First lutefisk, now this.

It takes a lot to get me north of the Ship Canal, and so when I found myself in Ballard yesterday I got an overdue eyeful of some stunningly mediocre new multifamily architecture. And after yesterday's less than kind post on Capitol Hill's Joule Apartments, I thought it only fair to provide some perspective. Et voila (click images to enlarge):


Ballard Landmark assisted living, just south of Market Street on Leary Way

Quite the jumble to behold, but note especially the magnificent dark gray louvers at the top of the tower element above the main entry. Next, a fitting complement right across the street:




Canal Station condominiums

That's some color palette, but fortunately white vinyl goes with everything. And boy, those roof overhangs sure look sturdy. The cheesy fusion that the web site plays up is the perfect fit for this look. But onward:


Gallagher Apartments, on NW 54 Ave. between 15th and 17th

That brickwork is hot! Moving on:


NoMa condominiums, north of Market St (get it?) on 24th Ave NW

At least the balconies aren't beige too? And lastly, right next door:


Ballard on the Park: apartments, with a QFC on the first floor

This one's the best of the bunch---I'm a sucker for clean and simple---but still, it looks as if it was intended to dissolve away into the gloomy Seattle sky. And yes, the fact that is was cloudy when I took the photos makes the buildings seem all the more drab, but hey, gloomy gray is the backdrop we have most often in Seattle.

Which raises the obvious question: Why are people so afraid to put bold color on buildings in Seattle? At the risk of being accused of shilling because the building was designed by the firm that employs me (GGLO), I would offer up the back side of the Leva on Market as an example of the successful use of color:


Leva on Market (and yes I realize it's not a fair comparison because the sun is shining, but I didn't have a comparable photo so sue me)


Another thing that jumps out when you see all these together is that the building forms are as monotonous as the colors. Seattle's zoning and building code essentially dictates this form, affectionately known as the Seattle breadloaf.

Considering the urban context of the sites, slim towers would have been totally appropriate in most of these examples. Building higher creates the option for a lower podium at the property line, as well as opportunities for street-level public open space—AKA the "Vancouver  model," AKA better urban design.

Alas, we weep for Ballard, for the worst is yet to come.

Update: this old hugeasscity post gives some examples of boldly designed multifamily housing that is also affordable. It can be done.