Hot Shots of the Northwest

Recently the AIA Seattle hosted an exhibit titled NEW EDGE |NEW BLOOD which introduced several up and coming young architecture firms in the northwest.  It was a significant show and the work on the walls was worth taking note of.  Today’s post takes a look at a number of these firms; get familiar with these groups – they are the future of architecture in the northwest.

PIQUE LLC 206.328.4423, 10453 66th Ave S, Seattle
There is an exhilarating language being created by the design team at Pique.  The separation of volumes, intricate massing and relationship among a variety of materials holds your full attention; at the same time the architecture peacefully fits into the context of Oregon’s dry ranchlands to the east.  The work seems to belong right where it’s at, a quality highly sought after by most homeowners and architects.

Garren Residence in Bend, OR

Pb Elemental 206.285.1464, 1916 23rd Ave S, Seattle
The hard working Rock-Stars over at Pb Elemental continue to produce work that is drammatic in form and engaging in function.  As developers, architects and builders they are blazing the trail for a new model of design-build in the northwest.  A tour of their website shows that they are up to a staggering amount of work in and around Seattle.  With projects ranging from single family to multi-family, live-work and commercial, these guys are bringing modernism to the people.

23rd Ave Live-Work

Crockett Residence

chadbourne + doss 206.860.1975, 1469 22nd Ave, Seattle
The firm is finding a handsome balance between modern design orchestrated within existing, older surroundings.  Carefully inserting sleek modern forms into antiquated structures requires a great amount of discipline and these guys are becoming masters at it.  As empty lots become increasingly scarce in the Northwest this philosophy of inserting new functions into existing spaces is not only becoming important, it’s becoming necessary.

Lobster Boat Residence in Seattle, WA

Writable Offices in Seattle, WA

Netshed Wetroom in Astoria, OR

Graham Baba Architects 206.323.9932, 1st Ave, Seattle
Their work sparks curiosity; the attention given to details and the intentional relationships between different materials creates a wonderful experience of space and form.  These are architects that understand the trades – they know what can and cannot be done with steel, glass and wood.  Their Osteria La Spiga Restaurant on Capitol Hill is a great excuse to kick the tires on some nice architecture and have some good eats.  In addition to their built work they’ve got some significant projects in development.

Beck House in Seattle, WA

Osteria La Spiga in Seattle, WA

Heliotrope Architects 5140 Ballard Ave NW Suite B, Seattle
The look of the architecture they are crafting has a sophistication rarely seen in the northwest.  As Seattle continues to climb the design savvy scale, Heliotrope will be among those leading the charge.  Stairs are among the toughest challenge for architects and these guys knock the ball out of the park with their stair designs.  Pay a visit to Alchemy Collections at 2029 2nd Ave.

Palm Desert Residence in California

Alchemy Collections

Workshop A|D 206.903.5414, 911 Western Ave, Suite 215, Seattle
In addition to a portfolio of gorgeous work, these guys win best website award out of the bunch.  Architects take note – viewers like to see big, beautiful images on your websites.  What strikes us most about the work is a sense of refined discipline.  Everything seems to have a reason for being – each jog, each material change; all carried out with elegance.  The delicate, warm interiors are balanced out with more durable, sensible exterior shells.

Nearpoint Residence in Anchorage, AK

Road D Shelter on Table Mountain, WA

Zero Plus 206.323.4009 1321 E Pine, Seattle
Rich in form and cerebral in process the work of Zero Plus is experimental and pushes northwest design into new ground.  Each project seems to stem from significant ideas and the finished forms benefit from the serendipity of process.  Delicate and intricate the work retains a sense of structural rigor.  Conscious moves to expose the nuts and bolts of the architecture allows the viewer to follow the story of each project.

Zero Plus Architects Office

Snee-oosh near Deception Pass, WA

Thanks to Ed Weinstein, Eric Cobb, Carrie Schilling and David Spiker for curating the New Edge | New Blood exhibit and bringing these firms to our attention.


Models for Low-Rise Multi-Family Housing: U.S.
October 21, 2008, 11:53 pm
Filed under: Architecture, Seattle, Urban Architecture

As part 2 of the low-rise multi-family series, and in response to our Urban Blight post, we want to bring the discussion back to the United States and more specifically the Pacific Northwest.  Today’s post covers several projects which provide good models for housing in and around Seattle.  Most architects and designers are painfully aware that the typical townhouse model isn’t working.  Part of the solution, as we see it, is getting extraordinary projects on the radar of the general public and raising the standards of low-rise, multi-family housing.  Let us know if our list is missing anything…

The Fremont Lofts by Johnston Architects in Seattle, WA

[photo courtesy of Johnston Architects)

The Boulders at Green Lake by Johnston Architects in Seattle, WA

[photo courtesy of Johnston Architects)

Nicholas Court Townhouse by Walker Architecture/Gordon Walker + Colin Walker in Seattle, WA

[photo by Gary Sutto)

Urbansight 19 by b9 Architects in Seattle, WA

[photo courtesy of b9 Architects)

14th Ave Homes by PB Elemental in Seattle, WA

[photo courtesy of PB Elemental]

Park Modern by BUILD LLC in Seattle, WA

[photo by Art Grice]

1310 Condominiums by Brett Crawford in Portland Oregon

[photos courtesy of]

Viewpoint Rowhomes by Opsis Architecture in Portland, OR

[photos courtesy of Opsis Architecture]

Belmont Street Lofts by Holst Architecture in Portland, OR

[photos courtesy of Holst Architecture]

1234 Howard Street by Stanley Saitowitz|Natoma Architects Inc. in San Francisco, CA

[photos courtesy of Saitowitz|Natoma Architects Inc.]

Habitat 825 by LoHa in West Hollywood, CA

[photo courtesy of LoHa]

Essex Lofts by Ted Smith & Lloyd Russell in San Diego, CA

[photo by Jimmy Fluker]

Lind by Ted Smith in San Diego, CA

[photo by Joseph Valerio]

Merimac by Ted Smith & Lloyd Russell in San Diego, CA

[photo by Todd Hido]

The Shade House Condos by Matt & Tina Ford in Houston, TX

[photo by Jack Thompson]

Art House Townhouses by Studio Completiva in Denver, CO

[photo courtesy of]

2154/2157 West Division by Studio Dwell Architects in Chicago, IL

[photos courtesy of Ranquist Development]

Eflats by Onion Flats in Philadelphia

[photo courtesy of Onion Flats]

On The Radar
October 14, 2008, 5:23 pm
Filed under: Architecture, Design, On the Radar, Seattle, Travel, Urban Architecture

A lot of cool stuff has found its way to the BUILDblog lately. Thanks to everyone for keeping us up to date. Take a peak and see if any of it should be on your radar…


Our new favorite blog is Territoiredessens. Never mind that it’s French and, despite our frequent visits, we’ve yet to understand a single word on the blog. The photos and images are so clear and expressive that we think we know what they’re talking about -as if the French needed another reason to laugh at us.


”…the state of Nevada offers developers property-tax rebates—up to 35 percent—for LEED certification. Don’t worry about the tons of jet fuel that will be used to deliver millions more tourists to Vegas each year—those visitors can help make up for that by reusing the towels in their hotels”

Finally someone’s got the kahunas to throw a few tomatoes at how fashionable “green” architecture has become.  Hats off to Cathleen McGuigan on her recent Newsweek article “The Bad News About Green Architecture”.


Making fun of bad condos may be the only way to get developers to stop building crap. Recently the Seattle based blog was launched and it did just that – stuck it to the man -the cheap, crappy-condo building man. Photos and brief explanations called out Seattle’s worst new condos. Mysteriously the site “disappeared” last week but that’s not going to stop us from commending the anonymous author on such a great idea. Hopefully the crappy-condo mafia didn’t put a pair of concrete shoes on anything other than your blog.


For those of you not familiar with Toronto let us put in our plug for an entire city: Toronto put the extra “v” in design savvy. Its newest addition to the cool-design-stuff category is UP TO YOU, a voyeuristic experience that changes the pattern of choice. Owner Dimitra carefully chooses designers from around the world, exchanges ideas, purchases the goods and promotes individuality amidst a world of cookie-cutter imagery and products.


We like to think that we’re in the game with our Modern List downloadable PDFs but now and again we have to swallow our pride and point you to some truly inspiring resources. The Style-Files have put together an Amsterdam design guide that is a must-have for the design conscious traveling through the Lands of Nether. Touché Style-Files – we love what you’re up to.


While you’re in the Netherlands make sure and get on board the recent and exciting development of the modern B&B. The Maff apartment is to us modernists what the rocking chair and front porch is to ma and pa. Apartment therapy did a very nice job covering this project back in August.

And if you’re on the west coast – don’t you worry, Portland has recently stepped up its game with UNdoMODERNDWELLINGS. Owners and modernists Tom and Keryn have traveled all over the world and have figured out the proper ingredients for the design savvy traveler. The refurbished mid-century modern home in the southwest hills “creates a modernist’s escape, created by people who understand”. Hallelujah! For those of you venturing to Oregon’s spectacular dry ranchlands east of the mountains, UNdo has you covered in Bend as well.


Strip-malls are so far off the design palette that if you’re anything like us you’ve been ignoring their entire existence since.. well since they existed. All the more reason why a recent competition, initiated by the city of Phoenix, caught our attention. The “Flip a Strip” design competition asks how we can reject the numbness of strip malls. How might we re-think and newly envision the potential of the Strip Mall. We’d give Phoenix a big round of applause had they not invented the strip-mall in the first place and propagated it all over the map.


If you’ve made it this far in the post you deserve a little something nice. The owners and restaurateurs of a recent project of ours, Picnic, are throwing the doors open on Thursday, October 16th from 5pm to 7pm for their grand opening. Located on Phinney Ridge at 6801 Greenwood Avenue North, Picnic is a food and wine boutique with great wine and eats. The owners Anson and Jenny will be there, winemakers Darryn O’Shea and Travis Scarborough will be there sharing tastes of their recently released wines and the BUILD team will be there. Stop on by, have a drink and say hello.  Open the full size invite here.

Lost in Construction
October 2, 2008, 9:26 am
Filed under: Architecture, Seattle, Urban Architecture

Maybe we’re on crazy pills but most of the buildings here in Seattle seem to exhibit a more interesting architecture during construction than they ever do when completed.  A recent walking tour through downtown revealed a dozen or so new buildings going up; each of them demonstrating authenticity in built-form, engaging relationships between shadow & light, gratifying structural patterns and a raw honesty of assemblage.  Even the construction orange safety netting adds a pleasing component of color to a primarily gray skyline.

[photos by BUILD llc]

But the track record suggests that when these buildings are finished, most of those qualities will get covered up with a bland and diluted envelope.  It could be argued that this is just the nature of construction, that the assembly of a building’s skin is very different from the assembly of its structure and that it is counterintuitive for the skin to reflect the structure.  This might be true to some extent, but it doesn’t seem to be a limiting factor elsewhere, take for instance The Manchester Civil Justice Center by  Denton Corker Marshall and recently covered by 2modern.

[photo courtesy of Denton Corker Marshall]

The finished form expresses transparency and light, attenuated steel frameworks contrasted against the massive shearwall, tectonics and expression of floor-plates.  The final product seems to stay true to the nature of how the building was constructed.  In our opinion the finished architecture is authentic, exciting and inspiring.

We propose that the beauty and the engaging forms are already there in most buildings, that they’ve been there all along.   Whether the final product is exciting or dull – the opportunities for good design were already built in by the very nature of construction itself.  The problem is that, as architects, we continue to cover these qualities up.

Picnic Seattle
September 29, 2008, 2:11 pm
Filed under: Architecture, BUILD LLC, Seattle, Technical Posts, Urban Architecture

Monday September 29th marks the opening of Picnic, a brand new food and wine boutique here in Seattle on Phinney Ridge at 6801 Greenwood Ave N. Owners Anson and Jenny are a couple of uber-talented chefs and culinary visionaries who came up with the concept and brought it straight to BUILD llc. We were quickly enrolled in their vision and proceeded with the design and build-out.

[photos by BUILD llc]

The finished space is clean, sleek, uncluttered and vibrant. It focuses on plenty of display area for delicious products and options, without overwhelming the consumer. The goal was to create an inviting space, a storefront that is visible and enticing for passer-bys. The interior is modern and refined but still evokes a sense of establishment and demonstrates Anson and Jenny’s expertise in food and wine. Picnic is creating some of the top take-away food in the city and doing so without the food becoming too precious or fussy.

[photos by BUILD llc]

Here’s the BUILD technical scoop:

1. Dark-stained quarter sawn walnut cabinets with conversion varnish, and adjustable shelves. All exposed faces were fabricated by Special Projects Division (SPD) with sequenced (all from the same log) veneers on platform material using a 10’ vacuum press.
2. Exposed ducting, plumbing, electrical and fire sprinkler systems, painted white to match walls & ceiling.
3. Custom fabricated steel ladder on casters and mounted to steel tracks at top and bottom of wine cabinet. Ladder assembly is cold rolled steel, cleaned, blackened and waxed.
4. Stainless steel sleeves at adjustable shelf pins (part of SPD cabinet package).
5. Custom fabricated steel frame movable tables on casters, walnut table tops and acrylic shelves (by SPD). The tables serve dual purposes of display/ storage and convert to dining tables for special events. The steel frames are an assembly of hot rolled steel angles which were wheel-abrated & waxed and cold rolled steel tubes which were blackened & waxed. The goal was to get the disparate types of steel to appear similar in color/ texture. The steel assembly is mechanically fastened with thru-bolts.
6. Recessed display cabinet made from mangue wood (by SPD). It’s on axis with entry and provides a backdrop to the entry.
7. Solid wood door with frameless single rabbet jamb. L-metal inserted into dato around frame and taped to (and finished with) drywall.
8. Custom fabricated stainless steel filler panels so that wine refrigeration unit flushes out with adjacent refrigeration units (part of SPD casework). The wine fridge is the EuroCave Performance 259 Wine Cellar.
9. Stainless steel refrigeration unit with glass doors by True Mfg, model TS-49G-4.
10. 14-ply ¾” void-less material w/ maple finish veneer- commonly referred to as “apple-ply”.
11. Existing slab on grade with Ardex Feather Finish skim coat and sealed with polyurethane. It was challenging getting the separate pours (from separate bags) to color match with one another.
12. Rubber base by Roppe.
13. Resolute lighting: “David” line.
14. Existing concrete columns painted dark.
15. Custom fabricated steel frame movable table on casters with solid maple “butcher-block” tabletop (by SPD).
16. Arne Jacobsen Series 7 chairs and bar chairs.

It wouldn’t be a BUILD project synopsis with out a construction photo montage:

and, naturally, this modern addition to the city is up on The Modern List Seattle. Whew… did we cover everything? So enough about design and construction, get yourself over to picnic and have some phenomenal eats…

Picnic a food + wine boutique
6801 Greenwood Avenue North
Seattle WA 98103

Seattle Cruise Ship Terminal
September 7, 2008, 8:03 pm
Filed under: Architecture, Seattle, Urban Architecture

Recently our good buddy Chris Patano of Patano Hafermann Architects gave BUILD a behind the scenes tour of their new Seattle Cruise Ship Terminal currently in construction at pier 91.  The structure has been designed to serve two cruise ships at once and has a footprint of 90,000 square feet.  The structure and interiors have been framed and the systems are currently being installed.  Given that the interior cover has not yet occurred, the structure is a feast for the eyes.  The 4’ diameter hvac ducts are still exposed, 25’ tall metal studs march down the walls and a sea of steel trusses cover the ceiling.  Not that the building won’t be a handsome piece of architecture when complete – but this stage of construction is always more interesting to us.  The building is more dynamic and serendipitous; the construction workers with all of their bizarre rigging and hybrid tools fill the space with excitement.  So we pulled together some photos of the space that we thought you might enjoy.

[all photos by BUILD llc]

Urban Blight
July 28, 2008, 10:17 am
Filed under: Architecture, Seattle, Urban Architecture

We don’t want to make a habit of blogging about adverse architectures in the northwest but the current “townhouse” model here in Seattle is too appalling to keep quiet about. Sprouting up like weeds, the archetype is identified by their auto-courts, separated 3 story structures, bay windows, intersecting pitched roofs, and unusably small decks –all wrapped up in a nostalgic faux-craftsman envelope. In our current buyers market the white picket fence can easily be negotiated into the deal.

This solution to urban density in Seattle has not only become a stagnant model, but it has spread like an urban cancer in the Seattle metro area. Trying to get our heads around the issue, our R&D team took a driving tour to get a better understanding of these crapsman townhouse hobby-kits. We traveled from the U-district to Shilshole and it was shocking how frequently these models populate urban areas like Wallingford, Phinney Ridge, and Ballard.

There has been a lot of finger pointing about the issue. The City of Seattle Department of Planning and Development is often condemned for creating codes which encourage the model. The obvious target is, of course, the developers of these projects who appear to have shed any ethics about urban planning, healthy design and forward thinking. There is also criticism toward the type of homeowner who would financially support such housing. Each avenue is valid to a certain degree but the more we contemplate the issues at hand, the more it seems to be the responsibility of… us, the Architects. At some point in the process an educated, professionally trained, and licensed architect put their stamp on each and every project and turned it in to the City of Seattle.

Obtaining an architectural degree from an accredited school requires a minimum 5 years of undergraduate work. There is a professional board which monitors and accredits architecture programs (NAAB) and a professional organization which administers the professional examination for professional licensure (NCARB). Given the rigor of architecture curriculums and the authority of professional review boards, how is it that we are producing professional architects incapable of designing for the current conditions and time?

Above and beyond keeping the heat in and the water out, we Architects have a responsibility to the institutions that trained us and to society at large for the continued evolution of built-form. As the guardians of the architecture on any given project, it is the Architect’s role to protect the architecture against conflicting motives. This is not to say that the architecture can or should always be dominant –a good project is a balance of many elements, but the architecture should be represented. The Seattle townhouse model, however, shows that all architectural agenda has been forfeited.

Our bet is that these architects know better – that profit, indolence or pleasing the developers got the best of them.

The Seattle Times had a good article on the subject from March 4th, read about it here.