PAUL WU MAY HAVE toured China for inspiration for the 45-foot, gilded archway straddling South King Street near Fifth Avenue South and unveiled this February to coincide with Chinese New Year, but Seattle’s latest landmark is all local. When the Kirkland-based architect returned from his trip, images of the Forbidden City’s Imperial Palace swirling in his head, he had to work with the non-Chinese arrangement of Seattle’s broad sidewalks and widely spaced buildings. So Wu, along with local firm MulvannyG2, pioneered the concept of a three-dimensional gate more closely resembling a traditional pagoda. “This is unique in the world—the limitations made it special,” he says. Seattle’s Chinese community, which has helped define the city for more than a century, has discussed building a gate for at least 50 years, but the first serious effort began in 2003 via donations from both Chinese and non-Chinese Seattleites, who raised more than $500,000. Like historical Chinese structures, our gate sports traditional colors of gold and red—and dragon statuettes. “I credit those with keeping the birds away,” Wu says.
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