When the Frye Art Museum announced in January of 2016 its intent to explore the feasibility of developing housing adjacent to the museum, few ventured to guess what exactly Seattle’s eminent art institution would attempt to build across the street from its building. For those attending Wednesday’s Design Review Board meeting, the vision was remarkable.
The two, slightly tilting 30-story buildings, linked by a glass bridge at the top of the structure appear to burst out of the ground in a sleek combination of glass and metal curtain delivering a victorious form that will transform Seattle’s cityscape forever. The development comes as a result of the museum’s attempt to expand its sources of revenue. The land that presently houses a parking lot at 707 Terry Avenue could likely have a much better utility in a transformed use.
“Increased residential density will generate more visitors and supporters for the museum.”
“It’s the responsibility of the Trustees to ensure the Museum’s continued viability as a cultural and intellectual center on First Hill and as an anchor institution for future generations,” said David D. Buck, president of the Frye Board of Trustees and principal in the law firm of Riddell Williams, in a prepared statement earlier this year. “Increased residential density will generate more visitors and supporters for the museum. Our active engagement with the project developer will help guide responsible development in our neighborhood.”
That developer is Vancouver, BC-based Westbank Corporation, one of Canada’s leading luxury residential and mixed-use real estate development companies. And its representatives were present to provide their input to the Design Review Board. “We’re very excited to be a part of Capitol Hill. Westbank is a Vancouver-based developer. We have projects across Canada, and we now have two projects in Seattle. This is a second of our two projects, 1200 Stewart was the first one,” said Westbank’s Damon Chan. He, and architects from the Seattle office of Perkins + Will along with Vancouver’s landscape architect PFS Studio provided an in-depth overview of the development and outlined its major features.
“We’re extremely excited about this project. We think it is an opportunity to demonstrate how we like to focus on city building, and in this particular case we’re particularly excited to be associated with the Frye and embracing some of the ideas the principles that the Frye represents,” said Chan.
The proposal in front of the board was for a project that would eventually deliver 486 residential apartment units with retail frontage on the base of the building. The development would also provide six levels of below-grade parking, some of it designated for the Frye Museum.
Two main features of building would be the glass bridge, which Ryan Bussard, principal with Perkins + Will described in great detail as a glass box floating between the two towers. It will have no columns, and it will feature nuanced lighting that would make the link visible, but only subtly so.
The second feature is a facade made from a perforated pattern that mimics the images of the museum’s salon walls. Think of an elaborate image displayed across several floors comprised of different sized dots, except the dots are small perforations in metal sheets whose purpose is to discreetly hide the windows and the interiors from the outside public.
The board’s general opinion of the development was extremely positive. Spare for a few discussion points around signage and copyrighted images to be used on the facade, they met the design and the overall project with approval and officially gave the developers the green light to advance the development process to the next steps.