A 13-story building in Seattle’s University District is moving forward after receiving full support from the Northeast Design Review Board during a recommendation meeting on Monday. The project, which is a collaboration between the University of Washington, LPC West and Sound Transit, would incorporate a mix of administration space and commercial retail space.
The building is being designed by Perkins + Will and would be located at 4238 Brooklyn Avenue NE. According to the design proposal, the building would sit over a below-grade Sound Transit light rail station at 43rd and Brooklyn and incorporate 2,620 square feet of ground floor retail and 259,427 square feet of administrative offices for the University of Washington. The project would also include a pocket park to further engage with the public.
“It’s been a year and four months since our early design guidance meeting,and a lot has happened since then in the world. In addition to the pandemic, the station that this building is designed to be constructed over has opened and is operating, and there’s been a lot of ongoing vertical development in the neighborhood which is exciting,” said Erik Mott, principal and design director for Perkins + Will.
The project team previously met with the design review board in October of 2020 for an early design guidance meeting. At that time, the project received unanimous support from the board. However, the project team was also encouraged to implement new ways of activating the street level and open space while simultaneously responding to the natural environment in an urban context.
During the early design guidance meeting, the board supported the building form, but suggested the use of higher quality materials to set the building apart. In response, Perkins + Will suggested using a mix of different metals and glasses to add dimension and elegance to the building as opposed to a single clad glass throughout the upper portion of the building. Added separation at the podium level will also add dimension to the building.
“This contemporary expression incorporates a sense of lightness and delicacy through the detailing. It’s a detailing that incorporates materials that are performative elements, such as the solar shades on the south facade as well as the PVs to harvest electrical energy from the sun at the roof,” Mott said. “The design of the skin pushes the limits of the size of the glass in the curtain walls to create a very light, well-daylit building that connects to views and is a kind of a lantern that’s seen in the skyline to mark the location of the station along the public realm.”
At the street level, the design team also proposes a lobby within the podium portion of the building as well as a contiguous line of retail. To further engage with pedestrians at the street level, retail areas and entrances would be clearly defined with high-visibility signage.
The design team will also use the proposed pocket park to engage with the public and create a welcoming area for University of Washington administrative employees. The plan suggests leveling out the site to create a concrete and stone courtyard, opening up to a flexible amphitheater space.Stone seating and steps will be added around the courtyard with ample landscaping throughout as well as a native plant canopy overhead.
The overhead canopy will also incorporate integrated lighting, creating a safe and well-lit environment for pedestrians. Linear lighting will also be used in the canopy structure to highlight the architectural rooftop expression of the building as well as to highlight its edges, in effort to bring attention to the rest of the tower as well as the streetscape.
“We’re creating an expression with light that both enhances the pedestrian security and safety while creating a mood in a memorable sense of place at the human scale of the street level as well as at the skyline scale,” Mott said. “These lighting elements and treatments really take advantage of an opportunity to press the special sort of place of this building within the city situated here, over the top of the station.”
Overall, the board was supportive of the direction of the project team and gave their unanimous vote to recommend the project moves forward through the master’s permit process.
However, in showing their support, the board also made several suggestions for the project team to consider when moving forward. Most prominently, the board noted its approval of the pocket park but noted the importance of making a space that was usable for groups of all sizes. By adding more seating and drawing attention to multiple points of the park as opposed to just the proposed amphitheater space, the board suggested the park could be more friendly to large groups as well as single pedestrians.