Seattle Center is an assemblage of several large box programs – a series of single-use buildings which function somewhat autonomously from their neighbors, but are all associated within a loose collective. Adjacent to the site is a large, un-programmed green space, representing a Modernist sensibility of flexibility via apathy.

The trajectory or inertia on the site would seem to call for more large, single-use programs. Rather than continuing the modern planning strategy of creating a singular grand aerial image representing a singular gesture, which is imperceptible to the occupant, the focus is on creating a series of spatial moments. These individual moments, like stills from a film, are woven together in various ways through the modes in which the occupant uses the space. These moments are not follies, in that they are not additive, but result from the intersections of other systems. This strategy resists the lure of monumentality in favor of pluralities; and the proposal favors edge over scale.

Previously just a tourist destination, in the new site – a magnet for small-scale local interactions – citizens and tourists alike are able to find reprieve from the urban fabric and its large boxes. Flexibility is compartmentalized, rather than being uniform or finding a fixed position; the program is thus adjustable and allowed to flux, but is made possible – with numerous further possibility – by the infrastructure and terrain.

The assemblages are not only the ecologically rich edges between different landscape types, but are borders between many different systems. The cooperation of these elements – topography, program, infrastructure, circulation and landscape – creates a maximum amount of potential on the site. The current site inertia is reversed by the realization that a series of carefully considered user experiences can be more powerful than big-box, broad brush strokes.

Client: Urban Intervention (a partnership between AIA Seattle and Seattle Center)

Program: Cultural

Status: Complete

Size: 380,000 SF

Location: Seattle, WA

Architect: KM,A (Kyle May) and Danny Mills

Images: Kyle May, Danny Wills