Friday, December 3, 2010

Building Materials...

As I've mentioned, I enjoy church architecture.  If I could choose any corner of the architecture field, it would be designing churches, libraries, schools, community centers: useful multipurpose places where people gather.  These buildings enrich our lives, if you think about it.  They are also the kinds of buildings that are given a lot of free rein to be creative in design.  Sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes this is a bad thing.  I showed an example of wonderful church architecture before, St. Ignatius Chapel, now I will show an example of (I'll be kind) mediocre church architecture: the new Methodist church on 1st and Denny.  Understand that I am making no critique of the Methodist religion, or anything like that, I'm just really not a fan of this new building.  Most people, when driving down the street, probably don't pay too much attention to buildings, but when I drive down the street it is common to hear me exclaim things like, "oh my gosh, what IS that??" to which my husband, looks all over thinking I've just seen an alien.  In the case of this building, he was actually right there with me in thinking this was a strange sight.  Without further ado, here's the front of the building:

In fairness to this building, I actually took this photo from the more attractive corner of it.  Usually we are driving up the hill and see the West side first (you are looking at the SE corner) or just the flat South side.  I don't have much to say about this facade except that I really hate it. It looks like they wrapped the middle of this building in industrial-strength tin foil.  Just because Frank Gehry uses this kind of stuff, doesn't mean it's a good idea for everyone else.  What IS that dent in the middle of those panels?  What IS that little hat on top?  Why does the western end of that South facade look like a standard apartment building?  I could go on and on... It also doesn't say "church!" to me except for the giant cross made of industrial-looking I-beams, which looks like an after-thought made out of left-over materials. 
When a building catches my attention, I always like to see who designed it.  In the case of what I consider poor design, when I look up the firm, I have to admit that I usually think, "oohhh...that explains it."  This building was one of those cases.  I'm not a fan of this particular firm's style - just take a look at that giant pinkish skyscraper that the City of Seattle purchased from the First Hill side of it and maybe you'll get my point.  It has a nickname among local architects that I shall not repeat on this here little blog o' mine.
The good thing I can say for this particular building is that its East side is actually very nice.  I would even go so far as to say that I *like* it.  The stained glass window is quite lovely (if only it wasn't wrapped in that horrible tin foil stuff) and glows beautifully at night.  This is the NE corner of the building.  I think it's respectable - maybe not traditional for a church, but attractive and restrained.  It has a nice urban, but pedestrian-scale feel to it which is appropriate for its location.
I have not been inside the building.  I am going to guess that the chapel is lovely and gets fabulous morning light, which is perfect for a Sunday church service.
I think designing a church in such an urban setting would definitely be a challenge.  It is the blending of two very different feelings into one building (hustle/bustle naturally wants to fight with serene/calm).  In that regard, I think at least this back side of the building does that very well. 
So, if you live around here, drive by it and form your own opinion.  Feel free to let me know what you think.  I always like discussing these things.
A couple of parting shots of those lovely panels...that last photo makes it almost look legit.


  1. I actually like the metal, I just don't like it with the brick, or with those blah plain white columns propping it up. Okay, mostly it's those columns that I hate. I think this could have been much cooler if more thought had gone into the detailing of that entry.

    And what IS with that hat? Is there a roof deck up there?

  2. I have been waiting for you to blog about this one. For the longest time I thought it was still under construction - like that foil stuff was some kind of protective cover they were going to take off once it was all done. Nope.

  3. If Frank Gehry uses it, that is a great reason NOT to use it, in my book. (Have you seen his building in Las Vegas? Ugly, even for him.)

  4. Cristie, you make an excellent point.
    Sarah, Jason said the exact same thing.
    Julia, YES to the ugly white columns, why does the building just END like that?