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13-Story Office Building Proposed by Sound Transit, UW and LPC West Gets Unanimous Support from Design Review Board

University of Washington, LPC West, Perkins + Will, Sound Transit, Seattle
Image Courtesy of Perkins + Will

By Meghan Hall

A project that is the result of a collaboration between the University of Washington, Sound Transit and LPC West is well on its way after receiving unanimous support from Seattle’s Northeast Design Review Board. In a virtual Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting Monday night, the project team for 4328 Brooklyn Ave. NE revealed their designs for a 13-story office building which the University of Washington will occupy upon its completion. The development will build—quite literally—upon a current Sound Transit station on the site and act as a gateway to those entering the University District.

Designed by Chicago-based architecture firm Perkins + Will, the development includes 259,427 square feet of administrative offices and 2,720 square feet of ground floor retail. The design proposal also includes a public pocket park at the corner of 43rd Street and Brooklyn, with the intent of incorporating useable pedestrian open spaces along the street to support retail activities.

The design of the building was driven by a number of factors. The project’s position within the neighborhood, its relationship to UW Tower and the site itself, with the below-ground Sound Transit Station, were all major factors. According to Erik Mott, principal and design director with Perkins + Will, further design inspiration was pulled from University of Washington campus architecture and the increasing modernization and urbanization of the neighborhood.

“This site is really going to be a gateway to the community on Brooklyn and 43rd, which is a gateway to the University of Washington campus,” explained Mott. “It is very much an urban site and we see an opportunity here to create an urban campus in relation to UW Tower.”

The massing and floorplates of the development will be largely informed by its use as a commercial office building. The project team, instead of pursuing a project that would maximize building height, decided on a more moderately-scaled tower with larger floorplates to accommodate the University of Washington.

University of Washington, LPC West, Perkins + Will, Sound Transit, Seattle
Image Courtesy of Perkins + Will

“Just conceptually, it was really about making the decision to not build to the highest height limit, to really step in for practical and urbanistic reasons, and begin to further articulate the mass,” said Mott.

The preferred option presented to the Board at the beginning of the week features a building design that maximizes width, and one which is set back from the property line at Brooklyn Ave. The structure will maximize leasable area and will be cantilevered at level three to create a “reveal” and differentiate between the base and middle of the building.

Mott added, “The breakthrough here was that because the station structure is set back from Brooklyn Avenue, we were able to fully cantilever this Brooklyn face of the building…creating a strong datum of relief.” 

The Brooklyn Avenue frontage will be programmed with a high bay, two-story volume retail space, informal seating and street activation. Materials have not yet been selected for the façade, but the design team hopes to incorporate passive solar shading not just for energy performance, but to add texture and scale to the exterior of the building. The upper levels of the building will be clad in a material specifically selected to coordinate with the UW Tower in an effort to create a strong urban dialogue between the buildings.

Overall, the Design Review Board was largely impressed with the preferred option, stating in its deliberations that while modern, it relates well to existing University of Washington architecture and campus design just up the road. The “referential, modern interpretation,” of university architecture was largely appreciated, as was the scale of the proposed development. The Board had several questions regarding how the building would relate to the rest of the neighborhood and other nearby buildings, and asked the application team to think about the activation of the alley and how the proposed pocket park will influence the final design. The Board also recommended that the façade materials will need to be chosen with great consideration, given the overall simplicity of the massing.

However, even with these recommendations, the Board felt the project was off to a solid start and voted unanimously to allow the project team to move forward with the Master Use Permit application process.