Perimeter block, cornerTower
Pike Market Apartments
Olson, James & Gordon Walker | Seattle, USA | 1979
Image of Pike Marke...
Street frontage along the market, tower behind.

ProjectPike Market Apartments
ArchitectOlson, James & Gordon Walker
AddressPike's Market
Building TypePerimeter block, corner
Number of Dwellings14
Date Built1979
Dwelling TypesNA
No. Floors7
Section Typeflats
Exterior Finish
concrete, steel, glass
Construction TypeR-C frame
Ancillary Servicesshopping at grade, parking

This modest complex of several shops and 14 apartments occupies a prominent site above the Seattle waterfront overlooking Puget Sound. The exposed construction, expressed as a robust poured-in-place frame with infill panels of glass or concrete, is responsive to a tradition of earlier frame warehouses in this part of Seattle. The expression of the frame may also be seen as a commentary on earlier Modernist and Rationalist attitudes about the architectonic relationships between wall, frame, and infill.

The historic Pike's Market, located at the edge of a steep hill that rises high above the water, defines a terraced level midway up the slope. This famous public market is the main attraction of a commercial district extending for several blocks on either side of the market along Pike Avenue. The Pike Market Apartments are located on a corner site across the street from the Market. Ground floor shops continue the commercial activities of the neighborhood and reinforce the architectural character and volume of adjacent buildings. The complex steps from the three-story height along the lower street to a six-story tower on the upper portion of the site. Rendered as a partially freestanding block, the tower element is also a response to the taller buildings on this part of the site. While the two building elements share a common terraced strategy, construction system and common level, the use of a narrow courtyard between elements serves to render each as an independent building: the 3 story block is continued as part of the street wall, the tower is related to the articulated blocks on the upper site.

The lower building along the street contains two levels of flats on top of a ground floor of shops. An awning along the street is both a balcony for the first floor of apartments as well as the marquee for the shops. The apartments are entered from a narrow courtyard within the block that separates upper and lower buildings. The top of the street block is a public terrace from which there are spectacular views of the waterfront below and Puget Sound . The taller building contains 10 flats above basement parking and a level of commercial space that has higher ceilings and opens to the courtyard level. Access to the tower is also from the court level and a walkway connecting to a small lobby and an elevator and stair at the corner of the tower on the uphill side. The apartments vary in size, but are arranged in both buildings with two flats per floor facing the waterfront. The frontal relationship toward the view is also expressed in the asymmetrical structural frame that is divided into two deep bays and three shallow bays with the deeper beams parallel to the street. The blank walls along the party wall on the lower floors and the alley to the rear change to an infill frame condition along the street facades at the corner. Within the context of the frontal alignment, the diagonal condition of the corner is expressed by use of continuous infill glazing along the two street facades as well as a cantilevered bay window on the side street and the balcony that wraps the corner at the 5th floor.

The row of columns in the middle divide the plan into two column-free lofts on each floor that are designed by the individual tenants. The structural frame is expressed at the perimeter of the building as partially freestanding because of the way the glass infill panels are detailed. Usually the glass is aligned with the inside edge of the frame, however, sometimes the glass surface is pulled back into the plan leaving the frame free-standing as with the corner balcony or the trellis at the top of the building. Sometimes the glass is aligned with the outside surface of the building as it is in the side facade of the tower along the party wall. Together with the cantilevered balconies these details result in a very developed architectonic dialogue between the wall, frame, and infill panels of glass and concrete block.

Architectural Record, Feb., 1981, pp. 104-7

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