By Jack Stubbs
“Models give people an inside look at how design happens, and for architects, [they] are a way for architects to communicate with the public and their clients,” said Stacy Segal, executive director at the Seattle Architecture Foundation. On Thursday September 14th, the Seattle Architecture Foundation hosted the opening of its new exhibit Resurgence, which presents local architects with the opportunity to share their work with the Seattle community.
The event marks twenty years since the foundation started its Annual Architectural Model Exhibit, a program that showcases and displays current and forthcoming projects undertaken by architects throughout the city over the last two decades. The exhibit opened to the public on September 14th and will run until November 18th at the Center for Architecture and Design.
The opening of Resurgence comes at a time when Seattle is experiencing major urban growth. According to the exhibit’s web site, Resurgence facilitates a dynamic conversation with the larger Seattle community, “[challenging] designers to explore the ways in which their work intersects with the growth of grassroots and community movements, the changing conceptions of what cities can be and do, and renewed interest in formerly neglected places, spaces and ideas.”
According to Segal, the origins of the Annual Model Exhibit stem from Seattle Architecture Foundation’s aim of exposing the work of its designers to the greater public and to spur interest in the craft. “Seattle Architecture Foundation was founded because architects felt that people should better understand what architects do, and the value they provide to the community. This exhibit was one of the larger programs that we started,” she said.
Showcasing a different topic every year, this year’s theme of resurgence speaks to the rapid growth in construction projects occurring city-wide. “Our theme Resurgence looked at the [current] built environment and how [the] power dynamic is shifting,” Segal said. The richness of the exhibit is directly related to the volume of the architects’ projects, which just a few years ago was a fraction of today’s amount of work and design. “About five years ago, there was a downturn, and we really had a small display of models, because there just weren’t that many projects happening. Now, it’s grown quite a bit,” Segal said.
With around thirty models presented, the exhibit reflects some of the more noteworthy architectural projects undertaken in recent years.
The exhibit showcases LMN Architect’s 4/C Tower, which will be one of the tallest buildings in the United States at 90 stories and 1,000 feet tall; then there is Weber Thompson’s Watershed commercial office building, one of only three local buildings to pursue Seattle’s Living Building Pilot Program; Graphite Design Group’s homeless shelter for families at Amazon Block 21, which places nonprofit Mary’s place at the epicenter of a prominent downtown business hub is also in the exhibit; and Olson Kundig’s Century Project for the Space Needle, which will strip back the circular observation deck to offer visitors uninterrupted 360-degree views through glass.
Other exhibitors include: Berger Partnership, CollinsWoerman, Graphite Design Group, LMN Architects, Olson Kundig, Schemata Workshop, Perkins+Will, Rebecca Marsh & Sean Morgan, DLR Group, Roger H Newell and ZGF Architects LLP.
“The scale of the projects this year is much larger as well … These are big projects, and we almost struggled to find enough space for them all,” Segal said.
The various exploratory and completed models on display help the architects share their process with the larger community, according to Segal. “[The models] are a huge part of the creative process … when you look at the models, you see just how precise architects are. They’re so thoughtful in the work that they do, and [with] the models, you’re really able to see that, [such as] the human scale represented in the models, as well as the landscape in relation to the scale of the building,” she said.
And as with any creative product or effort, the outcome is essentially a work of art, which in today’s world is more and more impacted by advancement and application of technology. “I look at architecture as a form of art in many ways. The models are works of art, [since] there’s so much craftsmanship that goes into them,” Segal said. “Every year we look at these models and technology has evolved, so we often see a lot more digital work. We’re seeing hand-built models, [along with] 3-D models being printed as well.”
Some of the architectural models on display are further along in the planning process, while others are more experimental in their design. However, in both cases, the work that goes into designing the models—and the projects that they represent—reflects a larger effort on behalf of Seattle’s architects to broach more pressing concerns, according to Segal. “[The models] really get into the thought process that the architects and designers go through when they’re trying to solve a community issue.”