Magnolia Branch Library

Continuing my series of drawings of Seattle Public Branch Libraries, this is the Magnolia Branch, designed by Paul Hayden Kirk of Kirk, Wallace, McKinley and Associates. Opening in 1964, it is located just outside the Magnolia Village business district. The American Library Association granted its Award of Excellence to the open timber structure, which incorporated an old madrona tree that grew on the site.

The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board declared the Magnolia Branch a landmark building in 2001, after which the library and community developed plans to upgrade the existing structure while preserving its original design. SHKS Architects and the structural engineering firm of Swenson Say Fagét designed the 1400-square-foot addition, which housed a new meeting room and incorporated a new roof, upgraded mechanical systems, improved computer technology, and energy-efficient windows. The branch reopened on July 12, 2008.

In 2009, the library project’s team was given the Stewardship of Public Buildings award for “creating a model preservation project that incorporated both the restoration of a mid-century resource and the construction of a sensitive new addition that will allow the building to function as a library for years to come. In 2011, the expansion and renovation received further recognition with an honor award from the Washington Council of the AIA.

Immanuel Lutheran Church

Amid the slew of new office and residential towers being built in the Cascade neighborhood of Seattle stands Immanuel Lutheran Church, at the southeast corner of Pontius Avenue North and Thomas Street. Designed by Aberdeen architect Watson W. Vernon, the church was built in 1907, designated a Seattle landmark in 1981, and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

About a block away is another proud structure withstanding the onslaught of new construction, St. Spiridon Orthodox Cathedral. This was drawn back in 2011 as a napkin sketch for an auction benefiting the Seattle Architecture Foundation.

Streatery

This view of El Camino, a Fremont neighborhood eatery, illustrates how Seattle, like many other cities, is allowing restaurants to temporarily expand their outdoor seating into public sidewalks and street parking spaces. This move to help restaurants survive during the COVID-19 pandemic is often augmented by streamlining the permitting process and waiving fees. There is some sentiment to try to preserve these new neighborhood streetscapes even after the pandemic is over.

Mischief Distillery

Mike and Patti Sherlock started making rye whiskey in the late 1990s from a recipe from the journals of John Jacob, an immigrant from Holland and Patti’s great-grandfather. When Washington state passed the craft law in 2008, Mike and Patti founded Fremont Mischief Distillery. Fremont Mischief distills rye whiskey, gin, and vodka using winter wheat grown on Whidbey Island and rye from small Washington State farms and the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

Above is a sketch of the courtyard of Fremont Mischief Distillery that I did recently while enjoying a glass of Fremont Lush. Below it is a street view from 2013, before the addition of the restaurant/rooftop terrace.

Bathhouse Theater

The historic bathhouse on the northwest shore of Green Lake in North Seattle was built in 1927. In 1970, the city converted it into a small theater and operated the venue until 1980, when Arne Zaslove moved the Floating Theatre Company into the facility and changed the company’s name to Bathhouse Theatre. Since 1990, the small venue has been the home of the nonprofit Seattle Public Theater.

Vantage Points

Above, the Lenin statue in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle is seen from behind to reveal its placement on the edge of a triangular open space. Below it, a close-up view focuses on the statue itself, devoid of context. These sketches illustrate how, once a subject has been chosen, selecting a vantage point from which to view the subject influences the final outcome.

At times, it may be convenient, and more comfortable, to pick out a shady place to sit or stand. Other times, certain aspects of the subject might determine the desired angle of view.

One may prefer a close-up, or to include more context, moving further back for a broader view. To focus on the symmetry of a space, we might position ourselves for a straight-on view, or to emphasize the three-dimensionality of the subject, we might select an oblique view

It usually time well spent to walk around a subject to select the best vantage point before touching pen or pencil to paper.

Analog Dials & Digital Tuning

I remember a time when radios had an analog dial for tuning. To tune to a certain station, we had to turn a knob to align a moving hand with the desired frequency on a linear or circular dial. We had to rotate the knob back and forth and listen as the signal would get louder the closer we got to the desired station’s frequency, then get softer as we went past that point, and then back again to when the signal was loudest. The goal was to hone in gradually on that sweet spot where the signal was clearest and strongest.

Today, of course, with digital tuners, we simply have to scan and look at digital readouts. If a station has a frequency of 98.1, you merely dial that number in. Boom. Done.

I think of this comparison of analog dials and digital tuners as a way of contrasting the precision of digital vector graphics with the suggestive power of a hand drawing, which requires a tactile feel along with a lot of judgment about how what we draw matches up with what we actually see. if you look closely at the drawing of the Seattle Central Library above, you will see the multiple attempts I made to get the proportions of the Rem Koolhaas/OMA-designed building right. Each attempt was a turn of the virtual tuning knob until I reached the desired frequency.

Hagia Sophia is a Mosque (Again)

It was reported last week that Turkey’s Council of State had granted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan permission to open the Hagia Sophia museum to Muslim prayer. It is sad to see the venerable structure, long a symbol of peaceful religious coexistence, being converted into a working mosque for what appears to be political reasons.

Built in the year 537 as an Orthodox Christian cathedral by the Byzantine emperor Justinian, Hagia Sophia was converted to an imperial mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. But in 1934, the cabinet of Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk decreed that it be turned into a museum. It subsequently became a Unesco World Heritage site much beloved by both local and foreign tourists for the awe-inspiring scale and beauty of its domed structure, along with its religious iconography and historical significance.

Because Hagia Sophia already has a remarkable record for enduring natural and artificially imposed disasters, there is hope. Hagia Sofia’s future is yet to be written.

In Appreciation of Tunney Lee

Nine years ago, I posted on FB my appreciation of my mentor Forrest Wilson, who offered me my first teaching position at Ohio University and was instrumental in facilitating the publication of my first book, Architectural Graphics.

Today, I want to express my appreciation of Tunney Lee, Professor Emeritus at MIT, who passed away last week in Cambridge, MA. After serving as head of MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Tunney founded the Department of Architecture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1991. In 1993, Tunney offered me the opportunity to visit CUHK and work with his students and faculty. During my brief stay, I became impressed with the enthusiasm of the students and faculty as they worked hard at developing their creative and critical thinking skills as well as building the foundation for a new program. It was also an exciting and rewarding time for me personally when Dr. Ho Puay Peng was kind enough to accompany me to my ancestral village of Nam Bin in Guangzhou prefecture.

I will always remember Tunney as being a wise, inspirational leader as well as a caring friend and colleague.

Seeing is Subjective

What do we see when we look out upon a scene we are about to draw? This has often been a question on my mind during workshops that I have taught. I suspect that when two of us stand side-by-side and gaze outward in the same direction, we might not see the same things. And even it we did, we might not be seeing those things in the same way.

This is not an argument for getting everyone to see the same things in the same way, and therefore, producing identical drawings of a scene. Seeing is subjective, influenced by our individual interests, experiences, and what each of us expect or believe to be “out there.” And in some sense, what you actually see is always going to seem to be unknowable to me, except through your drawings.