It only takes a few minutes of observation to realize that the University of Washington Station, which, with the Capitol Hill Station, opens this Saturday, is among the city's top works of 21st-century architecture.
Designed by LMN Architects, the Seattle firm that won awards for Vancouver Convention Centre West in Vancouver, BC, the building is compact, elegant, and has that wonderful illusion of simplicity. Its pedestrian bridge, which curves over the consistently horrible traffic of Montlake Boulevard, complements the building's elegance. There is a touch of mid-century modernism (indeed futurism) in all of this. And the main structure itself is surprisingly not imposing but very much of the human scale.
Soon after entering it and descending into its underworld, you will encounter the second great thing about this station: Leo Saul Berk's Subterranium....
It is composed of six thousand tiles (each unique), it covers the walls and ceiling of the station's central escalator chamber, it is supposed to represent the geological layers around you, it was inspired by pins of light Berk once saw in the ceiling of a crumbling barn. And so we have something of the Northwest aesthetic at work between the exterior and this deep interior: the very urban above collapses into the very natural below, the city into its other.
Once you pass this impressive work of public art, the last escalator leads you to the platform, where the trains will come and go. The trains will come and go.