Friday, November 14, 2008

Keeping History

Growing up in Boston means I'm used to lots of historical buildings making up a city. Living in Seattle means the city has to take what it can get. After all, when cities back East were building subway systems, Seattle in parts still had dirt roads. Urban renewal takes shape in many forms.

That said, there's still history in certain neighborhoods. Some younger than others, such as in Capitol Hill. A lot of the buildings that haven't been torn down for new construction stand about four stories tall, and are usually made of cmu and wood timber. There's a new development happening down the street from our offices, The Packard Building, and in a nice turn they are keeping the facade of the building. This is common when dealing with much older buildings, though not ones as young as this project... take a look below:

The old building beyond the face has been removed, and currently there's a large pit waiting to be shored and made into below grade parking. The new building will sit within the old building's facade, and rise above another few levels. I really like the look of the new building, and it fits in well with other recently completed projects in the neighborhood. I'm also a huge fan of setbacks, such as with the entrance courtyard shown in the photo to the right. You can currently see right through the large openings where the windows used to be, and see the clouds beyond. Hopefully we won't have an earthquake anytime soon!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Spiraling Housing Market Inspired Design Tips

I know everyone’s worried about the current state of the housing market, but these economic fears shouldn't stop us from having STYLE! If you’re looking to revamp your space on a tight budget, remember that money is no substitute for innovation.

Design Tips
On a tight budget, remember to be selective. Pick the most important rooms you wish to revamp and the specific elements and themes that are most significant. Carefully analyze your current home, furnishing and decorations before making a plan. Improve upon what you have, instead of starting completely from scratch.
Buying products secondhand is a key component of budget design. In addition to local thrift locations, most people grab their unique finds online at places like eBay.

The following ideas are simple and inexpensive decorating ways to liven up a room over without breaking the bank.
* Add mirrors to create light and space.
* Repaint cabinets, instead of replacing them. Paint will clean, freshen and liven up a cabinet. Just check with a local paint supply store for advice on painting unusual surfaces.
* Cover imperfections instead of fixing them. For example, place a rug over a discolored spot on your floor or a tapestry on a rough wall.
* Take off the curtains. If you have a nice view, maximize it by removing the window coverings.
* Organize the clutter. Improve a room with neat and organized decorations. Be creative and utilize your decor as storage with baskets or cabinets.
* Create your own wall art. Stencil patterns, wallpaper borders, stick on vinyl, maps, chalkboards are all inexpensive items to create a rooms uniqueness.
* Replace your lampshades.
* Paint. Paint creates a dramatic change for little money and effort. Be brave and try out new colors. Paint only one wall a vibrant color or paint furniture.
Remember these three items to save money without sacrificing quality - paint, fabric and artwork. Replace cost with your own labor. DIY decorating can be enjoyable and cost effective.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Strange and Amazing Buildings of the World

Found an interesting collection of unique architecture posted on a website... "50 Strange Buildings of the World" part one & part two Some of them aren't really strange at all, but rather fantastic examples of what extra cash and large ego can buy: celebrity architects. Which is great, why not. Some of the buildings included in the assortment are indeed strange. Or ugly. Or not really deserving anything other than existing simply because they exist. Either way, and in time for Halloween, you should take a look at the links!

I'll include a few here so you can get an idea of what to expect. This first one is of the British Eden Project and makes me think the valley is having a seizure (i love it):

This second project is of the Edificio Mirador in Madrid, Spain and makes me think "why not?":

This final project is of the Blur Building (Yverdon-les-Bainz, Switzerland) and proves that once again, stuff in Switzerland is pretty damn cool:

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

zHome: The first zero-energy development in the nation.

Building Green is gaining much momentum these days in the industry, and is becoming common place in the Pacific Northwest. From LEED standards, to new marketplace products, to actual developments, we are becoming much more advanced and responsible in our practice. Often times though, you'll find just some basic tweaks to a project so that the builder can claim "building green". This is obviously not the case with LEED standards, as they review and investigate in order to reward a project with a certain level (gold, platinum, etc.) of certification. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a voluntary, consensus-based national rating system for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. Developed by USGBC, LEED addresses all building types and emphasizes state-of-the-art strategies for sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials and resources selection, and indoor environmental quality. LEED is a practical rating tool for green building design and construction that provides immediate and measurable results for building owners and occupants.

One project that is not simply making small claims but really reaching to achieve a high set of standards, is zHome (zero energy homes) with their development in Issaquah. The force behind this project is Howland Homes, Port Blakely Communities, King County, the City of Issaquah, and various other partners. The below picture shows the design, depicting many advanced features that will seriously raise the building green bar.

A excerpt from the City of Issaquah website regarding this project follows:
"Construction starts today on the first multifamily, production housing project in the nation to use no more energy than it generates during the course of a year, resulting in a carbon neutral development. Located in the City of Issaquah, zHome will consist of 10 attached townhomes that use zero net energy, 60 percent less water, have clean indoor air and use only low-toxicity materials. zHome’s purpose is to demonstrate that homes that offer these types of cutting- edge environmental building principles are possible and scalable for mainstream housing production."

Take a look at the project website to learn what's possible these days...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Residential Style in Tower Form

Skipped a day of work recently during a perfect Seattle summer week and biked around the city. I had in mind my previous post, "Stuff I'm Digging (and not) ... Condo Tower Designs" regarding how a fair share of the new condo developments downtown are looking more like office buildings than residences. So as a quick follow up to the previous post I thought I'd add another project, one that I feel is very successful at creating the residential feel.

In the core of the city is rising the Escala condominium project. This tower is being developed by Lexas Companies of Seattle, and was designed by Thoryk Architecture of San Diego. Escala has been in the makings/construction for a long time. Perhaps due to the tight lot size being fully maximized, existing buildings in close proximity, and the extremely deep parking garage they had to dig and shore. They're now at the phase of the construction when the building shoots up quickly, that being the floors above the foundation and the retail - where each level repeats itself. The first thing you notice when you are at street level is the intimacy being created for the pedestrian. With the base is still covered in scaffolding, you can already start to feel the details and gathering spaces develop a sense of welcome. The picture shown here depicts a wide open space in front of the building, but in reality it's a fairly dense block and a relatively narrow street. Which I think makes the pedestrian consideration even more important to ground the building at street level and create a neighborhood feel (being that there are 30 plus stories looming above).

The other aspect of the design helping to create the residential feel is the footprint of the building. Lots of balconies, curving faces, angled corners, and other details not found on office buildings. The building speaks residential. Hopefully they will tuck some cafes in the nooks and provide areas for outside eating. I found an old 2003 article written about urban living in Vancouver, Canada, detailing how the successful approach in the developments there was soon going to be adopted in US cities. We're now 5 years later, and certainly Seattle is benefiting from the lessons taught by Vancouver. Take a look at the article here. And please be sure to let me know your opinion about this post and the related previous... perhaps leave me a comment! Agree or disagree?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Stuff I'm Digging (and not) ... Condo Tower Designs

Every week the Daily Journal of Commerce in Seattle, a daily paper that A Bollen Design receives, publishes an article about a new condo tower planned for downtown. For me, it's the equivalent of the SI Swimsuit Addition. I love to look at renderings of potential new buildings (swimsuits are good too). The Daily Journal of Commerce is pretty aware of the fact that a lot of other people like these images too, as they give them the headlines in their paper. Even with the current national economic downturn, Seattle still has a plethora of building cranes, and a ton of interest from world developers. With the herd of people stampeding back to downtown living, Seattle is seeing many tall new condo towers sprouting up on the field to house the horde...

Some of them I dig, and some of them I still dig - but for the wrong reasons. Huh? Right. Okay the main thing happening that I think is WRONG with many of these designs is that they seem better suited for commercial buildings rather than residential buildings. My blog, my opinion. Somehow I think a more organic (yeah, it's a trendy word) approach for overall design elements would be more successful at conveying "Live Here" rather than the angular overload as of late. Actually, there are some new ones that have a curved face. But even those lack any details that convey residence, though they're indeed nice buildings. Anyway... take a look:

The first example is being designed by Weber Thompson of Seattle, and would be located in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle. I think it's a fairly nice building, not breaking any molds or anything, but nice. It'd be cool if they went with those colors too, but I'm fairly certain they were just for the rendering and the actual colors would be more typical. That said, does this building speak commercial or residential? All I see is an office building. The focus as of late has been to make these types of projects tall and slim, somewhat like Vancouver does in B.C. However, Vancouver has way better examples that should be used for inspiration than the rectangular proposals we're getting down here in Seattle. Simply adding Tall + Slim + Glass isn't enough. I want to be both blown away by the design AND feel as if my friends are in that building and not my dentist.

Example number two by Ismael Leyva Architects of New York: mixed use building with living starting where the balconies can be seen jutting out from the corner. The plan is to build 400 condos, a 200-room hotel, 300,000 square feet of office space and 12,000 square feet of retail, and planned for 5th avenue in Seattle. Again, all I see is a commercial building. Seriously, what's going on here? I guess people like living in buildings such as this, or investors and designers wouldn't be building them. But there must be better solutions that would be even more successful. This building is nice enough though for commercial use, and I'd be happy to see it taking up space downtown. What a massive project, but I feel appropriate since the urban core of a city should be dense and tall. But living?? Huge opportunity here for a double tower that plays with its tower neighbor the way single family homes do on a residential block... (unfortunately, homes are doing this less as well - but that's for another post)

Example number three, again by Weber Thompson (the local condo king of design): apartment tower planned for Belltown. This example I think lays somewhere between what I'm digging and what I'm not digging for the new condo approach. It definitely feels more residential, and that goes beyond simply having obvious visible residential features as a cue. Perhaps it's the semi more organic look (semi). Rather than just a looming singular glass face, you can start to imagine lots of different characters habituating in all the nooks and crannies. I wish they'd break up the verticallity (my word . my blog) of the design though by changing the upper footprint and highlighting the top. Hey, I know! Add a round bit on top as a roof and put some trees there... oh, wait. Still, it'd be pretty neat to have that view. Just like Fraiser. BUT check out the lot! This building will have it's own tiny block, which is pretty cool. My problem here is that I don't feel the design of the building really takes advantage of such an awesome and unique lot shape. And really, overall the building falls a little short in potential with its monotony... but at least looks residential.

Final example: condo tower up in Vancouver B.C. that I actually can't remember who designed. If you know, make a comment for me and I'll revise this post. Okay so this one is a fantastic design. If you've ever seen it in person, you'll be able to relate. Stunning architecture. Still a looming wall of glass, but the organic bend and curves lend themselves to the right feel for a residence. The human-scale town homes located at the base of the tower seal the residential deal. This tower has another that mirrors it just to the left of this image. Regardless of whether or not you dig modern, I feel this development clearly speaks to residents, not business. Also, the property sits right on a park that sits right on the harbor looking over to Stanley Park. So the massive curvy bend reminds one of the masts and sails of all the boats floating around. Vancouver is a fine city with some amazing examples of successful designs for condo towers - of which they have more than any city I've ever seen. They also have bad ones too though, but more often than not... they win.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Interior Design of Retail Boutique Bossi & Ich Ky in Seattle... Created by A Bollen Design

Pioneer Square has just welcomed the latest opening of Seattle's newest retail boutique store, Bossi & Ich Ky. This high-end fashion establishment will sell men's and women's designer clothing and accessories. Owned and operated by a young couple who travel extensively to bring the most current trends and labels to downtown Seattle, Bossi & Ich Ky has raised the bar for the Interior Design of local boutiques. This project required the use of all the services offered by A Bollen Design, and allowed for total creative freedom due to the rush nature of the project. The owners basically said, "We're thinking of boutique stores in Europe, we've only got a couple months until opening (including construction!), we want you to run with it." A dream job for sure! Our first site visit (the day after new years) found an empty shell void of any walls, flooring or lights.

We were hired to transform a blank vanilla box into a hip yet classic space reminiscent of boutiques found in Europe in older urban centers. This feel was achieved with the use of current trend colors and materials coupled with classic wallpapers and design elements. Rich wood flooring adds to the overall scheme by complimenting the classic feel with its dark stain, a finish which was continued in the shelving and column wraps. A dark brown paint ceiling treatment helps to bring the space down (overall height is 18') to human scale, and add to the historical exterior of the building.

Additionally, the architecture and space planning bring out the boutique flavor by creating niche spaces and recessed interior lit merchandising areas to highlight the one-offs expected in a small shop. By lining the perimeter of the space with tall built-in merchandising elements, crowned with over scaled moulding to accentuate their varying heights and depths, we were able to successfully create a large scale feel with small store appeal. A full set of AutoCAD construction documents were produced by A Bollen Design for this project in order to communicate this detailed architecture accurately to the contractor, as well as to ensure permitting from the city building department. Shown in this paragraph is the overall floor plan, at a very reduced scale. The front entry is on the left, the cash wrap is in the middle, the spiral stairs lead to the upper loft office area, women's area is above and the men's is below. For some images taken during construction showing the framing of the built-ins we designed, as well as the initial site visit showing the blank vanilla box we transformed, view this previous blog.

Of course, the best way to experience our latest creation is to simply visit the boutique! (112 1st Avenue) The owners will be more than happy to show you around their store, and are continuing to add merchandise to fill the spaces we created for them, as you can tell from the empty shelves in the picture to the right taken by the women's fitting rooms. In the meantime, we'll be tweaking the finishing touches and details and checking off a bullet list of post-construction revelations as we go. Bossi & Ich Ky is our most amazing retail design yet, and best of all, it's open to the public (unlike our residential projects) so we can share this success with everyone! Drop us a line and let us know what you think...

For previous blogs on this project please view:
1) Retail Boutique Coming Together
2) Retail Boutique Under Construction

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Designing Plazas and Public Spaces in Big Box Architecture

This post continues on with the opinions expressed in an earlier submittal, that being Stuff I'm Digging. Though this time I'm writing about the middle ground... being that big-box developments have a difficult time not overwhelming a city block. And by big-box i'm referring to low-rise buildings covering an entire city block, where preferably a few different buildings would reside side by side. While big-box developers at least hopefully attempt to have a good street presence for pedestrians, albeit usually poorly, there's still always the issue of a large uniform mass looming above. Modular design and mini-insets for storefronts simply do not suffice.

My Stuff I'm Digging post praised the block intersected by Pike Street and 12th Avenue. This block has at least 8-10 different buildings making up it's presence. And what's amazing is that new buildings are taking the place of the old buildings, while keeping the amount of buildings the same. Lately, developers looking simply to profit would only proceed forward on a project like this if all or most of the buildings could be torn down making way for one cash producing behemoth. Sure, there's the bottom-line for the developer to take into considertion. After all, it is they with the initiative and means to implement this version of urban renewal. And most of the time it is indeed rundown buildings that are being replaced. But surely a responsibility to be of benefit to the neighborhood from whose ground you are profiting exists... an accountability of sorts. The picture in this paragraph should serve as inspiration for mid-block developments.

So, this is the case on a new development, The Chloe, that I'm posting about now. However, the architect, Runberg Architecture Group, is including a pretty cool feature to the design and footprint of the building to offset the nature of the project. In this case, we still have big-box architecture happening. But you'll notice how the footprint of the main building is "L" shaped, with the open space facing the street rather than the interior, thereby creating a nice pedestrian friendly presence. This approach creates the appearance of multiple buildings, yet still shares the same structure and facilities. And it brings a one story building into the fold, removing the looming large mass above and bringing the building down to human scale. Additionally, they've created a plaza-like space between the buildings, allowing for people to gather and socialize off-street.

Of course, there are codes and lot restrictions for how much a building can occupy of the footprint. And developers are indeed required to provide open space. Usually, however, this is achieved with interior courtyards that are both unappealing to the pedestrian, and to the dweller. Have you ever stood on someones balcony that faces an interior courtyard in one of these big-box buildings? It's somehow a little creepy, and in my opinion detracts from the very experience the developer is hoping to create. Community does not enjoy voyeurs, intentional or not! Not to mention, it's these balconies where tenants go to smoke... so usually blinds are kept drawn and sliding doors shut.

Selfishly, I'm looking forward to the potential opening of a bakery being that this development is only two blocks from our office... and is in fact only two blocks from the Stuff I'm Digging block as well! Also, if you take a look at the plan above, you'll notice a handful of retail spaces rather than just a couple big ones. That means cool boutiques and local shops... Critical mass has already been realized in this neighborhood, and with the addition of new projects like The Chloe, that mass will only grow.

Monday, May 26, 2008

European Style - Art Nouveau with Guimard & Expressionism with Gaudi

Ooh la la! Obvious perhaps, but that's what rolls from my mouth when I think back about a couple of design highlights from a recent three week adventure in Europe. There is a lot of amazing eye candy everywhere when traveling somewhere new. For me, eye candy can be tasty simply because my eyes have never experienced some of those fresh flavors before. With novelty aside, however, I did find two views in particular that will surely be long lasting with appeal. The first comes from the Art Nouveau movement, the second from the Expressionist movement.

Paris has no shortage of delicious architecture. It's history and cultural significance command it. Though when thinking back, a lot of what I saw is starting to blend together. A standout pierces through the sameness though... that being the Art Nouveua entrances to the metro system designed by Hector Guimard. I couldn't help but want to light a fire and start cooking a pig while sitting on bales of hay and listening to elves play their flutes. Lord of the Rings indeed! When passing through one of these entrances, we were starting an adventure into the underworld and labyrinths of tunnelorium. Sometimes in stark contrast to the seriousness of the the buildings around them, the metro iron work created by Guimard added a welcome touch of whimsy to the view.

My goal with this post is to show you a couple architectural design highlights from my recent trip, not to educate readers about the two movements mentioned. Instead I have provided some links so that you can learn as much as you'd like about Art Nouveau and Expressionist design from other resources. With that said... we move onto the next highlight!

Antoni Gaudi is the architect behind the second design morsel with his expressionist La Sagrada Familia. I'm still not sure what to say about this insane building, other than you will be drawn to it if you ever travel to Barcelona. The story itself is amazing, and still has decades upon decades of writing to be completed before the book is ready. The exterior is bizarrely stupendous and unlike anything else I have ever seen, and the mammoth volume of the interior left my mouth agape. I've seen my share of old buildings, and don't need to tour another church just because of its age and significance. Blah blah blah BUT, Sagrada Familia is most definitely not just another church. Well, maybe it is, but take a look at this unique piece of architecture...

Showing the height of the ceiling in La Sagrada Familia is tough. I zoomed in for the above picture, with as much below the field of view as above. The sheer mass of space perhaps did not dwarf that of say the Notre Dame in Paris, but something about the design lent itself to a much greater feel than any structure I had ever been in. Well... that's for another post!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Trenches, Conduit, Groundwork

We've reached the second phase of the town home landscaping project. If this is your first read and you'd like to see a drawing of the landscape design plan as well as read about work done to date, then check out Post 1: Landscape Design ~ The Town House Plan or for the image friendly version just check out the pic at left taken at the completion of Phase I. Phase II will consist of digging a trench for the electrical conduit to power a water feature, lights, and laptops; the installation of said power train, and then the covering of trench and the groundwork for the patio.

With the plan in place, a quick (long and involved) trip to the local warehouse lumber store yielded a puzzle bag of PVC conduit bits, exterior grade electrical wire, various waterproof (g.f.c.i.) outlets and switches, and a bottle of Grape Fierce Gatorade (delicious btw). To start I put my dad to digging the 24"ish deep trench in which to bury the conduit. While the electrical wire is exterior grade and can be simply buried as is in the dirt, for safety reasons I took a couple extra precautions. Wouldn't want someone getting fried from burying some bulbs. So a 24" depth trench and PVC conduit should prevent a shocking time. For this project, I'm running three feeds. One for the water element switch, one for the lighting switch, and one for a free duplex to use for whatevs when sitting at the table.

After cramming the three feeds into the first lengths of conduit, we began the dance of trying to feed the remaining lengths (around 30') through the network of loops bends and falls. Which was completed with various grunts twists and yanks. The picture seen here shows the conduit snaking its way through the trench, and then up and over the retaining wall. There will be two exterior waterproof switches by the door to our home office. One will operate the water feature, and the other will operate accent lights. We easily could have skipped the added elements, but really this type of work is very easy and takes any garden to the next level.

With the conduit complete and buried, the next step was to prep the ground above the electrical run for the patio. Using long bits of wood and a spirit level to mark the grade, my dad and I began whacking in stakes around the perimeter. Next was attaching 2x4 pressure treated lumber to the stakes for the frame. We got the first half done, and then began grading the earth. We're planning on removing around 2" of soil from the top of the frame down. This is in order to leave enough room for weed block, a layer of finely crushed gravel for the patio to lay on, and then the patio itself. We've decided on a sandstone from Colorado. For detailed instructions on the groundwork and laying of a patio, check out this site.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Our retail boutique design is coming together...

Wow. Tricia and I are fresh back from a site visit to Bossi & Ich Ky, our latest retail design project. The smell of fresh paint, wallpaper glue, newly cut wood, and general construction resin still lingers. I say wow because this project is turning out REALLY GOOD! Trust me, as always we did our field research before beginning this project. We feel we've raised the bar of design for local retail boutiques... not to say others haven't done a good job of course. But from our research we found that most high-end boutiques looked the same. Stained concrete floor, merchandisers purchased from a global manufacturer (tell them I sent you), some hangers, a hipster or two working the till, and a puffy chair. With some creative designing on our end, we were able to cost efficiently have the entire perimeter of the store be made up of custom built-ins. Simple framing and drywall around well thought space planning, and of course spectacular colors and wall treatments, mean this boutique will stand out on its own.

You see, we love retail design (and shopping). So for us this project was an excellent opportunity to create an environment that makes you (us) feel great about spending your (our) cash! No seriously, come down and visit next month and see for yourself. I'll even walk you through construction plans. The picture above shows the women's fitting rooms taking shape. They'll eventually have fabric privacy screens, and a fabric awning draping across the top of the recessed opening. The blue areas are for glass shelving that will be interior lit with a recessed low-voltage fixture. The picture in this paragraph shows what the general merchandising areas will look like, minus the finish details and trim work yet to happen.

For some before images, as well as some mid-way framing shots, check out this blog post from a week or so ago. One thing worth noting is the crazy timetable for this project. We were contacted by the clients on December 31. A day later, hungover from New Years, we were at the project site measuring and only two weeks later we had delivered a full set of construction documents to the general contractor for permitting with the city. Along with the blueprints we delivered the interior finishes and materials package. This image shows some of the colors and wall treatments you'll find in the store. Those strips on the floor are for the crown moulding for the tops of the built-ins. The two main chandeliers (yet to be installed) will make you drool. Honestly, you could live in this store (minus a kitchen) and be stoked... So all told here we are only 3.5 months from being contacted, and the store is nearly finished! (we should note that the general contractor rocks) You'll be shopping at Bossi & Ich Ky next month sometime.

About the owners: they are a hip young couple on their first retail venture. Last month they traveled to Fashion Week in New York to purchase super awesome designer clothing for the boutique. They've got an entire store load of merchandise ready to display in our creation... I know I'm psyched at the prospect of finding some decent men's fashion in a local store. Also, I hope choosing Pioneer Square as their location will start bringing some cool stuff to a great part Seattle, and continue to boot the import rug stores elsewhere. Finally, if you're a store owner, or an upcoming store owner, give us a call! You can just see our reflections in this picture - that could be your store ;-)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Landscape Design ~ The Town House Plan

Practicing my version of architecture means I get to geek out on simple things, like designing my garden. Rather than just say what I want, I'll use AutoCAD to create a comprehensive set of plans which will included elevations and sections for the decking / bench / stair element, site-work for the electrical and landscaping trenches, plans and etc. Let's do it. So after some measuring (and a year of living at our house in order to gauge what would be best for the garden), we have a solid plan in place. We had a spare weekend. We had a day laborer to dig our ditch. Hence this blog post, post spare weekend and post initial implementation.

Phase I - plant the screening. We chose bamboo as the privacy screen since the plant does quite well in the Pacific N.W. and isn't overly hedgey looking (my blog - my words). Our old house had bamboo running rampant, but some quick research revealed a way to conquer the power of rhizome. In short: dig a 21" deep trench with a slight funneling towards a narrow bottom. Install a 24" tall bamboo barrier, ours being a 40ml thick polypropylene sheet. Support the barrier with rebar, then refill the trench half-way with the original dirt and tamp down. Fill trench the rest of the way with a delicious compost/dirt 50/50 mix. The end goal of which is too encourage the rhizome to grow up towards the surface due to 1) being contained by a barrier that slopes outwards and guides shoots up 2) create an undesirable growing medium below (tamped down dirt) and a desirable growing medium above (delicious dirt). That way the rhizome can't escape its confines by travelling underneath your defenses.

This image shows me securing the ends of the barrier together using metal plates and bolts. Don't want the rhizomes able to sneak in between the overlap thereby bypassing my defenses! Anyhoo, the 21" deep trench with 24" tall barrier means you'll around 3-4 inches of material above the ground. The reason for this is to force shoots to expose themselves when trying to launch an invasion over your defenses. Pluck ... Ghandi goes the rhizome. Additionally, you fill the upper 3-4 inches with mulch to further lure shoots upwards into a warm and moist sunny surface. We plan to also cover the mulch with black rocks, which will make for a zen-like design. That being bamboo, cedar fence, black rocks, buddhaful.

Tricia donned her garden outfit ("fatigues" and pink gloves, fashion shades, ponytails) and started placing the the bamboo plants. Ours were purchased quite tall so that we don't have to practice patience. Privacy Screen Now Please. We adopted and planted 8 bamboo clusters. Already there's a huge difference at the townhouse. Also, my back feels great. Advice: hire a day laborer for heavy work. Ours had to axe through roots that were the size of trees. If I was doing the grunt work myself, one of two things would have happened after being blocked by the root: 1) broken back 2) the root would have become the designer (my trench would have stopped there)

Next we'll do the groundwork for the electrical run and the patio. The plan includes a water feature in front of the privacy screen, and uplights to highlight the existing laurel and newly planted bamboo. So another trench for the conduit, and then over that will be the patio. In our case we'll be installing a border of pressure treated wood, leveling and tamping down the area within this border, and then laying stone. I'll publish another post at that point.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Stuff I'm Digging ... 12th and Pike Construction

Seattle is currently a sea of construction cranes. From 40+ story residential and office towers, to full-block apartment/condo buildings, to smaller lot-sized buildings. And while not all of them are worthy or appropriately sized for their location, there is definitely a plethora of good things happening (which is what I'll focus on, choosing to ignore the bad).

The city is getting bigger. I believe an urban core should get tall, and the close-in neighborhoods should get dense. So here we are - getting bigger, taller, and denser. Down Pike street from our offices are a couple of appropriately sized small-lot buildings on the same block. In between them are old brick and masonry buildings, all with an excellent pedestrian friendly street presence. Capitol Hill is a fantastic neighborhood with restaurants, night clubs, galleries and shops, residences, and all the amenities of urban living.

One of the recent additions to the 12th and Pike block are the Agnes Lofts. The building itself is four stories. There's Boom Noodle and the Balagan Theater at street level, and three floors of lofts above. Designed by Weinstein AU, this project commands the corner of the block and maximizes the lot, but does so in a way that adds to the neighborhood rather than taking over the neighborhood. I'm all about a city progressing. Out with the decrepit and in with the new (and hopefully save what can be saved - if worth saving!). People moan about their old haunts being torn down, but usually those old haunts are almost falling down.

The second project sits one lot to the west of the Agnes Lofts. This one is called Eleven Eleven, and was designed by Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen. I have to admit, I'm pretty psyched by this one. Granted, the prices are going to be really expensive, but that's no reason to not like the building! This one sits on a narrow, small, inner block lot. I wish all blocks could be developed this way, rather than all the buildings being torn down for one full-block building. C'est la vie, but at least we get one in our neighborhood...

What's great about this one is the use of materials and colors in combination with the architectural design elements, which together are stated to give homage to the automotive and industrial businesses that used to adorn the neighborhood. And check out the remaining buildings on either side. What a great block!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Our latest retail project is under construction

The upcoming retail store Bossi & Ich Ky is A Bollen Design's latest project. The store will be a high-end men's and women's fashion boutique. We're pretty excited as this is a very high profile project, and the client approved our entire design. Value engineering takes place when cuts are made to the best parts of plans (usually the most expensive) due to budget constraints. Clients want the moon, so you design it for them and they love it, but when they see how much it's going to cost they totally balk. Then when the project is complete, they moan about not having gone for it. Every once in a while you get a client like Bossi & Ich Ky that go for it, and everyone is rewarded!

When we started on the project we had a totally clean slate to work from. The only elements staying will be the spiral staircase and the upper loft area, which will become the office. We created a full set of construction documents (blueprints) full of details and lots of design elements. The space will be all custom built merchandisers and wall units, along with an eclectic mix of antique display tables, upholstered furniture for customers to sit on, an 18' tall fabric wall, and of course a few more surprises that you'll just have to see for yourself.

At time of this posting the demo work is long done, the lighting and electrical work have been completed (minus installing the fixtures), most of the merchandisers have been framed and drywall is being sanded. The custom cash wrap is next, then hardwood flooring, followed by a ton of finish work, paint, wallpaper, and a plethora of final details... We'll be off to the job site tomorrow for a site visit and will take some more progress photos to post.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Blogging for design...

Question: Why blog?

Answer: Our latest project, Bossi & Ich Ky, is a high-end men's and women's fashion boutique located in Seattle's historic Pioneer Square. Great client that's letting us run with our scheme. Retail design is super creative and fun, and pushes the envelope.

So what does this have to do with our firm starting to blog? The fact that the clients learned of our services from a Google search! We got a call out of the blue with a project ready to go, and therein lies all the motivation I needed to get going on our blog and increase our exposure. So here we are... blogging for design.

Surely in the past our website has helped to secure us signed contracts... potential clients (that we've already been referred to) take a look at our online portfolio and see that we have some awesome project experience. But to have a choice client FIND US on the web, and then to be sold on services (from viewing our website) PRIOR to even contacting us - well now that's gold.

So here we are, blogging, hoping to reach out and spread a little design love to whomever is willing to receive it. Oh, in the meantime, take a stroll down Seattle's First Avenue just south of Yesler, and on the east side of the street you'll see our latest creation taking shape... the designer fashion boutique Bossi & Ich Ky.