Living in Seattle is exciting because we can be both preservationists and modernists. In Queen Anne we have idyllic Revival and Craftsman homes that sit pretty next to the Modern homes. It works well for our city and our future, but all this being said, things can get a little confusing and only time can be the true judge of good design.
Robert Reichert House/Studio
You can imagine in 1954, when the Reichert house/studio was completed, the sheer disorientation the neighbors experienced. Robert Reichert claimed that the design for his home at 2500 3rd Ave West was primitive, natural, and symbolic. It revealed a love for traditionalism and history. He also claimed that his home complemented the scale of the neighborhood and landscape, and that the design intention was to create a religious atmosphere.
In reality, Reichert designed a private home for himself and his mother. So private, in fact, that any person looking for the entry to the home would be out of luck. His nod to traditionalism and history comes from the painting that adorned the Southern exterior wall of the home. The shapes of the painting recall the Italian Renaissance, specifically the Duomo in Florence and the Della Salute in Venice.
I imagine the only piece of the design that gave the home a spiritual feeling a Roman Catholic would find familiar was the multi-story pipe organ. If the neighbors didn’t mind the unusual home that was built next to theirs, they certainly didn’t enjoy his all-night pipe organ performances. Robert Reichert was a fascinating character, which is why Jeffrey Murdock is currently completing his thesis research on this iconoclast architect.
“Reichert believed that the creation of architecture was a spiritual, artistic process, and he rebelled against the rationalist architectural trends of the mid-20th century.” Jeffrey Murdock
The Reichert home was recently purchase by new owners and is undergoing a remodel. It is yet to be seen how much of the original design will be restored.
Williams House, by Gordon Walker
If Reichert rebelled against rationalism, then Gordon Walker’s 1990 design of the Williams house at 1521 7th Ave West feels like abstraction and rationalism colliding. The home is composed around a series of four steel frames parallel to the street. The steel frames form a nine-square cube in both plan and section. The frames act as a skeleton for the solids and voids that define the spaces and volumes of the house. The “skin” of the house is made up of stucco, glass, and metal.
Architect and historian Marvin Anderson was hired in 2014 by the current owners to restore the building envelope, update select interior finishes, and discreetly enhance the original design intent. Anderson’s practice specializes in residential design, renovations, and restorations. Anderson is the go-to architect for restorations of National Register and City of Seattle Landmark homes.
Queen Anne Project, by Olson Kundig
Situated on the desirable South slope of Queen Anne, Tom Kundig designed a new single-family residence. Completed in 2016, the home is a simple rectangular form that has a sophisticated barrel-vaulted roof-line that bows down to greet you at the entry. The home is clad in cold-rolled steel panels and floor-to-ceiling windows. The living and entertaining areas are located in a double-height space which reveals dramatic views of the city and the Puget Sound.
In the fifth decade of practice, Olson Kundig is a full-service, world-renowned design firm whose work includes residences, hospitality projects, commercial and mixed-use design, academic buildings, museums and exhibition design, interior design, product and accessories design, visual identities, and places of worship.
KEXP at Seattle Center
The Northwest Rooms at Seattle Center were originally completed in 1962 to provide space for exhibits by foreign countries. Designed in a L-shape and acting as the Northwestern physical boundary for the World’s Fair, the structure is a single story with open volumes. As the guiding architect of the 1962 World’s Fair, Paul Thiry designed the facades facing the International Fountain and Key Arena as open air bays. The exterior boundary walls are made of tilt-up concrete panels.
The now Seattle City Landmark was recently reborn for KEXP as a light-filled global music hub, complete with a music library, live performance spaces, DJ booths, open-office workstations, and the first-ever coffee retail concept for Italian espresso machine maker La Marzocco. SKB Architects, in conjunction with Walters-Storyk Design Group, designed KEXP’s new 28,000-square-foot home. KEXP’s extensive music library of 50,000+ albums is showcased behind large glass windows at the corner of 1st Ave N and Republican St. Passers-by can watch as DJ’s curate songs and prepare for their next show.
The four stops on this year’s tour are an interesting mix of the various ways Modernism can play out in Seattle. From a second chance at life, to brand spanking new, to adaptive reuse — there is room for it all.