By Meghan Hall
After facing a tough round of initial feedback from Seattle’s Downtown Design Review Board, developer Silverstein Properties and Handel Architects have finally secured preliminary design approval for a 46-story, 415–unit apartment project at 801 Blanchard Street. The project team received approval for its updating massing schemes and will now move from early design review to a more formal design review meeting in the coming months.
“In early design guidance one, we studied three opportunities which would define the massing on this site, and those [opportunities] generally were the edges, the associated forms of three dimensions and the notion of character and movement in this position on a small block with circulation and visibility on all sides,” explained Matthew Berglund of Handel Architects.
Over the course of the design process, the project’s site has been a logistical challenge for the development team, as the property’s footprint includes just a small section of parcel wedged between two existing buildings, including the four-story Butcher’s Table Building and a one-story Shake Shack to the south. Design efforts thus far have largely revolved around preserving and working around the existing buildings and accommodating for potential development at those properties in the future.
At the previous early design guidance meeting, the Review Board expressed hesitation with all three massing concepts presented due to the presented site plans, ground plane and lobby access and general lack of a defined podium. Therefore, for the second early design guidance meeting, Silverstein Properties and Handel Architects presented two entirely new schemes.
Massing Concept Four, called “Revised Diamond,” included a faceted plan shape and slender, vertical facade with a crystalline crown. The option was quickly passed over in favor of option five, however, because the latter better fit design guidelines.
With the fifth concept, three vertical masses interlock in a triangle so that the massing yields slender, vertical profiles and is visually appealing from a variety of vantage points. Overhanging floors and terrace setbacks add additional modulation, while an interlocking pattern is used to unify the building at all three levels: base, middle and top.
The massing concept has been dubbed “Fulcrum.”
“With Concept Five we wanted to take advantage of starting fresh but also to let it be a positive outgrowth of all the comments we have received,” said Berglund. “We tested whether we could arrange the tower into three, moderate-sized masses relating to each street and found that a pinwheel arrangement responded to the circulation of the block and also evokes petals or growth. [We found] this was a strong metaphor for how the building must grow up and outwards from this constrained site.”
This time around, the Board greatly appreciated the work that had been done to update the massing schemes of the project and agreed that the two new options presented were a “nice refinement” in how they responded to the street context and shift in the street grid. The Board, in particular, liked the cohesive and uniform language of the fifth massing scheme, and were “intrigued” by the articulation of the three geometries. The Board also liked that the lobby entry had been moved to the corner and away from service entrances and the garage, and the podium’s relationship to the Butcher’s Table, calling it “dialed-in.”
Moving ahead, the Board had several suggestions for the project team moving forward. The Board asked Silverstein and Heartland to examine the roof terminus, and how it would add to the massing of the building. The Board also asked how rooftop mechanical equipment would be hidden from view. The Board also requested that when it comes to materials, metal panels on the facade may be too “reflective” and asked the development team to stick to materials that were more opaque in nature. The Board also requested further clarification on how the pinwheel form will be further refined through secondary massing moves such as punched window openings and other facade modulation and geometries.
However, with strides made on the design, the Board unanimously voted to move the project forward. Silverstein and Handel will return in the coming months to present a more finalized design team to the public.