Page D1.2 . 19 September 2012   
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    Island Inn at Friday Harbor


    Arguably serendipitous, due to the post-construction redirection of the project, the "hill town massing" gives the Island Inn an unusual presence, dramatically unlike the commonplace block hotel building.

    Capitalizing on the varied massing, most of the hospitality units are either "Sweets," on the second level, or penthouses, on the third.

    The central walkway is the primary organizing spine within the project. It's emphasized and animated with a stormwater feature that curves and steps underfoot, down the hill, to culminate in an ornamental mini-marsh at the front landing level, where runoff is stored in a landmark cylindrical tank.

    A second up-and-down walkway along the west edge of the project buffers the suites from a small public park, while also maintaining an established public walking path that connects the plateau above to the waterfront below.

    These pathways incorporate stair-seats that just beg for a spontaneous latte-and-conversation sit down, while also modulating effectively path width relative to handrail spacing through the intricate hillside site plan.

    Balconies, stoops, and terraces for soaking in the Friday Harbor scene abound, with dutch doors to help maintain the indoor-outdoor connection for vacationing parties.

    The style is decidedly contemporary, with varied exterior finish materials including hardboard and corrugated steel paneling. These are deployed in a collage format that both breaks up and reunites the blocky forms of the hospitality units.

    Variably-stacked building blocks of the inn are firmly grounded by a robust, frankly expressed concrete base underlying, connecting, and uniting all parts of the complex. This gives a sense of stability on the steep site. At the same time, the implacability of the concrete is gentled by sitting steps integrated here and there among the outdoor stairs, by the water feature, and by compositional variations.


    Large window openings are composed of ganged units, providing human scale and contextual fit as well as sweeping views.

    Shading window visors throughout are made with frosted glass on simple metal ange arms, gloss side down, set at a gentle water-shedding pitch. These glass edgings provide an element of refinement amid the toughness of concrete, hard panels, and metal fittings.

    Glazed shading is appropriate in a rainy northern climate where much of the year is overcast, as it allows diffuse daylight to make its presence felt, when an opaque overhang can tend to create gloom beneath.

    The glass visors are deployed elegantly so as to pick out key reference lines. On the front facade, for instance, a row of visors aligns horizontally with cornice ornamentation on the historical neighboring buildings to the west.

    Urban Ensemble

    The front facade shares its plane with these neighboring buildings, establishing 123 West as part of the urban ensemble. The front lower landing continues the ground plane from the neighbors, extending eastward from the center of Friday Harbor, even as the street level itself gradually descends.

    At the top of the complex, the penthouse suite matches another historical neighbor in height, and even in apparent massing, as the parts of the much larger 123 West complex step down the hillside.

    The materials that paint the interior spaces of four eurostyle guestrooms, five sweets and seven penthouses continue the sense of simple, frank materials applied with fresh, contemporary effect.

    Bold colors from varied greens to ochre red and warm yellow blend with natural wood trim, floors including varnished plywood, and large white ceramic sinks in several contemporary styles.

    The dutch doors that provide the main entry for some rooms include round windows for a nautical touch. Stainless steel wire balconies, common enough these days, are especially appropriate at 123 West with the wire rigging touching another nautical resonance, as well as providing view transparency.

    Underground parking is included at the sidewalk landing level, ramped a few fett up from the street. The parking entrance is probably a bit more prominent than would be ideal, but it's not overwhelming, and certainly convenient for visitors who made the effort to ferry in with their vehicle.

    The project required view mitigation and shoreline development permit approvals, and was shaped to its current configuration on the Todd-family-owned site when a request for 4500 square feet of park land was denied. During these planning struggles, the project design — and designers — changed and changed again.

    Community, visitors, owners and creators alike can be proud of the care with which 123 West has been realized.

    Based on reuse of a brownfield site, with appropriately located densification, LEED-certified green construction, contextual sensitivity, beautiful style and a great living experience, it's a true gem in a truly charming island destination.   >>>

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    Kevin Matthews is Editor in Chief of ArchitectureWeek.   More by Kevin Matthews


    ArchWeek Image

    Aerial photo composite overview shows the Island Inn stepping down slope and facing Front Street, and nestled into the greenery of the public park on the inn's west side.
    Photo: Courtesy Fish Mackay Architects Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Heading up the central alley, steps and lifts provide access options.
    Photo: Kevin Matthews/ Artifice Images Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Looking out toward the harbor on the landing level, the curving line of grating underfoot carries stormwater down slope.
    Photo: Kevin Matthews/ Artifice Images Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    The highlighted stormwater path leads to these miniature wetland water filtration features, then on to the holding tank.
    Photo: Kevin Matthews/ Artifice Images Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Simple, blocky building forms combine nicely with matter of fact structurally-expressive details.
    Photo: Kevin Matthews/ Artifice Images Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    The collage of materials and fine variations in facade elements along the central alley give a kind of vernacular village impression.
    Photo: Kevin Matthews/ Artifice Images Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    The massing of the 123 West buildings reflects the natural slope as well as the urban ensemble.
    Photo: Kevin Matthews/ Artifice Images Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    This design version of the landscape plan shows the stormwater feature taking shape.
    Image: GGLO Extra Large Image


    Click on thumbnail images
    to view full-size pictures.

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