Seattle Has Always Been a City of Ugly Buildings



"Seattle has never been, architecturally speaking, a remarkable city."

That is an odd thing to say about a city most known for the Space Needle, and home to MoPop, Seattle Central Public Library, Amazon Spheres, Olympic Sculpture Park, Rainier Tower, and so on.


To be honest, part of that is just the people here.

When we were looking at roof tile color and patterns, and painting our exterior walls for our townhouse complex, everyone else wanted ... grey roof ... and blue-green paint.


Now, if you want fun, look at this past week's Wall Street Journal, in which you see a whole bunch of retired CEO CFO and other local Seattle retirees choices for the retirement homes they are building near Seattle and you suddenly see all these cool buildings, layouts, and color schemes.

Face it, you guys have serious depression problems here, and you just wallow in it.


The only picture you included here was from Portland? This article is just begging for actual pictures


If you can't see an aesthetic difference between a 100 year old bungalow and a new 'borg cube' building, perhaps you should invest in a new pair of glasses.


1 "That is an odd thing to say about a city most known for the Space Needle, and home to MoPop, Seattle Central Public Library, Amazon Spheres, Olympic Sculpture Park, Rainier Tower, and so on." Most of which are uninspired architecture. They're mostly cutesy anomalies among the true CAD-catalog cheap and tacky dreck that is so pervasive here. Mere contrast with utter dreck does not make good architecture. Koolhaus designed a "koolhaus" that is dysfunctional and indulgent. And quickly getting dated.


We should acknowledge one particular Seattle neighborhood gem and that's Don Carlson's Beacon Hill branch library. A wonderful addition to a rather ordinary neighborhood, in terms of urban design that is.


You gained 60,000 pounds, Charles? I'm sorry to read that.

@6, you missed the article from a few years ago in which Mudede trashed the Beacon Hill branch.


It's not often that I agree with Mudede, but he's right here, and in his previous piece on the Design Review Board. Instead of professionals helping refine a project, we get amateur, self-described "designers" nit-picking any sense of character or uniqueness out of every building. Either put some actual architecture and design professionals on the DRB or get rid of it.


The Seattle Box residenses - or other A-frame houses - are far preferable to the proliferation of narrow townhouses on every cleared single family lot. 15 feet across and four floors? No thanks. Who will want these in 10 years?


The dullness of Seattle's apartment 'cubes' is due to the 'vulture capitalism' of developers, who want to use every sq. inch to get a bang for their buck for their investors. Despite being considered a 'green' city, tree canopies are disappearing as developers go right to the city sidewalk with their BOXES. The new buildings also portend a dangerous trend in terms of Seattle's tax base and appreciation for neighborhood identification - rental units are outnumbering owner-occupied buildings, and bringing very transitory residents with them. So totally boring buildings with absolutely no flourishes on their exteriors (covered with hardy-plank siding) are matched with totally boring, one-dimensional occupants who are coders, systems administrators, software designers and other mostly WHITE techy people. I moved to the suburbs to claw back some diversity in both architecture AND humans.


@4 “borg cube” LOL I’m using that


So now Charles is an architectural critic? If you have a question about the law, Charles becomes a lawyer. A question about your health. Charles becomes a doctor. Education? Charles becomes a professor.
What Charles really is is the Strangers pseudo intellectual.
The Stranger has turned into a kids magazine.


The newer architecture of Seattle was kind of a running joke for a long time - it was so comically bad: the Rainier Bank building so cold and impersonal at ground level (Some people marveled at its physics. I just found it ugly and unfriendly.) The Key Tower with its extremely phallic, slanted green glass roof that looked in the rain like a wet glans. Columbia Tower was hated for what it represented more than for its design - Martin Selig's big, black dick, and the Ban Roll-on Building, Ha.

I stopped laughing, though, when the Washington Convention Center installed that monstrous sky bridge across Pike. It's way taller and wider and more badly ornate than it need be, and it blocked the gorgeous view of Elliot Bay and Pike Place that one enjoyed walking down from the Hill. I mean the nerve. Wouldn't a tunnel have worked? The minute I saw it I wanted to take a sledgehammer to it.

Maybe, looking back, that was the beginning of the end of my Seattle. That's what happens when you start electing real estate developers for mayor.