Trippy Seattle - Pictures Of Architecturally Interesting Buildings

And now for some of Seattle's architectural gems, those of a building variety:

HAVE LUNCH OVER SEAS The best of the old wallpaint advertisements in Pioneer Square. Gotta love the old ferry.

SMOKESTACKS! Granted, this was remodeled a bit, but it's still a cool building trapped between I-5 and the south end of Lake Union.

ARCTIC BUILDING My favorite building in Seattle (downtown), adorned with approximately 3845 walrus head sculptures lining its exterior. So I made up the number - sue me. Unfortunately, the adventurous days of Shackleton and Co. are behind us now forever. This is SAD.

COLUMBIA TOWER The tallest building on the West Coast perhaps still, you can get a view from one of the upper floors for a fee. Maybe it's still called the Columbia Tower, or perhaps some company has bought new naming rights for it - who cares? Just don't be the next guy to jump off the top with a parachute - when the winds caught the last (and only) guy who did, he bashed in numerous windows on his way down in the process. Yes, the numbnut survived. Is he making license plates, or might he (still) be in traction? I haven't a clue.

SEATTLE PUBLIC LIBRARY Rem Koolhaas designed this iconic building, as interesting inside as outside. Back in 2004 (I'm guessing the year - run with it) when it opened, many architectural publications considered it the building of the year. Please don't jump from the 10th floor into the atrium - it's (thankfully) amazing that no one has taken this easy swan dive to fame in America's suicide capital (per capita, last I checked; the preferred spot, however, is from the high-arching Aurora Bridge, second only to SF's Golden Gate as THE chosen place to go out in a hurry.)

BUTTNICK BUILDING That's probably not the building's real name (I've since heard it apparently is), but that's what I call it. Just one of many buildings in Pioneer Square where the old painted-on advertising is still visible and amusing at times.

SPACE NEEDLE Now you can die - you've seen it! Actually, it's a pretty cool icon for the city to have. If you want real fun, go up on Queen Anne Hill at night on Nob Hill road, approaching the Needle from the north. With only the top showing, you'd swear it's a flying saucer. Which it actually is - THEY'RE HERE!

SMITH TOWER Fortunately buildings in Pioneer Square can't be built-up, which means that the glorious Smith Tower will always reign supreme over this district. It used to be the tallest building west of the Mississippi River! The top floors in the pyramid are someone's apartment, so I hear - undoubtedly low rent. (An article in The New York Times in October 2010 confirmed this.) Where'd the money come from? Think Smith as in Smith Corona typewriters fame. Typewriters were these things used between scrolls of papyrus and laptops, handy devices that spurred the growth of both bottles of whiteout and anonymous notes sent to police detectives the world over with clues that could be used to solve mysteries. See also: serial killers (who were probably more fond of cutting and pasting words from newspaper headlines).

SMITH TOWER REDUX Yes, it's phallic, and it's white, too! What does this mean? Oh, the horror! Whatever - it has an infinitely larger soul than the evilly sleek Columbia Tower. So there.

75 CENTS Apparently you could get a room here back in the day for 75 cents. Not sure if that included the seamstress. Did you know that the majority of seamstresses west of the Mississippi around the time of the Alaskan Gold Rush were in Seattle? That's what the census said, anyway. Except they had an odd habit of working out of brothels, generally unable to save a stitch in time (or clothes, which may have been only considered temporary accessories anyway.)

SCIENCE FICTION MUSEUM What's in there? Who knows! But apparently not that many folks were coming to the Experience Music Project's galleries, so along came this revisiting of some of the EMP's space. Plus, Mr. Allen paid Mr. Gehry a buncha money for this monstrosity of a building - SOMEthing's gotta work here, eventually. At least the monorail cuts through it, adding some novelty.

SPACE NEEDLE And now I've saved you having to take yet another 35 photos when you step out of the monorail at the Seattle Center.

EXPERIENCE PROJECT So Frank Gehry designed this building in the wake of Bilbao, and it shows. Unfortunately not in a good way. It's supposed to resemble a smashed guitar from above, but most would agree that it does from any angle. Still, you always have to applaud anything different. Just ask any Russian about Stalinist architecture.

SEAHAWKS and MARINERS STADIUMS I hesitate to include these, but there I was with my camera. The first of these exists thanks to the depth of Paul Allen's pockets, but both were unpopular in the voting back when the voters thought they actually had a say (see monorail, Alaskan Way Viaduct, etc.). In Seattle (and the state of Washington), the Legislature and the Mayor have a way of circumventing the voters' votes, however. Some call this representative democracy, others call it bullpies. Guess where I stand. Anywho, those aren't the real names of the stadiums, of course, instead they're something like QWest or CenturyLink or SafeCo fields or whatever. I'm sure they'll be different in a few years or so to keep things confusing, but the sliding roof for the Mariners' home is interesting, ain't it?

KING STATION If you are taking the Amtrak in or out of town, this is where you go in Pioneer Square near 3rd and King. After much delay, it's been restored to some former glory like the nearby Union Station roughly across the street from it. Check out the lil' sky bridge on its south side over the tracks. There you'll find some excellent views of the stadiums and more.

HOUSEBOATS Yes, there are actually houseboats in Seattle, primarily on Lake Union. These ones are rather close to the one used in the romantic fluff Sleepless In Seattle, located on the NW side of Lake Union. No, you can't do the little boat trip he takes to fly a kite at Alki Beach - unless you want to reinvent some geography and have an entire day (or two) to get the job done.

UNION STATION Restored, which is cool, but it doesn't seem to have much purpose. Some Light Rail offices are located inside, but otherwise it screams for some musicians to come in and make a goodly racket. Maybe I DO have a Special Purpose, after all.

FLATIRON BUILDING Seattle's version of the famous Flatiron Building, minus, like, New York City and all that. Cigar, please?

OLDTOWN GEORGETOWN Some of these old brick buildings are finding new life, some are just a step away from the eternal afterlife.

HERE COMES THE EARTHQUAKE It's worth noting that most of the Pioneer Square area will probably squash down into brick pancakes when the Big One hits. That's because the buildings there are mostly made of brick and stone since the Great Seattle Fire over one hundred years ago mandated that. So expect the building on the left to likely go bye-bye, while the one on the right follows right behind after its facade temporarily holds from the steel bandaids from previous patch-ups plainly visible from the street.

FEDERAL ARCH Here's a good way to get shot by the FBI: Try to take pictures of this old arch located next to the Federal Building in Pioneer Square (between 1st and 2nd). Ever since the OKC bombings and 9/11 there has been a greatly enhanced armed presence by the building, so I'm awfully wary when taking this shot...

INTERURBAN BUILDING The InterUrban was a streetcar in Seattle back in the day. Now it's but a memory that is alluded to by this building in Pioneer Square with its nice facades. It's also remarked upon when people check out the goofy sculpture near the bridge in Fremont. Why so far apart? I dunno.

SAM I AM Seattle's an artsy town, so it's no wonder that the Seattle Art Museum is a quality presence in the burg. As architecture goes, however, "understated" states the least of it. It doesn't help, either, that in its recent and large expansion it's been tucked into the bottom of a skyscraper. That incidentally, was the HQ for WAMU of famed crappy-loans-to-people-who-couldn't-afford-it notoriety. Can you spell "bankrupt"? SAM both can and can't with such an albatross of sorts.

MERCHANTS CAFE The Merchants Cafe building is noted for both being one of the oldest buildings in Pioneer Square and for hosting the eponymous cafe, the longest running such animal in the city. Beyond that, however, the facade looks a bit word for the wear. Check out all of the owls that have been tacked onto its side to limit the amount of bird shit it'd otherwise be adorned with. On Yesler Way, practically on the triangle that is Pioneer Square itself.

Da CAMLIN Just an old glorious hotel that kinda looks lost amidst the Seattle which has grown around it. So here I give it its due, complete with bonzai tree and sleeping dude. As seen from Capitol Hill.

PAC MED MYSTERY Normally this kinda architecture wouldn't float my boat, but, well - actually, it still doesn't. But the way the Pac Med (some might say Amazon these days) building sits above the south side of the city from Beacon Hill gives it an undeniable presence. That TV show didn't hurt or help it, either. Not a bad place for a view, as you can plainly see.

U-DUB I guess I would be remiss if I didn't include any photos of the University of Washington. It does have rather nice architectural touches in the inner, older campus, not to mention such a preponderance of brick that the heart of the place is called Red Square (for other reasons as well, naturally). It probably sports the best chunk of deciduous trees in one place in the Northwest - maybe - and unquestionably is THE spot in town to check out cherry blossoms.

LE DELUGE Not exactly apres moi as such, but a pile of architectural details from Pioneer Square is a nice thing in everyone's book. Or it should be.

THE GREAT WHEEL Well, I don't know that it's necessarily "great", and it's pretty doubtful that I'll ever ascend to the heavens in this contraption, but I will assert that The Great Wheel nevertheless adds something to the waterfront. How could not such a thing happen with a humongous spinning wheel?

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