By Allen Cox
Contemporary architecture in the Pacific Northwest tends to be innovative, thought-provoking, in harmony with landscape and environment, and often a marriage of style and sustainability. The warmth of natural materials, the use of natural light and the elegant, organic flow of interior and exterior spaces are all hallmarks of our contemporary Northwest architects.
The region’s designers are adept at translating their clients’ and their own aesthetic visions into nuts-and-bolts reality. On March 25, the Tour of Architects presents a unique opportunity to see the best of the best in Northwest architecture on the Eastside and beyond and perhaps inspire a dream of your own. Here’s a preview of the Eastside buildings on the tour.
Issaquah | Repurposed Structure | Nils Finne
Architect Nils Finne renovated a 1905 bungalow tocreate a new Christian Science Reading Room, a tranquil space for study and contemplation.
“The new Reading Room brings a modern expression to an old building,” Finne says. “It creates an intriguing dialogue between past and present.”
A new reflecting pool on the corner of the site anchors the renovated space. Finne removed interior walls and beams to carve out a large, open space filled with natural light from new Douglas fir windows and generous ceiling light monitors. New exposed roof framing is Douglas fir, the rebuilt fireplace sports a new face of Montana ledgestone and custom furnishings bring a welcome touch of craft to the room. Satin etched glass walls add more natural light and “floating” Sapele shelving lend a weightless quality to the room. The end wall features a stone screen with 8-ft high pieces of basalt placed at crossed angles to form a delicate pattern of light and shadow with a small glass-walled quiet room on the other side.
“Sustainable design principles were incorporated from the start of the project,” Finne says. “Renovations are inherently sustainable, since an existing structure is recycled and given new purpose rather than being torn down.”
Woodinville | New Construction | Peter Stoner Architects
Playwright Clare Booth Luce, whose work often focused on family life, once quipped: “Home is where you hang your architect.” Take one tour through Bear Creek House in Woodinville–a home that architect Peter Stoner describes as “informal living space for three generations”–and it’s obvious she would spare the neck of the designer of this handsome and spacious shingle-style estate.
Bear Creek House occupies the site of an old Woodinville dairy farm and overlooks three acres of wetlands. With its classic, old-world exterior and contemporary interior spaces, it presents a relaxed and casual atmosphere optimally designed for family life. The architect added the bonus of office space for both parents to work from home.
Bear Creek House has been minimally detailed for a simple, uncluttered look that appeals to modern families.
Beaux Arts | New Addition | Baylis Architects
Adding a three-car garage, an entertainment area and guest quarters above a mid-century modern home built in the mid-60s, while keeping the aesthetic assets of the original structure intact, is nothing short of an architectural challenge. Besides these additions, the homeowners desired a new exterior entry area connecting the new addition to the existing home, which is located 12 feet lower than street level.
Exposed structural elements and large windows take advantage of views to Lake Washington and capture the surrounding trees and vegetation. A new covered, cascading stair provides a processional and gradual connection to the home.
Contemporary materials, such as exposed concrete, blue stone panels, stained cedar siding and raised seam metal roofing, complement the mid-century modern character of the original structure to create a modern, restful retreat.
Bellevue | New Construction | Whitney Architecture
Client needs and sensibilities drove the design of a new residence in a Bellevue development by Whitney Architecture, adding credence to an architectural pearl cultivated by Winston Churchill: “We shape our buildings: thereafter they shape us.”
The sloping site, its views, the relationships to the adjacent buildings in the development, and the language of materials and details for the homes all influence the end design. Whitney Architecture took advantage of the site’s views and intimate setting to create living spaces that are open and flow together while maintaining their own distinct spatial integrity and personality.
Issaquah | New Construction | Scott Allen Architecture
At the Harrison Street project in Issaquah, architect Scott Allen created a warm, contemporary, hardworking design that functions comfortably for a couple or family.
“The project’s sloped site and views gave me an opportunity to place the main living spaces on the upper level, floating above the landscape,” says Allen.
He tucked the building into the uphill slope of the site to hide the garage and create a quiet, private entry terrace. He also placed the master suite on the upper level, which offers panoramic views of the Seattle skyline and the option to live entirely on the upper floor. The extra bedrooms and indoor-outdoor entertainment space occupy the lower floor. He capitalized on light and view by using a lot of glass and massive bi-parting glass doors that open onto the decks and the view. The vaulted ceiling gives the space impressive volume without being overwhelming. Wood beams, planking and flooring lend a warm, inviting atmosphere.
“The main living space wanted to be big and open, with the strength of character to make it the heart of the house,” Allen says.
From Top: Images by Benjamin Benschneider, Heather Lund, Charles H. Porter, & Images Courtesy YS Development