Miko writes with a question shared by many people with eyeballs: "Is it possible that during a public design review for these large real estate projects in Seattle (Capitol Hill), one could stand up and say, "Please, for the love of God, don't paint your building that horrible yellow/brown/orange scheme?"


Baylis Architects did this.
  • DH
  • Baylis Architects did this.

Okay, okay, this thing on 13th and Madison Street—that Baylis Architects presented as something far more appetizing when it was just a drawing—is one of the ugliest things the human brain could imagine. Did Stevie Wonder design it? With help from Helen Keller? Who's dead. The problem isn't just the colors, which I kinda like, but just the fact that it's a composition failure. And there are lots of new developments now on the way because lenders are investing in urban, mixed use properties again and lots of design review meetings are scheduled this summer. So here's my message to Miko:

Hi, Miko, nice eyeballs.

You can totally go to the design review board meetings and beg developers to refrain from using hideous color palettes. But, I'll warn you...

... the design review boards have zero enforcement authority. They're stacked, overwhelmingly and by design, with the very same industry insiders—architects, developers, and realtors—who have their own projects that go before the boards. The Capitol Hill board is stacked four against two with industry professionals and the downtown board is all industry. So, for whatever reason, they generally avoid asking for big changes, even if they're looking at designs that clash with the neighborhood. And even if they did ask for big changes, they, again, have no way to demand them.

But if you ask me—which you did, kinda sorta—the main concern with these new developments isn't the color. It's how the developers and architects design the ground floor. As I and others (like Fnarf) have lamented, the problem these projects typically share is shallow retail spaces (like that new thing on Belmont and Pine), because much of the ground level is consumed by parking facilities (like the Joule on Broadway). Unlike a paint color, these problems are permanent and they ensure that the buildings' functions, not just their aesthetics, are forever skewed to invite corporate chain stores (that love lots of window space but don't need much storage or production space in the back) instead of affordable local retail spaces (that need lots of storage and workspace but can't afford lots of glass street frontage). Too many of these are death to a neighborhood. And the design review boards seem oblivious to this structural design flaw while dwelling on meaningless bullshit like tiny setbacks that create vacuums of activity or the color of the siding. And they can't even get that trivial bit right.

So if were you, that's what I would complain about—the big designs errors that go by unchecked—and then complain about the shitty colors.