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Why six gleaming cube ‘lanterns’ are part of Capitol Hill Station development’s new architectural relationship with Broadway

Nagele points out one of the development’s “lantern” structures above Cal Anderson Park

Yes, the H-Mart is set to finally open later this year and the development’s plaza already makes for a nice place to stroll through on a summer night though the surrounding cafes and restaurants are still under construction. Slowly, as the buildings fill with residents, and the project’s Capitol Hill businesses — new and old — begin to open, the structures of the “transit oriented development” above Capitol Hill Station are establishing their relationship with the surrounding neighborhood.

“We wanted to take the complexities and involvement of the community and make those priorities visible,” Julia Nagele, principal and director of design and architecture at Hewitt said on a recent tour of the new block of density and mixed-use that has risen above the transit station and is now methodically filling with activity along Broadway.

CHS reported here on new residents moving into the mix of affordable and market rate housing and the decades of community effort to shape the structures that would rise above Capitol Hill Station. Sound Transit opened the U-Link extension and the new station below Broadway in March 2016. In August 2016, Sound Transit signed a 99-year lease with Gerding Edlen to develop the properties it had acquired surrounding the station. The Portland-based developer led the project with designs from Hewitt and Capitol Hill’s Schemata Workshop. Community Roots Housing developed and operates the affordable housing component of the projects. CHS reported here on the 20 years of community engagement it took to make the development a reality.

In 2013, the Seattle City Council approved a development agreement allowing developers to plan for 85-foot tall buildings along Broadway in exchange for going above minimum affordable housing requirements. Though many ask today in the midst of Seattle’s ongoing affordability crisis why the apartment buildings aren’t taller, even achieving 85 feet was a battle.

For Nagele and Hewitt, the opportunity to design the core buildings of the development — now branded Park and Ander North and South — was the kind of challenge big city architects were born for with a rare opportunity for Hewitt to design both the busy subway station and the surrounding housing and commercial buildings.

Nagele points out the silver-clad lanterns that cap two corners of each building and echo the entrances to the light rail station. Built at sizes to match the scale of the station entrances when viewed from the ground, the lanterns are visual “wayfinding” elements, marking the location of the entrances below.

(Image: Hewitt)

There are more spaces of architectural ingenuity on the block. Many are simple and a function of the realities of the site. The central plaza — now the weekly home to the neighborhood’s farmers market — was designed with a natural grade from Broadway to slope and provide a view across the pavers into neighboring Cal Anderson Park. The elevation changes across the site called for “some big urban moves,” Nagele, says, of the transitioning design from building to building and feature to feature through the development between E Howell and John.

Less subtle was the need, Nagele says, to add variety across a block packed densely enough for 428 residential units, thousands of square feet of new commercial space including a new grocery and a new daycare, 216 parking stalls for cars, and 254 parking stalls for bikes, and the plaza. Alternating dark and light color palettes and a shift from gloss, and “glass cubes” to a more organic feel above the plaza and facing 10th Ave was part of the philosophy.

Woven into the variety, Nagele says Hewitt also designed the buildings to visually connect with uniform windows, and panels that form “a texture not a pattern.” As the Ander structures fronting Broadway form their textures with a gloss and matte white, Nagele says she hopes the buildings feel like “fabric.”

Not that the buildings are soft. Expressing a kind of urban strength was also important. One place that kind of solidity is expressed is in the project’s rain canopies over Broadway with their exposed bolts and underpinnings. Nagele says rain canopies are a “hot topic” in Seattle architectural circles for the role they play in connecting a building to passersby below and, well, rain.

There were also plenty of limits and constraints. The buildings needed to be designed around Sound Transit safety and access requirements for the station below and incorporate many “unbuildable” areas. Some of those brought creative solutions like the soft purple station infrastructure box that also serves as the backdrop for the big X-shaped aluminum, bronze and steel sculpture andimgonnamisseverybody part of the AIDS Memorial Pathway. Another area became an apartment building amenity area with plantings and a place to hang out. Others like a big flat open space on the backside of the plaza are crying out for non-structural ideas and might be filled with a new bike storage feature.

As you walk below the new buildings on Broadway and see, now, the silver lantern boxes, the slope of the plaza, the canopy bolts, and the fabric-like panels, you might notice other tricks and magic of the architectural trade.

The corner of Broadway and John was a key challenge, Nagele says, with the Ander North building meeting the light rail station’s main Broadway entrance. Here, the building subtly curves back, widening the sidewalk, and to showcasing the station’s main entrance. A silver cube structure designed ingeniously as one of the building’s apartment units marks the spot.

There are at least four visual transitions between the structures, the station’s entrance, and what will soon be the entrance to the new Capitol Hill H-Mart. It’s a busy spot, like Capitol Hill Station itself, where everything comes together.

 

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Capitol Hill forever
Capitol Hill forever
2 months ago

Kudos to Nagele for a great design and to Capitol Hill Champion for advocating on behalf of the community. I can’t wait for H mart!

Robert
Robert
2 months ago

Blah blah blah. This is all pseudo intellectual bullshit justifying these deadly boring and characterless (and too short!) buildings that look like cheap college dorms on top of strip-malls. Once in a lifetime opportunity wasted again. The architecture profession has failed this city.

harvardave
harvardave
2 months ago
Reply to  Robert

Dam straight! Should have gone with a more classic design like this!

download (24).jpeg
Robert
Robert
2 months ago
Reply to  harvardave

ha ha no, but what about this:

markthal-rotterdam-still-5.jpg
Robert
Robert
2 months ago
Reply to  harvardave

Or even this:

00003487246822.jpg
ODB
ODB
2 months ago
Reply to  Robert

It’s not the architecture profession, it’s the design review board and zoning laws. They are the one who forced this building to be way too small and who demand that every new building that gets put up has to look boring and/or ugly. There’s a lot other people and groups whose fault it is that I left out but those are 2 of the big ones.

BlackSpectacles
BlackSpectacles
2 months ago
Reply to  ODB

While I agree that the zoning laws are problematic and that certain design review boards tend to overstep their actual responsibilities, giving the entire architectural profession a free pass seems a little odd. How come there are firms that manage to consistently produce decent looking multi-family buildings whereas others seem to be satisfied with adding some color to an undeveloped zoning envelope and celebrating canopy details? They all have to play by the same rules.

yetanotherhiller
yetanotherhiller
2 months ago
Reply to  ODB

And yet, the design review boards are dominated by members who make their living in the building industry. Could this conflict of interest be contributing to low standards?

Developers have to be willing to pay for good architecture. Is it worth it to them? Maybe it doesn’t pencil out.

RWK
RWK
2 months ago
Reply to  Robert

The buildings as is are quite tall and create a cold “canyon” along that part of Broadway. Taller would only make the problem worse.

BlackSpectacles
BlackSpectacles
2 months ago

“[…] she hopes the buildings feel like “fabric.”” Unless Ms. Nagele’s definition of fabric is fundamentally different from mine, this hope did not come true. Instead, these three buildings must be among the most bland and contrived looking multi-family developments that have gone up on Capitol Hill in the recent past. Unless they have amazing floor plans or a below than average $/SF construction cost (which I doubt given the amount of effort that went into creating the “lanterns”…at least now I know where the entrance to the Lightrail station is when looking SW from the Volunteer Park Water Tower) I agree w/ Robert that this is one big missed opportunity. It’s not like there is an unwritten rule saying that multi-family buildings, including market-rate and/or affordable, HAVE to look this unimaginative and there are quite a few projects in the City to prove it.

H-Mart
H-Mart
2 months ago

Is this actually going to open, and if so, when? At this point, I’ll only believe it when I see it.

Cap hiller
Cap hiller
2 months ago

Not trying to be negative, but really! They could not design a better group of buildings. I agree that they look like dorms.

formerly CD Neighbor
formerly CD Neighbor
2 months ago

You actually picked some of the better looking ones… when I think Soviet era apartment blocks I think more like this…
0d04810b-b6de-4a5d-9be1-e6783de47f61-2060×1236.jpeg

Sounders
2 months ago

Rain Canopies just promote homeless camping below.

BCPHLS
BCPHLS
2 months ago
Reply to  Sounders

walk in the rain like a capitalist’s stooge, then.