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The most popular building on E. Union: A look at Capitol Hill’s favorite designs

Last month, CHS rolled out a project developed in conjunction with the Capitol Hill Community Council designed to measure our collective likes — and dislikes — about buildings in the neighborhood. The Community Design Preferences page allows CHS members to post pictures of and rate buildings on Capitol Hill. Now, with over 100 building pictures, and hundreds of votes, we decided to check in on the leaders and see what they can tell us about development in our ‘hood.

1310 E. Union Lofts exterior (Photo: Matthew Brady/The Spectator)

The current top three are the 1310 E. Union Lofts, followed by the 1933 Seattle Art Museum (now the Seattle Asian Art Museum) and the 1930 Loveless Building respectively.

So, what’s so great about 1310? Built in 2001, the 1310 E. Union Lofts were developed by hillebrity Liz Dunn’s Dunn + Hobbes and designed by architecture firm Miller|Hull Partnership. Sitting on a lot smaller than many single family homes, the building consists of eight loft-style condos, 500 sq ft. of retail space (currently occupied by Fleurish), and Seattle’s first underground parking lift, with spots for eight vehicles. The building has won numerous regional and national awards, including the 2003 PIA Housing Award.

I caught up with David Miller, founding partner of Miller|Hull, to chat about 1310 Lofts’ success:

JM: 1310 E. Union Lofts is currently rated the best building on Capitol Hill. Congratulations!

DM: Thanks so much. This is certainly a wonderful honor. It is one thing for our project to be appreciated  by fellow architects but it’s really nice to see that the community appreciates it as well.

JM: What was the inspiration for 1310 E. Union’s design?

DM: I worked in Chicago for a while with Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill and was really influenced by the modern high rises of the time. You can see this influence in the proportions and the use of steel on 1310 Lofts. The ‘X’ pattern on the facade, which resembles Chicago’s John Hancock Center,  is actually a lateral bracing for earthquakes and high winds.

JM: Any cool features of the building that people may not notice from the street?

DM: One interesting thing is that since the building is mid-block we prefabricated the columns and beams elsewhere and put the building up really quickly on site. You can see the joints where the pieces fit together on the facade. Another neat aspect of the building is that the big windows in each unit are actually garage doors that roll up and essentially turn part of the units into a porch.

JM: What are some of your favorite buildings on The Hill?

DM: I really like the Chapel of St. Ignatius at Seattle University designed by Steven Holl. St. Mark’s Cathedral and the Bel Roy Apartments by Lionel Pries are also great.

JM: What do you think could be done to encourage better design in new developments on Capitol Hill?

DM: I think there needs to be more of a focus on buildings that are simple and elegant. Some of the new multifamily buildings in Seattle are too complicated with so many different setbacks and materials. I think new buildings need to focus on rationality and simplicity.


Detail of the Lofts’ exterior (Photo: Matthew Brady/The Spectator)

Personally, I really like 1310 E. Union Lofts and I think it says a lot about what kind of development people want on Capitol Hill. Most prominently, its tiny footprint is a welcome counterpoint to the massive block-long buildings that have been going up in recent years such as Joule or Press on Pine. Additionally the building is clearly trying to make an architectural statement. Too often I think developers come in to build only because the building is a vehicle to profits. Perhaps ironically, this means they try too hard to design something that the community wants (or what they hear in design review), which ultimately results in a very messy building that is hard to understand. 1310 E. Union Lofts on the other hand, with its simple lines and style, makes a cohesive statement with its design.

What are your thoughts? Are you a fan of 1310 E. Union Lofts, and if so why? If you aren’t, what are some other buildings that you like and what do you think Capitol Hill can do to encourage better development?

The CHS Community Design Preference poll is ongoing, so feel free to add your own ratings to these buildings or add pictures of buildings yourself.

Coming Soon: A look at Capitol Hill’s least favorite buildings.

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3 thoughts on “The most popular building on E. Union: A look at Capitol Hill’s favorite designs

  1. I live in the Park Hill apartments immediately next to this tall slab of a building. All it does for me is to entirely block daylight from my bedroom so my view is a big blank wall.

  2. I live 3 blocks from this building–so not subject to the drawbacks weekilter speaks of–and I love this building. I wish more to be like it in and around the Hill.

    Anyone know if the rooftop decks are communal or just for the top units?

    Were I a rich man, I would snatch up one of these units.

  3. thanks so much josh for profiling this building. i love it, and i also love the loveless – both nicely frame the kinds of architecture in the neighborhood. will you be profiling the other two? i think it would be great to highlight the variety of styles people love up here. i was just remarking to myself how different the brix feels from the joule across the street, which i think has entirely to do with the half-block vs. full-block issue you raise here. if the joule is what we are going to have on top of the transit station we need to get working now to split up those parcels!