On the Need to Eliminate Red Tape

By Dan Bertolet February 18, 2010

When I look at the building shown above I get the urge to peel off all those red patches. They look like some kind of protective coating that's meant to be removed when the job is finished. But no, even though they weren't shown in the original renderings, apparently those glaring red accents are there to stay. And alas, that only adds to the muddled appearance of the building.

Designed by Studio Meng Strazzara and developed by Hunters Capitol, the nearly completed "Broadway Building" includes 94 market-rate apartments, 75 beds for Seattle Central Community College students, and commercial space on the first and second floors. It's in a totally primo location, on Broadway just north of Pine Street on Capitol Hill, and backing up to the play field at Cal Anderson Park.

Long buildings—this one is close to 250 feet—are a design challenge. A single design theme can end up feeling monotonous over such a long span, but splitting the building into visually distinct pieces is also difficult to finesse (for example, check out The Braeburn at 14th and Pine).

The Broadway Building goes with the former strategy, and the result is a street presence that I find to be rather imposing (photo below). It's a hulky-clunky-jumbly thing, and the drab colors don't help (the reason for the red tape, perhaps?). The two-story middle section with the heavy pilasters is vaguely reminiscent of a suburban office park. And what's with the medieval turret-like thing on the corner, floating above the ground? The central upper floors are the most well-done parts of the the facade.

But so be it. Functionally, the Broadway Building is the kind of infill that makes perfect sense for the neighborhood. Not every new building has to be an inspiring work of architecture—these mixed-use projects are like urban workhorses and it's okay for some of them to fade into the background.

In particular, this project is good mojo for Cal Anderson Park, providing both activation and enclosure. The park is at a scale that would be well complemented by a wall of buildings wrapping its perimeter, and six stories high is about right. In this respect, the underdeveloped new townhouses near the northeast corner of the park are a missed opportunity. Meanwhile over on the northwest edge of the park, the lack of buildings (due to light rail construction) is a good demonstration of how enclosure—or lack thereof—affects how a park space feels to be in.
Show Comments