With this issue’s focus on iconic Seattle architecture, we continue to raise awareness that Seattle is a world-class city, even if we ourselves may not know it yet. It has been said that architecture stands as a representation of how we see ourselves, of how we see the world.
At its most practical, architecture as a discipline teaches people to design houses, buildings or parks by uniting technique, process, materials and aesthetics. At its most ambitious, architecture tells the stories of a particular people in a particular place, and strives to advance that narrative far into the future, proclaiming to the world a way to make our surroundings forever beautiful or useful.
It is even believed that great architecture “hard-codes” a certain quality of life, drives economic prosperity and creates happiness.
If all this is true, then what do we do with Seattle’s most iconic buildings? What do these buildings say about us? And to what extent have they succeeded in creating a better quality of life for us all? And first of all, what are Seattle’s most iconic buildings? We are pleased to present the most important and important architectural works of our region. Most were chosen not because of their obvious impact on our local community or even their beauty, but because of their significant influence on the specific architectural movement of their time. Our previous issue highlighted the most influential people in Seattle. Consider this Seattle’s most influential piece of architecture.
For example, did you know that there are several jaw-droppingly beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Normandy Park? What about the proliferation of stunning Ellsworth Storey homes in the Mount Baker and Capitol Hill neighborhoods? As Rachel Gallaher writes in the wonderful “Pride in Place” piece, cover subject and Seattle native George Suyama has had a major influence on much of what we know as Seattle today. He has become a national icon celebrated for successfully combining the aesthetics of the earliest Case Study houses (experiments in American residential architecture) with influences from his ancestral Japan, and the climate, light, and geology unique to the Pacific Northwest.
And we’re also celebrating the new generation of Seattle’s best architects. Contemporaries such as Susan Jones, L. Jane Hastings, Jim Graham and Eric Cobb bring new ideas that embrace the social and cultural contexts surrounding each project.
As housing affordability continues to affect demographic distribution and widen economic divides, this generation may unlock some clear answers.
And of course we make room for the counterpoint here too. Culture expert John Jacobsen writes a scathing critique of Seattle’s architectural flaws, saying that at times “it feels like we live and work in the fast food buildings of the computer game SimCity.” Maybe that’s a fair point. But one thing we absolutely agree on is that creating beautiful cities requires partnership. It requires a thoughtful debate between investors, developers, architects, assessment boards and most importantly, the people who will live and work in these areas.
As Jacobsen eloquently argues, when function and cost alone become the driving forces for what we build, we might as well live in a SimCity. And we both agree that we can always do much better. It takes just as much effort to build something ugly as something beautiful. So read on, enjoy the tactile effect of the great photography and words on these pages, and join our debate.
Seattle magazine/Seattle Business magazine