Pacific Place: Looking Up, Looking Down

Today, the Seattle Times had an article in their Pacific NW magazine about the popularity of malls in this area. The piece leads off with the statement that, unlike other parts of the country, “Local malls are…thriving, thanks to Seattle’s strong economy, all the people moving here and the fact that don’t have too many.” And so it was a coincidence that the Seattle Urban Sketchers group met this morning at Pacific Place in downtown Seattle, a vertical shopping mall with a four-story, semi-cylindrical atrium space. The first view is looking up into the atrium while the second view is looking down from the top floor. The third view is a similar view looking down from the opposite end of the atrium, but done 6 years ago.


Honolulu Hale

When Joseph Fern became mayor of the City & County of Honolulu in 1907, he began a campaign to build a permanent city hall. Unfortunately, it was not until 1928, eight years after Fern’s death, that the idea came to fruition. Several local architects—C.W. Dickey, Hart Wood, Robert Miller, and Rothwell Kangeter & Lester—contributed to the design of the Spanish Colonial Revival style structure, which has an interior courtyard, staircase, and open ceiling modeled after the Bargello in Florence.

Originally called the Honolulu Municipal Building, today it is known as Honolulu Hale (Honolulu House) and is the official seat of government of the city and county, including the Mayor’s office and the City Council chambers. In 1978, Honolulu Hale was listed as a contributing property to the Hawaii Capital Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and includes Iolani Palace, Kawaiahaʻo Church, and the Territorial Building.

The Rainbow Bazaar


This is a view of a courtyard in the Rainbow Bazaar in the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel in Waikiki, dominated by a huge banyan tree. The resort hotel was originally conceived of and built by Fritz Burns and industrialist Henry Kaiser in 1955 on the site of the old Niumalu Hotel and eight oceanfront acres of the Ena Estate at the Ewa end of Waikiki. Over time, the hotel complex grew to 22 acres and was purchased by Conrad Hilton.

Growing up in Hawaii, my exposure to the world beyond Oahu’s shores was illuminated through books, movies, and TV shows. And so when the Rainbow Bazaar was created as part of the hotel complex in 1970, I was fascinated by the faux Asian environment, which included replicas of a Thai temple and a Japanese pagoda, as well as an entire Japanese farmhouse shipped from Japan. While some may criticize the appropriation of Asian culture to sell ethnic and tourist goods, for me walking through the Rainbow Bazaar even today is an opportunity to imagine and re-imagine visiting foreign places.

Stimson-Green Mansion Revisited

Back in February of 2012, the Seattle Urban Sketchers group met at the Stimson-Green Mansion for its monthly sketching session. Designed by Spokane architect Kirtland Cutter and completed in 1901 for Seattle industrialist C. D. Stimson and his wife Harriet Stimson, the mansion was subsequently purchased by Joshua Green in 1915—hence the name Stimson-Green. When Green died in 1975, the Historic Seattle Preservation and Development Authority purchased the property. After working on its restoration, Historic Seattle sold the property in December 1977 to Priscilla Collins, granddaughter of C. D. and Harriet Stimson, with an easement protecting the main house, carriage house, and grounds from demolition, alteration, or remodeling. In 2001 Collins donated the mansion to the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, which provides continued stewardship.

This past Sunday, the Seattle Urban Sketchers were able to return to the Stimson-Green Mansion, thanks to Julianne of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. After walking through the various rooms on all three floors, I decided to redraw the same view I had done four years ago—looking out from under a Romanesque style arch at the central hall. The space ascends the main stairway to the upper two floors and extends back to a warm, sunny dining room on axis with the front entry foyer.


In comparing the two drawings, one can see how the absorbency of the paper surface matters a lot when drawing with a fountain pen. In the earlier drawing, directly above, the ink lines tended to bleed and so I was discouraged from drawing too finely. In the second drawing, shown first, the paper coating allowed for finer lines and suggestions of details.

McGraw Square Revisited

I returned to McGraw Square last week but instead of finishing my original sketch, I decided to annotate it and to redraw the square from a different perspective. I simply moved back about eight feet from my original position and in doing so, dramatically altered both the field of view and the drawing composition. This illustrates how the decision about where to position oneself is an important one when drawing on location and should not be taken lightly.

Sometimes It Just Doesn’t Work Out

I took the bus downtown a couple of weeks ago to do this drawing of McGraw Square, where 5th Avenue meets Stewart Street and Olive Way. My intention was to document an intersection where various modes of transportation converged—the elevated Monorail that was built for the 1962 World’s Fair and still travels a mile from Westlake Center to Seattle Center; the South Lake Union Streetcar line that runs 1.3 miles from this terminus to the south end of Lake Union; and the multiple buses routes that run east-west along Stewart Street. In addition, of course, there are all of the cars and pedestrians making their way through the downtown corridor.

But sometimes, things don’t work out as planned. Even though it was a fairly pleasant day, I just didn’t have the proper state of mind to finish the drawing. That’s okay. I intend to go back and finish it the next time clear weather is in the forecast.

Rome’s Rooftops


After a month of record rainfall and predictions of more rain to come, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find areas sheltered enough from the weather to draw comfortably outdoors. So here I want to remind myself of the wonderful times I was privileged to spend in Rome where the fall weather was always sunny and warm.

These two views are from the Palazzo Pio in Rome, which overlooks the Campo dei Fiori. If we bothered to look up rather than at the many historic structures and monuments one runs into in the Centro Historico, we would see that the rooftops are often filled with terraces, potted plants, tiny apartments, and, of course, the forest of TV antennas that are gradually giving way to satellite dishes.

Visual Notetaking

A few months ago, I came across an article about notetaking on In research that was originally published in Psychological Science, Pam A. Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of UCLA studied how notetaking by hand or by typing on a computer might affect learning. A quote from the article:

“When people type their notes they have this tendency to try to take verbatim notes and write down as much of the lecture as they can. (On the other hand) the students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective — because you can’t write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them.”

One hypothesis that Mueller and Oppenheimer developed is that when a person is taking notes by hand, “the processing that occurs” improved “learning and retention.”

The thought occurs that this might hold true as well when we contrast the benefits of drawing from direct observation with those gained by taking a photo of the same scene. The active seeing that drawing on location encourages can often lead to better understanding and more vivid visual memories.

Green Lake Branch Library

Eight Seattle libraries were part of the 2,509 public libraries that Andrew Carnegie had funded from 1880 to 1929, both in the U.S. and around the world. The Green Lake Branch Library is one of the original eight and also one of the six which are still functioning as libraries today.

Designed by W. Marbury Somervell and Joseph S. Coté and opening in 1910, the Green Lake branch shares a common floor plan with the University and West Seattle branches but the three have differently styled exteriors. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is also a landmark building listed by Seattle’s Landmarks Preservation Board.

Below are views of the Ballard and Fremont branches, two of the Seattle Carnegie libraries that I had drawn previously.