a livable, well-located example of urban housing in an already walkable transit-linked area, setting the precedent for urban housing as a contributing force behind a successful neighborhood.
Seattle's multifamily urban housing is almost entirely designed with one-story bases of concrete enclosing retail and parking, and upper-story wood-frame residential units expressed as boxes with "punched" smaller-scale windows. While this was a viable way to organize the program, it also rendered the residential aspect of the building somewhat invisible.
As a reinvention of the urban housing model, the Miller Hull team envisioned a simpler unified form that came down and engaged the street with substantial glazing. This would allow the lifestyles of the occupants to create the project's sense of style. To accomplish this, the building became an image of structural architecture, conveying a sense of economy, efficiency, discipline, and order.
Given the small site, with essentially no lay-down area, a steel structure provided the contractor with a rapid erection sequence. The primary gravity-load system is coated with fire-retardant, intumescent paint, and the diagonal bracing and mezzanine structure is exposed steel. Glass and aluminum-frame garage doors roll up, converting the living and dining spaces to exterior balconies.
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This article is excerpted from The Miller Hull Partnership: Public Works by The Miller Hull Partnership, copyright © 2009, with permission of the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press.