By Meghan Hall
Seattle’s University District has become a hub of development activity, and another residential project is working through the design review process. Presented by Balfour Beatty and Ankrom Moisan Architects, 4131 Brooklyn Ave. NE is expected to rise 23 stories and bring 229 units to market. The project underwent its first formal recommendation meeting at the end of last year, but must return for a second before it receives full design approval.
The design scheme presented during December’s meeting represented the culmination of the Board’s prior feedback. The design indicated a tower composed of simple massing volumes with open space to the South. The facade would utilize a more graduated transition from tower to base via a connector expression in order to reduce the bulk and scale of the project.
The base expression was simplified and carved away. The color of the base will also be strengthened. On the rooftop, mechanical structures were consolidated and shifted to the north, creating a larger rooftop terrace to the south. A “spatially-connected” element provides a transition between the two in an effort to unify the base and the tower and provide the project with a unique architectural identity.
The project’s materials selection will also take a similar route, with a “lightweight modern tower facade perched on the heavy base elements of the ground,” according to design documents. The tower facade is inspired by the “shimmer of nature in the Pacific Northwest.”
“Simplicity is a driving factor of this design and editing is key,” state the documents. A light overall color imitating the sky will be used, as well as a metal panel that will blend colors to soften the massing.
Overall, the Board noted that its response to guidance was good in that it further responded to contextual analysis. The “Connector” design concept was also well-received, and the Board remarked that it is a true manifestation of neighborhood open space patterns on the vertical plane.
The Board did ask the project team to make a number of adjustments, however. The Board debated the muted color tones at length, and remained concerned about the colors given Seattle’s typically gray skies. The Board recommended using a shimmering effect to trap light and reinforce the meaning behind the materials used. The Board also debated the materiality of the Connector, stating that they wanted the element to be clearly legible.
The items that the Board debated were all critical to meeting design guidelines. As such, the Board recommended that the project return for a second recommendation meeting in the coming months.
The project, as it wraps up entitlements, will be in good company. It is just one of a number of projects that are coming to market in the University District. Many of the projects in the area are high-rises. 4700 Brooklyn, for example, will rise 24 stories and include 227 units. 1415 NE 43rd Street will include not one, but two towers. Combined, they will include 225 apartments. 4512 11th Ave. NE is one of the tallest projects in the works. At 32 stories, it will combine both residential and hotel units. Combined, the projects show just how fervent developers are about the University District, and how the neighborhood will change in the years to come.