Heading back to the midwest after a brief couple of days out west.  Our ARCH 603/403 studio this year is focusing on high rise (me) and long span (the inimitable Rob Whitehead) and staging all of this in Seattle, for a change of pace.

The high rise studio is proposing a mid-size convention hotel near the new(ish) sports facilities in SoDo–with a twist.  I’ve been interested in the challenge offered by so-called “air rights” skyscrapers since reading up on the original 1920s air rights towers in Chicago.  Buildings like the Daily News, Merchandise Mart, and (later) the Prudential Tower were all built above active rail lines–the developers purchased or leased the rights to build tall from the railroads that owned the tracks.  For the most part, the rails remained active during and after construction, so the buildings’ structures had to weave between tracks.  This forced a regularity onto the structures above–or it meant giant, expensive, and space-chewing trusses to bridge over inconvenient tracks.

IMG_2355In the past, we’ve used a parking garage to enforce structural regularity, but this seemed a far more interesting approach (and I’ve got serious moral objections to making parking a normal part of a building program…)  Conveniently, King Street Station, Seattle’s main Amtrak stop, is located just north of the Seahawks’ stadium, and at the intersection of a couple of interesting neighborhoods–the tourist ghetto of Pioneer Square, the up and coming SoDo, and the character-full Chinatown and the International District to the west.  The station was both a through station and a headhouse, so there’s a characteristic “L” shape to the leftover site–a challenge for a program that wants a large volume (banquet halls) and cellular space (rooms) above.  We met up at the site on Wednesday and commenced figuring out the site history, which has involved the raising of the street grid around it and any number of generations of freight, passenger, and commuter lines being accommodated.  In other words, a bit of a mess.

IMG_2334 That’s fine, though, since it means student teams are thinking about how to use the hotel to solve some difficult circulation problems.  In addition to getting people from the street to the platforms, from the station to the platforms, and from the street to the station (no easy feat, since raising the street meant disconnecting the main hall from the city), there’s the need to get thousands of Seahawks fans across the site and down to the stadium.  So the banquet halls are getting lifted up, the lobbies are becoming indoor/outdoor third spaces, etc., etc.  Couldn’t have picked a better site…I’ll chalk it up to awesome intuition instead of just luck.