Monday, September 26, 2011

Getting to Second Base With Seattle

Had a lecture and bus tour today re: Seattle architecture put on by the department. It's a pretty amazing place with a really strong sense of regional modernism that I happen to like. Also saw a documentary put together by the department called Modern Voices that probably wouldn't be interesting to most people, but now I have [old, white] faces to match to all the big names in the frieze around the ceiling of the lecture hall. There is no doubt in my mind that Jeffery Ochsner, who led the bus tour, knows more about Seattle history than any person living or dead, or any half dozen for that matter, or even an exponential factoring of whoever is in a distant second. Besides being able to rattle off all the dates and architects behind all the major buildings in the city from memory, he called my attention to a few obvious yet noteworthy things on the tour. 1. NBBJ architects have designed half of Seattle. I need to look them up. 2. Paul Allen owns all of South Lake Union, and is building some bio-med/yuppie housing utopia within city limits. It's scarey to think one man has that kind of power, hopefully he's using it for good. 3. A lot of people live downtown. You won't think it, because who would want to live downtown, but it's an undeniable fact that there are just a lot of large high-rise apartment buildings and they keep building more, so somebody must be living in them. I'm curious how many people live in downtown Seattle. 50,000? More? There don't seem to be that many grocery stores, although, as Anita pointed out, the good folks in Belltown surely subsist solely on wine and cheese.

There's something I really love about knowing a place. Knowing its history, its struggles, its politics, how to get around, where to eat, where to get that one random thing you need, what the cool monthly or yearly events are, and so on. Just really knowing a place to the point where you have a relationship with it. My relationship with Seattle is really going to deepen as a result of studying architecture. I know the city from a use perspective probably better than many people who grow up at this point, but this is something else. Seeing the city's decisions played out over time in zoning laws and building codes, seeing the incremental changes that transform neighborhoods and build vital new industries. Seattle is a very successful city, financially, culturally and socially, and that is the direct result of many good decisions that many intelligent and well-intentioned people have made over the last 150 years. It's interesting to see this, and see how it affects our lives, how it shapes them. I like this feeling of depth with the place. This is something new.


Anonymous said...

You can learn more about NBBJ here:

J.J. said...

Oh gosh, I can't wait to talk to you all along your journey. This is all good stuff.

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