From a city which was dominated by the logging industry and whose central business district was burnt to ashes, due to what was called the Great Seattle Fire in 1889, emerged the foundation stone to a city of stone and brick buildings which is now home to a 117 completed high rise buildings in steel, glass, and aluminum soaring the sky as high as up to 285 meters. Seattle, a city that was reborn from a devastating fire like a phoenix, is home to the twenty tallest buildings in the whole of the state of Washington. Starting from the Pioneer building (34 m high) which was completed in 1892 and regarded as the city’s first modern high-rise building, to the presently proposed 314m high mixed-use high rise 4/C building, Seattle’s skyline is gradually evolving and has seen many changes through the years. No doubt, sooner or later it will enter the global skyline to compete with the soaring towers of the middle-eastern and Asian skylines.
1. Columbia Center
Standing at 284m height, Columbia Center in downtown Seattle, Washington holds the title as the tallest building in Seattle and the state of Washington since 1985. Designed by the Seattle based architecture firm Chester Lindsey Architects, the skyscraper was the tallest structure on the West Coast of the USA at the time of its completion. An office building of 76 floors, it also houses retail stores, a library, restaurant, pub, and an observation deck at the 73rd floor called the Sky Observatory. The three arcs in its facade were made purposefully by the architect to increase the window space which is an added advantage for leasing out office spaces. The Black Beauty in steel which dominates Seattle’s skyline is indeed an iconic marvel and has not failed to attract leading business and law firms.
2. 1201 Third Avenue Tower
Having the crown as Seattle’s first postmodern high-rise building, the 1201 Third Avenue tower was the world headquarters of Washington Mutual Bank till the bank failed and ceased to exist in 2008. This 235m,55-story tower also known as Washington Mutual Tower, was added to Seattle’s skyline in 1988.
Hailed as one of the best additions to any U.S skyline by the renowned architecture critic Paul Goldberger, this building was the first major office building built under Seattle’s 1985 downtown zoning plan, which called for height limits, interesting profiles, and height and density bonuses for public amenities. This made the building porous for public amenities including an entrance to the Metro Bus Tunnel, retail space, daycare, public plaza, and many more. Designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates and the McKinley Architects based in the U.S.A, this skyscraper is a unique addition to Seattle’s growing skyline.
3. Two Union Square:
Standing 226m tall, Two Union Square is one among the two skyscrapers of the Union Square Skyscraper complex at Sixth Avenue, Seattle. Designed by Seattle-based architecture firm NBBJ, this 56-story office building was completed in 1989.
Though it’s in the third position concerning height, it’s the first skyscraper in the world to use a huge volume of high strength concrete. Lauded as the city’s most handsome skyscraper, this steel and glass high rise is yet another glory to the post-modernist series of buildings.
4. Seattle Municipal Tower
Initially known as the AT&T Gateway Tower and subsequently KeyBank Tower after its anchor tenants AT&T and KeyBank, Seattle Municipal Tower (SMT) is a high-rise office building owned and occupied by the City of Seattle. The fourth-tallest building in Seattle standing 62-story high and 200m tall, the building includes the Seattle Justice Center and City Hall. Built-in 1990, the building was purchased by the City of Seattle in 1996 and became the new headquarters for the majority of city agencies which were relocated from other properties in the area. Designed by Bassetti Architects based in Seattle, it houses offices, retail stores, restaurants, a 12-level parking garage, and two art galleries. An onramp to a freeway directly underneath the building, main lobby in the fourth floor unlike in the first floor, elevators divided into tears to access respective floors and the elevator equipment containing glass cupola which stands atop the building are unique design features which makes this tower stand apart from others in design and it’s functioning
5. F5 Tower
F5 Tower in downtown Seattle was recently in the news after one of its employees came into contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19. The fifth tallest building in Seattle, F5 stands at a height of 201m and is the tallest building completed since 1990. Designed by architect Zimmer GunsulFrasca, the F5 tower is an office building that also houses a luxury hotel.
To meet the space constraints, this 43-story high rise adopted a non-planar faceted facade whose facets are designed by perimeter mega braces. Sitting on a compact site, the F5 tower is the only downtown Seattle high rise built on a quarter-block site. Previously known as the Mark and Fifth and Columbia Tower, the F5 tower’s unique design features are the perimeter brace frame and a floor plate that expands with height.
F5 tower’s striking four triangles in the faceted frame facade give Seattle’s skyline a stark appearance reflecting what is called the deconstructivism style of architecture.
6. Safeco Plaza
Previously known as 1001 Fourth Avenue and the Seattle First National Bank Building, Safeco Plaza standing 192m high reigned the Seattle skyline as the city’s tallest structure from 1969-1985 until the Columbia Center came to supersede it. Safeco building stands on a plaza atop a granite base.
Designed by NBBJ Architects, the bronze-colored aluminum and glass structure is the first skyscraper in the world to feature a Vierendeel space frame that is capable of transferring and resisting bending moments. The building also houses retail spaces, a bank, restaurants, a medical center, and a post office. Just outside this 50-story skyscraper lays Henry Moore’s “Vertebrae 1968” the British artist’s abstract bronze creation. It’s a three-part sculpture owned by the Seattle Art Museum.
7. US Bank Centre
Pronounced as “center” and not the American way “center”, Seattle’s eighth tallest high rise is owned by the Bentall Group, a Canadian Company, and hence the spelling change. Callison Architects, headquartered in this building designed this 177m office building and completed it in 1989.
Reflecting on the postmodern architectural style, this building houses a public shopping area in its lower levels. This area houses a permanent collection of works by noted artists, funded by one percent set aside of the construction costs.
8. Russell Investments Center
Completed in the year 2006, this 42-story high rise was originally named WaMu Center since it was built to become the new headquarters for Washington Mutual(WaMu). When WaMu failed in 2006 and its assets were sold to JPMorgan Chase, it was renamed Chase Center.
When Russell Investments made this building its corporate headquarters in 2009, the current name came into place. Upon an agreement for the next twenty years with the Russell Investments Center, the Seattle Art Museum functions on the first four floors of the west half of the building. The tower features a 20,000 square feet patio on the rooftop, which allows people to take short walks along footpaths.
9. DocuSign Tower
Sitting on the site of the Olympic National Life Building which was one of the city’s first steel skyscrapers in 1906, DocuSign Tower which was previously known as Wells Fargo Center is currently Seattle’s ninth tallest building.
The six-sided skyscraper stands 175m tall with 47 stories. The building features three levels of outdoor plazas. What makes it unique is its hexagon like form which has a combination of tinted continuous double-glazed glass and polished spring rose granite panels on its facade. Designed by the McKinley Architects, it was first known as the First Interstate Center until it was taken by Wells Fargo in 1996.
10. 800 V Avenue
Designed by 3D/International in 1981,800 V Avenue is the tenth tallest office building in Seattle. It’s a 166m, 42-floor high building which was previously known as Bank of America V Avenue Plaza. Its lobby floors are made of granite and the building has occupied a minimum occupancy rate of 98% since opening.
The exterior of the building is clad in a natural aluminum finish with a structural cross-bracing design. The lightly tinted gray glass sets it apart from its neighbors and ads to the beauty of the cloud’s silver lining which adorns as the backdrop of the Seattle city’s skyline.
11. 901 V Avenue
Formerly known as the Union Bank of California building, Seattle’s eleventh tallest building stands 163m high with 42 floors. Designed by John Graham & Associates based in Seattle, it was renovated in 2007. At night the tower shimmers with light from floodlights on all its sides. Completed in 1973, this steel high rise is yet another example of contemporary architecture that boasts of modernism and its principles.
12. Madison Centre
Standing at a height of 160m, three meters short of the 901 V Avenue building, the Madison Centre is formerly known as M5 Commerce Centre and 505 Madison, is a 36-story office building that was completed in 2017. Yet another NBBJ design, the three floors of shared amenities which includes a flexible conference center, reception and event space, lounges, a cafeteria, and a fitness center creates a casual, welcoming, and business-friendly social environment. This design feature sets it apart from its counterparts and is indeed an added advantage for the users of the building.
The biggest name in e-commerce today, Amazon’s corporate headquarters is housed in the Doppler building. Also known as Amazon Tower I and Rufus 2.0, the 160m, the 36-story tower opened its doors to 3800 of its employees on December 14; 2015. Doppler is the first building on the company’s three-block campus, which spans an area of 4 million square feet. With the arrival of Doppler and the other two blocks, there was a massive change seen all around Seattle and it turned the company’s neighborhood into one of the most booming technology scenes in the country.
Designed by the firm NBBJ, it houses six eateries, a local coffee stand, and a market. It also houses a video game room and an outdoor dog park on the 17th floor. The facade uses dichroic glass (a glass that displays two different colors by undergoing a color change in certain lighting conditions) to reflect light in varying colors depending on the time of the day. Doppler also has a 5-story meeting center next to it, connected through a sky bridge. The meeting center features a large amphitheater with a stage, fold-up stadium seating, and basketball hoops that can be lowered from the ceiling.
Amazon’s 36-story office tower, Day-1 also known as Amazon Tower-II, is the second in the Denny Triangle Neighborhood of the 3-block campus. The 159m tower is custom designed by the NBBJ firm to suit Amazon’s working environment needs. Common areas are abundant across Amazon’s office buildings and Day-1 is not an exception. Small teams, few meetings, stylish surroundings, dogs, themed rooms, rotating art displays are a common sight.
Over forty thousand plants live in three interlocking balls four storeys tall, a jungle handpicked from the cloud forest regions of over thirty countries. It’s an additional workspace intended for 1800 employees designed with the idea that better productivity can be initiated by introducing more sunlight and plants into the workspace.
It also houses a retail hub. The name of this building goes back to one of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s key mantras for the company. Bezos believes every day at Amazon is Day 1 and hence the name.
15. Re: Invent
The third and final building in the Denny Triangle Neighborhood of the Amazon office complex, re Invent, was completed in 2019 by the NBBJ firm. This 37-story high rise houses 5000 employees and stands 160m tall between the Doppler and Day-1. It’s named after an annual cloud computing conference hosted by Amazon. The employees in there Invent primarily work for the company’s cloud computing platform, AWS. The building also has ground-level retail spaces.