Tag Archives: washington

Panther Lake Elementary School

Panther Lake Elementary School in Federal Way, Washington by DLR Group, 2009.

DLR Group was responsible for two recent elementary schools in Federal Way near Seattle: Panther Lake, adjacent to the a library by Mithun, and Valhalla, at the northern edge of the community. Federal Way's school district asked for the architects to focus on their guiding principles: Learning, Safety, Relationships, and Flexibility. The examined by "re-examin[ing] existing assumptions about educational needs...recasting the typical linear definition as a series of interrelated events... [to] suggest spatial interrelationships." Both were completed in August 2009, and each are similar in size and cost, but Panther Lake is featured here.

The architects approached the programming of the school's spaces by looking at the population throughout the day and in terms of basic learning activities, rather than in terms of rooms defined by specific curriculum. At Panther Lake this led to a plan diagram that distributed the classrooms across "rows of formal learning spaces" that intersect with the diagonal circulation (the "connector") to create special areas: group learning, display cave, library, story corner, outdoor learning, lunchroom, performance, etc. The rows of classrooms

"Interior walls are designed for further spatial flexibilities, enabling for easy daily change, light construction changes in 5 years, and more significant construction changes in 20 years." -DLR Group

This plan drives the outgoing formal nature of the school. Each row is as small or large as it needs to be, giving the perimeter a varied in-and-out that creates small patios. Visibility across these outdoor spaces also provides security and experiential interest. As well the exterior is activated by splashes of color that coincide with the special spaces along the diagonal transect. Translucent lanterns alternate with the different colors to create a silhouetted landscape that echoes the surrounding landscape but is wholly artificial in its manipulation of boxy volumes.

Inside the finishes are minimal and border on the industrial with concrete floors, exposed steel structure, and exposed ductwork. This effect is softened by the wood beams that can be found throughout the fairly open spaces. The exterior colors also find their way inside, mainly through their visibility through the windows, something afforded by the finger-like plan. The lanterns ensure that natural light bathes the interior, an important consideration in a location where gray days are common.

Federal Way Library

Federal Way Library in Federal Way, Washington by Mithun, 2010.

Federal Way is a city in King County, Washington between Tacoma and Seattle, bordering the Puget Sound. It is basically suburban in layout, but symptomatically of the region it is blessed with an abundance of trees. This latter condition is particularly evident where 1st Way South bends around Panther Lake Elementary School and Federal Way Library; the first is a colorful design recently completed by DLR Group, and the second is an unremarkable 25,000 sf (2,325 sm) postmodern design from 1991 (architect unknown) recently added to and renovated by Seattle-based Mithun.

The library's 1991 building is set at a 45-degree angle to the vehicular entry's intersection with the street, a siting that pushed parking to the south of the building. Also the relationship of the old building to the intersection appears that it was geared towards giving the building a civic presence rather than relating to its natural surroundings. The 9,500 sf (880 sm) addition remedies this deficiency by wrapping the old building on the north and east sides, using full-height glazing to visually open the new spaces to the evergreen trees outside.

A guiding concept of the library’s addition [is] a 'Lantern in the Forest." -Mithun

The addition is basically comprised of three "lanterns." Each faces a different direction through a sloping glazed wall framed with zinc siding. This clamshell plan aims to preserve as many trees on the site as possible, but it also opens up a larger vista and lets in varied filtered sunlight from different directions throughout the day. Where each lantern meets the landscape "rain gardens" border the exterior wall to provide natural infiltration and create an intermediate strip of plantings between the glass walls and the trees. The view appears to be the perfect distraction while being at the library.

Mithun is responsible for the renovation of the existing library as well as the addition. Openness and natural light permeate the whole building, achieved with new skylights and glass walls. The extra space adds room for approximately 20,000 volumes, bringing the library's total to 200,000, one of the largest in the Kings County Library System. The $8.1 million expansion and renovation is part of a $172 million undertaking to renovate or expand 44 libraries in the system.

Agosta House

Agosta House

Agosta House in San Juan Island, Washington by Patkau Architects, 2000.

Recipient of a 2001 Honor Award from the Seattle Chapter of the AIA, the Agosta House is located on San Juan Island in Washington state. The following words and text are by the house's architect, Patkau Architects.

Design Statement: A private residence for a couple relocating from Manhattan to San Juan Island in Washington State. In addition to conventional domestic requirements the program of the house included an office, in which the couple intend to continue their professional work, and also a garden enclosed within a 12 foot tall fence to protect it from the numerous deer which run wild throughout the island.


The property on which the house is located consists of 43 acres largely covered by second-growth Douglas Fir forest. The site of the house within the larger property is a grassed meadow, enclosed on 3 sides by the dark fir forest, but open to the northwest where it overlooks rolling fields below and, beyond, across Haro Strait to the gulf islands of British Columbia.


The house is stretched across the ridge of the meadow, almost as a spatial dam, to divide the site into an enclosed forecourt to the southeast, a spatial reservoir which is released through the house to the panorama below, a spatial sea of picturesque fields and waterways.

The building section is ‘battered’, walls and roof sloped, to respond to the gentle slope of the site. The spatial organization of the house is the result of extruding this simple section and manipulating this extrusion either by erosion to create exterior in-between spaces which subdivide the house programmatically into general planning zones or by insertion of non-structural bulkheads which organize the interior into finer spatial areas.

King County Library Service Center

King County Library Service Center

King County Library Service Center in Issaquah, Washington by Miller|Hull Partnership, 2000.

The following text and images are by Seattle-based The Miller/Hull Partnership for the King County Library Service Center in Issaquah, Washington, completed in July 2000.

The Miller/Hull Partnership designed an 80,000 square foot service center located in Issaquah, Washington. Designed to serve the library system's 180 person headquarters staff, the facility houses administration, training, book processing, information services, maintenance, a traveling library program and includes space for a new West Issaquah Branch Library. A large 2000 sf public meeting space for community use is included in the building.

The three story building mass is configured to engage the main arterial in the area, Newport Way. The north-south oriented building screens the 100 car parking area from passing vehicles on Newport Way. Pedestrians and bicyclists using the planned bike trail on Newport Way can view the activities going on inside the building, a rare occurrence in this suburban business office zone. A preserved wetland on the east edge of the property can be viewed from the office space on all three floors as well as from the building's board room and staff lounge.

Construction bids to build the $10.5 million facility came in well under budget and allowed the owner to select all of the alternates.

[Google Earth link]

Experience Music Project

Experience Music Project

Experience Music Project in Seattle, Washington by Frank Gehry, 2000.

Architecture has officially reemerged into the public spotlight. As TV's Frasier discovers his true love due to a mutual belief in Bilbao's ugliness (Mr. Gehry's Guggenheim Museum is now known solely by the city also) and a recent "Law and Order", in which a lawyer defended his client's (a successful architect) lack of wealth saying, "My client is no Frank Gehry!". Yes, architecture is now part of the media circus and Mr. Gehry, the world's most famous architect, is the profession's celebrity. His recent hyped building, the Experience Music Project, is almost guaranteed to continue his rise of fame.

The Experience Music Project, or EMP, is a music museum "combining interactive and interpretive exhibits to tell the story of the creative, innovative and rebellious expression that defines American popular music". Located in Jimi Hendrix's hometown of Seattle, Washington, the EMP stresses innovation in music and inherently strove to express this theme in its permanent home. Choosing Frank Gehry, on the heels of success with Bilbao, was the obvious choice. Not to say, though, that the architect regurgitated the Guggenheim or that the EMP wanted their own. With the museum Gehry created a unique building, yet one with his unmistakable stamp.

Unlike Bilbao's shimmering titanium and muted limestone, the museum's exterior is made up of stainless steel and aluminum, the former in three finishes (mirrored purple, lightly brushed silver, and bead-blasted gold) and the latter in red and blue. Each finish or color illustrates the different areas of the interior, which ranges from exhibits and sensory immersion to performances and the creation of music. The metals are treated as surfaces instead of volumes, some parts resembling cloth blowing in the wind, and help to understand the spatial complexity of the interior, which is not so much distinct spaces but a continuous flowing space.

The EMP comes at a time when the public is fascinated by Gehry's architecture but architects feel he needs to move beyond Bilbao. But with commissions coming from just about everywhere it will be difficult for him to evolve. Expectations are set and many cities want their own "Bilbao" or "Gehry". This must be the paradox of fame: publicity and appreciation generated by innovative designs with a desire for more innovation squashed by the desire for more of the same. Given Gehry's past and humble nature, hopefully he will be able to use his fame to reach a new level of design without becoming stagnant.

[Google Earth link]

St. Ignatius

St. Ignatius

St. Ignatius in Seattle, Washington by Steven Holl Architects, 1997.

The second Steven Holl building to be featured on this web page, the Chapel of St. Ignatius, on the campus of the Seattle University in Washington, differs in many ways from his Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York City. While the latter is clearly a product of the congested urban condition, the chapel is a free-standing sculptural object, even utilizing an adjacent man-made pond for effect. Like much of Holl's work the project began with a concept that later dictated the form and tectonic nature of the completed work. The architect concentrated on the importance of light in religious architecture and developed the idea of multiple light cones, bringing light into the interior during the day and glowing as a beacon to the community outside. The building is significant in heralding a new phase in Holl's career. While still focusing on creating space through detailing, proportion, and the manipulation of light, now Holl is expressing more sculptural tendencies, evident in his most famous recent work: the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Finland.

The different "lights" correspond to parts of the church program, relating to the Jesuit Catholic worship: 1. Procession natural light, 2. Narthex natural light, 3. Nave yellow field with blue lens in the east and the opposite in the west, 4. Blessed Sacrament orange field with purple lens, 5. Choir green field with red lens, 6. Reconciliation Chapel purple field with orange lens, and 7. Bell Tower and pond projecting, reflecting natural light. As sunlight is brought into the interior primarily from the roof, space is shaped by both light and the changing topography of the ceiling. Although this is reminiscent of Modernist principles of design, the different ways of filtering and reflecting light among sculptural "bottles" gives the interior the spiritual quality the building deserves.

Of course, this description relates the building directly to Le Corbusier's chapel at Ronchamp, where stained glass and light reflected from colored surfaces illuminated the otherwise cave-like interior. And while Holl has a unique design process (enough that his buildings are instantly recognizable) and this chapel is a culmination of his working with light and materials on previous projects, this influence is most evidently worn on his sleeve. But the differences lie in the materiality of each structure: Le Corbusier's chapel uses rough concrete to achieve a primitive quality while Holl's means are more eclectic: precast concrete panels stained Roman ochre for the exterior, cedar and bronze in the entry, and wood flooring with plastered ceilings and walls in the rest of the chapel.

Steven Holl's consistent body of work, experimenting with light, materials and their relation to/creation of space, has earned him larger and more noticeable commissions. With these recent projects he has now experimented with form, though restrained through his analytical and mathematical design process, such as his reliance on the golden section for proportions. Not to dismiss his recent work as lacking, though, for works like this chapel and the museum in Finland exude a maturity born from strong architectural principles that he has carried from the Storefront through to today.