By Meghan Hall
Throughout the design review process, some project teams will make significant adjustments to their proposals to adhere to Seattle design review guidelines. While sometimes those changes are sufficient, other times the Design Review Board will ask for additional clarification. Such was the case last week at a design review meeting for 1370 Stewart Street, a 45-story tower pitched by Vancouver-based Arbutus Properties and Seattle-based architecture firm Perkins & Will. While the West Design Review Board acquiesced there was a lot to like about the development team’s updated designs, it wavered in moving the project forward, stating it wanted more information on the all-important pedestrian realm.
The current iteration of the project proposes 435 residential units. In addition, the development will include 22,470 square feet of amenity space, 119 parking spaces and 11,646 square feet of retail.
Arbutus Properties and Perkins & Will made several substantial changes to the design and layout of the tower based on previous design feedback. The most significant of these changes was pushing the tower itself back on the site while bringing the podium forward. The ultimate goal of this change was to enhance the pedestrian scale of the project and reduce perceived bulk and height from the ground plane.
“The massing and planning of the podium and tower have been taken in a direction with the board’s support and guidance,” explained Perkins & Will’s Erik Mott. “[The design features] a sculptural tower on a relatively modest, sculptural base with a curvilinear and dynamic architectural vocabulary. The tower has two façade treatments, each in response to its context.”
The design was inspired by a sailboat, with a more “billowing” façade facing towards Lake Union and Elliott Bay, and a more “taught” structure cladding the other facades. However, such design modifications had a significant impact on the layout and functionality of the project. According to Mott, the entire tower had to be reshaped and re-planned, and the tower’s structure had to be redesigned, as well.
“It is a substantial change,” noted Mott.
The intermediate scale of the tower was also refined through the use of numerous strategies. Legible, multi-story elements such as floor groupings, gaskets, off-sets, projections, sky terrace and layering were added in support of the original architectural concept. The roof of the tower will feature a sculpted crown and sky terrace.
The design of the project also evolved to more greatly activate the corners of the triangular site. Public spaces, landscape, retail and the residential lobby are now situated at each corner. Project designs were also modified to incorporate canopies, podium enclosures, site furnishings and increased landscaping. 25 percent of the project site within the property line has been given up to open space and public uses, according to project plans.
“We are not aware of any precedent in South Lake Union with that proportion of public realm and pedestrian response,” said Mott.
In its deliberations, the Board appreciated the progress made from the previous early design guidance meetings. It suggested that there was much to appreciate in the tower’s design, but asked that the project team revisit the Stewart façade. While Arbutus and Perkins & Will had removed balconies on the façade due to Board concerns about noise, the Board asked that some form of secondary massing be added. The Board suggested an articulation or frit pattern similar to the other facades be used.
The aspect of the project that the Board deliberated on the longest was the public realm. The Board noted that given the orientation of the program and location of services, pedestrians should be protected walking around the building. However, its deliberations were largely circular, with the Board discussing at length whether it had enough information on the pedestrian realm to comfortably move the project forward. In the end, it voted to bring the project back for an additional review and asked the project team to provide additional information on elevations of the pedestrian scale, dimensions of the ground plane and the garage entry. The Board also asked to present a landscape concept that plays off of and connects to REI offices adjacent to the property via the use of native plants. In the coming months, Arbutus and Perkins & Will will modify their designs and re-present them to the Board for approval.