Home AEC Seattle’s Design Review Board Advances University Temple United Methodist Church Project

Seattle’s Design Review Board Advances University Temple United Methodist Church Project

University Temple United Methodist Church, Weinstein A+U, Seattle, GGLO, American Campus Communities
Courtesy of GGLO

By Bekka Wiedenmeyer

University Temple United Methodist Church (UTUMC) has celebrated its presence in Seattle’s U-District for more than a hundred years. Since 1901, the church has transformed from a tent to three worship spaces, with the sole mission to meet the needs of its congregation and the surrounding community. To continue that mission, American Campus Communities (ACC) UTUMC, Weinstein A+U LLC and GGLO Design proposed a refined project for two mixed-use towers at 15th Avenue NE and NE 43rd Street during a second recommendation meeting. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Board recommended the project move forward to master use permit application as conditioned by suggestions made during the meeting.

The site, which is jointly owned by UTUMC and Larry D Erickson, is located at 1415 NE 43rd Street and currently houses an existing structure that will be demolished to clear the way for the new design. GGLO Design is both the architect of record and landscape architect, with Weinstein A+U LLC as the church interior architect. The site is surrounded by a combination of commercial, residential and institutional buildings.

UTUMC’s mission is to not only serve its congregation, but also the surrounding community, and they felt led to expand their ministry to new facilities. These facilities include a larger sanctuary to promote congregational growth, an engaging intersect at 43rd and 15th to encourage community interaction, a welcoming church entry at 15th with overhead coverage to promote interaction even in inclement weather, and a church mission space that can be used flexibly for childcare, community meals, events and more.

“Our challenge has been to put an architectural face to this mission by providing a strong and welcoming church presence at the podium level with two large towers seated above the church,” said Kirsten Wild, a principal at Weinstein A+U LLC.

 According to project documents, the two residential towers will be situated above a 40,000 square foot podium, with below grade parking for 125 vehicles and parking for 240 bicycles. The northern tower will provide 179 resident hall units, and the southern tower will provide 65 apartment units. Podium amenities include space for educational, religious and secular events, as well as community service organizations and student housing services. Rooftop terraces will overlook the U-District and the University of Washington, and site amenities also include a colonnade plaza, a north entry porch, a comprehensible sanctuary and an outdoor seating amphitheatre. Building amenities include dining, lounge and hang out spaces at the podium level; space for games, workout classes and movable furniture at the lower tower roof; and restaurant-style banquettes, a study lounge and movable furniture at the higher tower roof.

At the first recommendation meeting, the Board supported the overall massing design of the two distinct north and south towers, the north standing at 240 feet tall with the south at 140 feet. The Board initially requested more details on the design language and relationship of the base, the towers in relation to each other, and the language within each tower. In response, the design team refined each tower’s design language at the second recommendation meeting as a lighter-colored “body” articulated by two-story punched window bays, contrasting with the interlocked frame elements at the northeast corner of the north tower and the 15th Ave. facade of the south tower. They also adjusted the design between the two towers to be more similar in concept, with a consistent treatment of the tower bodies that emphasizes the frame elements at both the northeast corner of the north tower and east facade of the south tower. The two-story punched window bays highlight a more consistent fenestration proportion of the towers to the base, along with allowing more of the area of white solid panel to contrast with the glassy frame elements.

“The revised tower skin language provides better residential scale, strengthens the overall project’s design intent, and clearly expresses the program’s modularity,” said Jeff Bates, senior associate at GGLO Design.

The Board was also initially concerned with the materials used at the corner of 43rd into the alleway, which the team clarified in the second recommendation meeting by grounding the tower’s lighter colored vertical metal panels to grade and allowing the contrasting orange-colored entry portal at the residential lobby to provide a secondary element to better scale the tower face to the entry plaza. The team also added glazing to the lounge and dining hall.

In response to the Board’s request at the last recommendation meeting to further emphasize the open spaces as accessible and open to the public, the team modified the colonnade along 15th by pulling back planting and expanding stairs, adding porosity to the east edge of the space and inviting more pedestrian activity to the colonnade and open space at the corner of 15th and 43rd. The team also proposed a sloped walk with seating steps and a glazed overhead canopy to allow for more activity and vibrancy. A panel of textured vertical score brick at the Sanctuary along 15th will be added to contrast with a dark metal panel frame around the window that will further accentuate the layers of art glass. All blank walls at the alley will be treated with lighting, architectural finishes and artistic murals.

The Board appreciated the progress made on the architectural concept and materiality of the project, and that the team was responsive to the guidance given. They recognized the team’s efforts in defining the design language as clear and consistent, particularly with strengthening the interlocking concept and defining the relationship both between and within the towers. 

The Board felt the changes made since the last meeting allowed for positive changes to the design, particularly with grounding the northeast corner tower. They felt the ground plane was more approachable, permeable and fluid with the public realm, and that the simplified use of color highlighted important program elements. The Board also appreciated the proposed material palette and texture of materials, and thought the contrast was important in driving home the interlocking concept. They applauded the team for the added details along the alley, including art, lighting and texture. They recognized the alley was “inherently messy,” but that the team did a commendable job of tying the design together to make it interesting and pedestrian-friendly. They also appreciated the team’s efforts to refine the public open spaces to make them more natural, with a “public-facing,” approachable design. They lauded the team’s proposal to add seating, and also approved the lighting and the signage of the project.

The Board raised concerns about the facade at the sanctuary windows and suggested the team ensure they were maximizing transparency of the windows so they could extend as high as possible. They also set a condition for the next iteration of the project to wrap the brick palette a few more feet at the south edge of the building to read more logically as a termination at the base.

During the meeting, the project team also reiterated their seven design departures for the project, all for which the Board had indicated support during the first recommendation meeting with conditions set for the team to continue adding amenities and features to make the open spaces more welcome to the public. The Board appreciated the progress made since the last recommendation meeting and was supportive of all seven revised design departures, with no conditions to add.

At the end of the second recommendation meeting, the Board unanimously recommended the project move forward to master use permit application, with the condition set for the south facade.