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.