Amazon’s Spheres

At the heart of Amazon’s urban campus being erected near the Denny Triangle, just north of downtown Seattle, are these three steel-and-glass spheres. The large dome structures, which range from 80 to 95 feet in height and from 80 feet to 130 feet in diameter, contain five floors of experimental spaces for Amazon employees to “work and socialize in a more natural, parklike setting.”

As is typical with projects that veer from the norm, opinions vary as do the descriptors being bandied about—glass orbs, fly eyes, and bubbleators. While some see the spheres as a welcome departure from the geometry of Seattle’s high-rises, others are not as impressed with the audacious display, being more concerned with the public amenities (or lack thereof) being created. Only time will tell.

Subtlety and Nuance

In his review of Brushy One String’s music for North Country Public Radio’s Tiny Desk Concert, Bob Boilen wrote that “Subtlety and nuance are more easily found in minimalism than excess.” I think Boilen’s observation can also apply to drawings as well. When drawing on location, we are tempted to include everything upon which we cast our eyes with every technique we have at our disposal. Something I think that is worth working toward is using restraint and suggesting more with less.

Suzzallo Library

The University of Washington’s Suzzallo Library is a classic Collegiate Gothic structure designed by Seattle architects Carl F. Gould, Sr. and Charles H. Bebb in 1923; the most recognizable first phase was completed in 1926. It was named after Henry Suzzallo, a former president of the UW, and is recognized as “one of the coolest college libraries in the country.” Even after having drawn there a number of times, I still find views, particularly of the interior, that attract me with their spatial qualities and intricate detailing.

Union Station

Union Station opened in 1911 to serve the Union Pacific Railroad and the Milwaukee Road, just across from the King Street Station, which opened five years earlier to serve the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railways. It was originally named the Oregon and Washington Station after the Oregon-Washington Railroad Company that built it. The Milwaukee Road pulled out of the northwest market in 1961 and Union Pacific ceased its passenger service to Union Station ten years later. After 30 years of vacant dormancy, Paul Allen helped fund a renovation that resulted in Union Station winning the 2000 National Historic Preservation Award. The station now serves as the headquarters of Sound Transit, the commuter rail agency serving the Puget Sound region. This grand hall, featuring a vaulted ceiling that rises 55 feet, can be rented out to the public for special events.

Architectures of Life

Alva Noë recently wrote an article on about a new show Architectures of Life at the Berkeley Art Museum, curated by Lawrence Rinder. To quote from the piece:

“We forget that it is hard to see. To paraphrase Kant (loosely), seeing without understanding is blind, even if understanding without seeing is empty. A good drawing—for example of the working parts of an engine—is often much easier to interpret than an actual perceptual encounter with the engine itself. The engine, after all, is very complicated. What is important? What deserves notice? It’s hard to know. But the drawing, when it is successful, is more than a mere representation; it is, really, the exhibition of what something is, of how it works, of what it is for. A good drawing is an image that has been imbued with thought.”

I like how Noë stresses that drawings are more than mere reproductions of what we see or envision. To read the full article, please visit: <>.