I was driving by the Amazon jungle along Mercer St in South Lake Union this morning and saw the new Allen Institute building. Wow, it’s beautiful. I know it sounds ridiculous to get really excited about an office building but here’s the deal: I was a history major in school and loved the view of history through the lens of architecture. Every historical period has unique art, literature, science, politics and architecture and it goes without saying that one period builds on the accomplishments of the previous one(s). Rarely, do we mean that in a literal sense, actually building something new physically on top of the old. Paul Allen’s Vulcan Real Estate has done just that on Mercer Street.
There was a beautiful 1920s era Ford Dealership building at Westlake and Mercer. It had an intricate terra cotta tile facade and a beautiful wall of windows. The problem was that it was just over one story tall. The forest of construction cranes in that part of Seattle is proof positive that there is an enormous amount of development and investment there and it only goes in one direction, up, multiple stories up.
The original historical building was painstakingly disassembled, boxed up and stored off-site and then re-assembled as the front of the new building. The new building is set-back far enough that if you are standing right at street-level, it looks like you are in front of a beautifully restored 1920s era building.
Cheers to the Allen Institute and Vulcan for figuring out a way to build their new modern, glass-facade structure on the sturdy, elegant shoulders of this early commercial building. Looks great!