By Meghan Hall
Seattle’s University District is as eclectic in design as it is in future development, something that Athens, Ga.-based Landmark Properties hoped to incorporate into the architecture of The Standard Towers, a 535,000 square foot development it has proposed in the neighborhood. With this in mind, Landmark Properties and Ankrom Moisan Architects had originally proposed two modern towers with eclectic massing and fenestration to respond to the variance in surrounding architecture, but was asked by the Northeast Design Review Board to return for a second Early Design Guidance with a scheme that was more simplistic and elegant in nature.
Driving the Board’s decision to call back the development was, in part, its size and location. Located at 4238 12th Ave. NE., the Standard Towers project would be blocks away from the University of Washington when completed in a highly-trafficked part of town. The development will also have a significant impact on the aesthetics of the neighborhood due to its size and scale. Currently, the two towers will be comprised of 400 residential units and 6,700 square feet of ground-level retail, taking up approximately two-thirds of an entire block. An outdoor publicly amenity corridor from 12th Ave. N. to Brooklyn Ave. NE is also planned.
The second EDG meeting took place last night during which the project team presented a refined design for the development, one they hoped that would better relate to its surroundings in its simplified design. Ankrom Moisan and Landmark Properties designed the two towers as if they had once been on single entity; the two facades facing each other will be bolder in their design as they relate to one another and will be revealed through a “peeling process.” The interior facades will be clad in metallic bent metal panels comprised of three different hues. The outer facades of each building will be simple in nature, with a potential window wall system comprised of metal panel, spandrel and glass.
The rooftops of the project will act as an extension of the inner facades and will feature the same metallic-finished bent metal plates. They will be slightly smaller grained in nature and provide semi-iridescent layers that will be visible from a distance during both day and night.
In response to the Board’s request to explore local design precedents and foster an eclectic design, the development is grounded by a three-level podium that provides architectural interest through a variety of step backs, canopies and overhangs of varying sizes and heights. The project’s street facades along 12th Ave. will layer back progressively as they move through the block corridor, creating an inviting approach and changing pedestrian experience. The retail corner at 12th and 42nd, meanwhile, will be raised up to create an additional porch with integrated stadium seating. Varying materials, depths and heights within the retail façade will also provide spatial variety for pedestrians.
In its deliberations, the Board expressed support for the design team’s efforts to directly respond to previous design guidance issued at the project’s first Early Design Guidance meeting. The Board approved of the massing, in which the building’s singular form was separated through the use of various material elements, exposing a secondary “muscular” layer within. The Board also supported the faceted texture of the building’s inner element and suggested that in order to tie the project together, that the material be used in other places throughout the facade. The Board did also remind the design team that while the layers of modulation and materials are appreciated, to keep the overall design simple.
The Board also offered feedback regarding the project’s mid-block connection and ground plane uses. The Board inquired whether or not it was possible to reconfigure programming elements at the southwest corner of the project site and stated that retail uses should be closer to grade, and that the mid-block connection needed to be more readily apparent to pedestrians at ground level.
The Board found the project’s design much improved and, along with the community, believed its presence would be of benefit to the neighborhood. The project was approved to move forward to a final design recommendation meeting and permitted to apply for a Master Use Permit, which will take place in the coming months.