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    TheMETROpolis 2030 summer 2011 architectural design studio at the University of Washington is an attempt to address this issue by way of a ‘real … Read More
    TheMETROpolis 2030 summer 2011 architectural design studio at the University of Washington is an attempt to address this issue by way of a ‘real world’ project – the proposed transitoriented development (TOD) in Seattle’s Northgate neighborhood. Read Less
    Published:
Networking / Overlapping
Transit Oriented Development in North Seattle
Introduction

Confronted with ever increasing concernsregarding climate change, energy usage,congestion, public health and community,Americans are being called upon to re-evaluatetheir relationship with the automobile. TheMETROpolis 2030 summer 2011 architecturaldesign studio at the University of Washingtonis an attempt to address this issue by way ofa ‘real world’ project – the proposed transitoriented development (TOD) in Seattle’sNorthgate neighborhood. The studio is theresult of a request by David Blum and GaryPrince of King County Metro Transit. AssociateProfessor Rick Mohler led the class, whichbuilds upon the previous summer’s studiowork on the Northgate TOD. The results of theearlier effort were included in the Puget SoundRegional Council’s successful $1 million HUDgrant application to support the development offorward looking transit oriented developmentstrategies nationwide.The program brief encourages proposals thatpromote a strong vision for Northgate TransitOriented Development, while, at the sametime, address the reality of conditions on theground. While the physical, social, economicand political conditions at Northgate arechallenging, the potential for a fundamentaland very visible urban transformation arearguably more substantial here than anywhereelse in the city at this point in time. The studiooffered an opportunity to explore one of thegrand challenges of today, not only as anacademic exercise, but as a contribution to areal project with genuine civic benefit.


Site

The site is a roughly 7 acre parcel (about four Seattlecity blocks) that comprises the existing King CountyMetro Northgate Transit Center. The site is boundedby NE 103rd Street to the north, NE 100th Streetto the south, 1st Avenue NE to the west, and 3rdAvenue NE to the east. While these are the ‘legal’boundaries of the Metro site, the need to connectthe proposed TOD to the surrounding communitymandated a much broader view. Per the City ofSeattle Strategic Planning Offi ce, the NorthgateUrban Village Boundary is a rather amorphous formextending from NE 120th Street to the north, NE 94thStreet to the south, Ashworth Avenue N to the westand 12th Avenue NE to the east.The neighborhood planning boundary is signifi cantlylarger still. A particular focus of the studio was theenhancement of connections between the proposeddevelopment and the surrounding neighborhood,which is currently fragmented by major vehicularroutes and vast areas of parking.The proposed Sound Transit light rail station extendsnorth/south just east of 1st Avenue NE from roughlythe middle of the TOD site to the southwest corner ofthe Northgate Mall parking lot. The station platformwill be 25-45 feet above grade. In addition, apedestrian bridge crossing I-5 is proposed to connectNorth Seattle Community College and NorthwestHospital to the station and site. The TOD site slopesdown roughly 26 feet from east to west at a relativelyconstant gradient allowing for potential connectionsbetween the development and the elevated railplatform and pedestrian bridge.


Design Proposal

The proposal identifies axes of movement through thesite and employs this movement in the creation of buildingform. The main axis of movement runs north/south alongthe western edge of the site in the form of the SoundTransit light rail guideway and the KC Metro Transitbusway. As these routes will see tens of thousandsof boardings per day, this area is developed as a highenergy, mixed use transit hub in which transit, retail andcommercial office spaces are integrated and intertwined.

Additional axes of movement were identified as extendingfrom Northgate Mall to the north, the Thornton Place commercial development to the east and the ThorntonPlace residential development to the southeast. In response, an extruded, mixed-use, multi-family buildingform weaves along the site’s eastern edge to align with and reinforce the existing axes of movement whileproviding exterior public spaces at multiple scales along the street and within the project interior. The transithub and multifamily development overlap at the hub’s eastern edge along a narrow band of live/work housingand commercial space. The live/work units open onto an arrow urban alley, which provides a scale and experiencedramatically different from the transit hub and open spaces adjacent to it.

The project asserts itself as an exciting urban newcomerwithin the suburban environment through the use of boldform, material and color. Narrow, transparent bandsof commercial office space bridge over the bus transithub while glazed balconies are suspended within largecircular openings in the screen walls of the residentialunits. Circular openings in the screen wall at the lightrail station provide a dynamic, staccato experience of thetrain’s departure and arrival. While visually engaging,the generally narrow building sections also provideopportunities for ample daylighting and natural ventilation.


aerial view of project from northeast with resiperspective view from south
perspective view from south
view of busway looking south
view of central public space looking north