After being inspired by all the DIY craftiness of local cannabis farmers, and the applications of “Cargotecture,” PDA wanted to gush about a few local architecture firms that are erecting a new vision for the Northwest. The elements of the region dictate design, and a select few turn those challenges into a definitive style. From the adaptive re-use concepts of Graham Baba to the [storefront] Olson + Kundig outreach and residential masterpieces, there is nothing second rate about the spaces coming to life in our neck of the woods.
When Marlin Peterson used his illustrated scientific art background to paint gigantic spiders on top of the Seattle Center Armory (formerly the Center House), it gave some the willies. Using a process called “trompe l’oeil,” where you paint the shadows in so when viewed from above the object appears to be 3D, Peterson has made tourists looking down from the Space Needle stare in amazement. Architects Graham Baba have created their own cause for pause inside the new Armory they renovated this year, are those actually locals promenading around the food court?
“Perhaps one of the more exciting stories we’ve tracked is the epic overhaul of the Armory at Seattle Center,” Seattle Met magazine said. “What once was a humdrum food court is now a bona fide culinary destination.”
Graham Baba did it before with Melrose Market, and has the uncanny gift of preserving standing pieces of history while giving them new purposes. This process has an official descriptor in their industry: “adaptive re-use.” The Kolstrand Building in Ballard is another such feat.
One of our favorite outfitters in Seattle, Jack Straw, is a client and the buzz about “Building 115″ in Fremont is well deserved. Founded in 2006 by Jim Graham and Brett Baba, their signature look is sturdy, modern and functional but has a lived in quality that is more approachable than most modern interiors. Wood is left bare and unpolished, cement floors are dyed in a patina of colors. Exposed steel beams reflect warehouse lighting in a more blue-collar form of luxury.
Because art deco looks out of place next to Douglas Fir.
Olson Kundig Architects
Social practice experiments are these store installations that Olson Kundig Architects presents as community events. This year they established a home base called [storefront] in Pioneer Square next to the infallible Ebbet’s Field Flannels. These events have included a mushroom farm that shows how coffee grinds can be used sustainably, a record store, a hardware store where partner Tom Kundig displayed his individually crafted set of tools and an exhibit called “Skid Row” which humanely addressed the homeless experience in Pioneer Square and featured one of our favorite artists Mary Larson.
Jim Olson and Tom Kundig have laid a foundation in the field since the 1970s. Kundig rose to “starchitect” status with his Leschi residence in 1998, and his book “Houses 2″ is a fixture on the coffee tables of PDA’s office. Nowadays it’s fully transparent loft spaces and wealthy residences in Manhattan’s upper east side on the docket. But Kundig remains down to earth and ever-ready to concoct gems like the “Delta Shelter” and the “Chicken Point Cabin” where he devised a window wall (30 ft. x 20 ft.) that opens the entire space to the lake by cranking a wheel.
Olson is a painter of light, he manipulates it in ways that brighten the entire block. His collaboration on “Lightcatcher” at the Whatcom Museum is epic and the Mondrian-style grid of clear, translucent and colored glass at the Gethsemane Lutheran Church is going to capture hearts and minds. Our all-time favorite project from the firm was the “Sedgwick Rd.” creative advertising office in the Star Machinery building. Jim Walker ran the agency with backing from McCann Worldwide for an action-packed 5-year run. They basically made WaMu a player in the banking industry, then merged with a bigger firm.
Some of their creations are gone in a flash and others will last for generations. But the impressions they have made will outlast any structure Olson Kundig Architects can fabricate.