Contributing Architect: Frances Nelson
There is an unprecedented construction boom currently happening in Seattle. A recent report by construction and building consulting agency Rider Levett Bucknall notes that for the past year, Seattle has had the highest concentration of construction cranes in operation, exceeding both New York City and Los Angeles. With so much construction happening around us, and the desire for it to happen so quickly, it begs the question: how can a new building be a good neighbor?
14th & MADISON CASE STUDY
Mixed-use buildings can get bad reputations. The complaints are many: the use of cheap exterior materials, the design too boxy, or the massing out of scale for the neighborhood. At its inception, the design of 14th & Madison worked to counter these common grievances. Some key design goals were established to create a building massing that strengthens the existing urban fabric of the neighborhood and reinforces the pedestrian experience. To that end, a simple framework was created to make sure these goals were being met.
1. Respect the surrounding urban fabric
The massing of 14th & Madison is very deliberate and site specific. Located just east of downtown Seattle in the densely populated urban neighborhood of Capitol Hill, the project site exists on two scales: the overall existing urban fabric and that of its immediate context. The project’s massing responds to the hard, urban corner of 14th & Madison, and breaks down in scale in response to the low-rise development to the east of the site, the open space of its neighbor to the south, and nearby McGilvra Place Park. This massing strategy allowed us to create two conditions that play into our concept: the “urban edge” and the “private mews.”
Occupying the 14th & Madison frontages, the “urban edge” massing has a strong, uniform expression characterized by tactility and texture. Set along the quieter side street, the “private mews” massing is characterized by playfulness—both in materials and fenestration. These two concepts are broken by an L-shaped arm, which serves as a literal and figural break between the two conditions.
Pictured l-r: renderings of the mews entry on 14th Avenue and close-up of ground floor retail.
2. Maximize transparency and activity at the street level
To allow for the strongest, most viable retail, we created a highly transparent commercial street frontage along both 14th Avenue and Madison Street. To maximize the transparency, we incorporated stiffeners within the storefront system, allowing us to increase the glazing to a little over 13 feet high. Additional visual connections between the building and the street are provided as the building turns the corner from Madison to Pike, where the residential entry is located. At Madison, the retail frontage is increased to two levels and a playful patterning is introduced as the use changes from commercial to residential. At Pike, a dramatic 10-foot cantilever marks the residential entry, allowing for visual and physical separation from vehicle-oriented Madison while also creating a transition zone between public and private. Rather than locating offices along the glass, we chose to activate these spaces with amenity, developing them as work space for residents, analogous to a coffee shop or a co-working space.
To create a strong visual connection to the streetscape and nearby McGilvra Place Park, we removed three residential units directly above the lobby to create a dramatic, three-story transparent volume. This volume is clearly bounded by a horizontal and vertical “container” frame, which is a material continuation of the north and south elevations of the “private mews”. Adding visual depth and interest to the facade, this frame acts as a contextual datum for pedestrians traveling along E Pike Street, further breaking down the scale and volume of the private mews for passersby.
3. Create human scaled elements
At the ground floor level, board-formed textured concrete pilasters punctuate the storefront along 14th Avenue and Madison Street while also reflecting the patterned module of the white Swiss Pearl siding above. Custom sandblasted and exposed concrete accent pavers also reinforce the pedestrian experience and have the potential to act as a wayfinding. As the pedestrian experience moves east up the hill, the pavers transition to a series of stepped, built-in planters. The planters use a similar planting palette to McGilvra Place park, emphasizing the connections to green space in the neighborhood and visually enhancing the urban edge.
Pictured: rendering of the main lobby.
4. Create moments for art
From the onset, we wanted to create opportunities for art in the project. We have placed an artistic gate component near the residential lobby and private mews courtyard to further activate the streetscape at this location. Characterized by folds and pleats with a geometric perforated motif based on Josef Albers’ “structural constellations,” the screen is both porous and secure while adding a textural element to the street. Visible from the street at Pike, we commissioned a large scale sculptural light installation by nationally recognized artist, Ben Zamora. This piece will move across the ceiling and fill the three-story atrium space while adding to the building experience at night.
Working closely with our client and consultants, the design team paid special attention to the ground plane because that is how most people experience a building. By focusing on elements that pedestrians and residents could connect to visually, texturally and tactilely, the building offers an immediate connection to its context.
To learn more about Ankrom Moisan’s mixed-use design, please visit our online portfolio.
About Frances Nelson:
Frances holds a M.ARCH from the Rhode Island School of Design and BA in Architectural Studies from the University of Washington. With almost 15 years of experience, she takes a holistic and collaborative approach to each project and strives to create work that blends seamlessly into the public realm. She has led and participated in many public workshops and presentations, and enjoys working with the community to create work that reflects their neighborhood and values. Her strong design skills and technical ability have contributed to the success of several projects at Ankrom Moisan.