Is this really the 'ugliest' building in Seattle?
When I started looking into the King County Administration Building, one thing became clear- people have STRONG feelings about it. And by STRONG, I mean, well, people really seem to hate it. And though, I usually dig deep and find a bit of affection for even the most aesthetically challenged piece of architecture, I can understand those who find this hulking modernist mass to be overpowering and maybe even authoritarian. Honestly, the design (or more importantly its scale and treatment of the street) is a tough sell for a government building.
That being said, I must admit- I still find this blocky edifice pretty compelling.
Located near Seattle's Central Business District and Pioneer Square, the administration building was designed by Harmon, Pray and Detrich (with Roland Pray taking the lead), just one of a number of government and corporate buildings designed by the local firm during the middle of the twentieth century. Completed in 1971, the structure does seem unusual, its distinctive geometric facade both intriguing and unsettling. Critics often cite the design's sealed facade, intimidating entry plaza, and lack of human scale as evidence for failure, and it is true that a feeling of suspicion or dread is really the last thing you expect (or desire) from a government building. Yet there is something, dare I say, candidly rebellious in the building's patterned skin, a hardened relic of modernism pushing the boundaries of style (does the exterior remind anyone else of Herzog & de Meuron?). Maybe the building was just an attempt to modernize and elevate the mundane tasks of government administration, maybe the design is just a gutsy display of aesthetic acrobatics.
Now nearing its fiftieth year, the so-called "ugliest building in Seattle" remains in place, outliving many of its modernist brethren. Plans to demolish the structure more than a decade ago failed, while a major redesign has yet to materialize. Ugly or not, the King County Administration Building's tectonic exterior is as interesting as it is challenging, a jarring visual artifact that just might deserve a second look.
You can read more about Roland Pray here.
Image at top:
I, Jmabel [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)
or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons.
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