We hold the Design Excellence Awards every two years. We select the winning projects from the many public buildings, parks, open spaces, and vision plans completed in Seattle since the previous awards. We chose projects that promote the mission and exemplify the values of the Design Commission: inspired design, contextual integration, innovative sustainability, social inclusion, exemplary partnerships, effective investment, and impeccable execution.
We held this year's ceremony on March 2, 2017, at Seattle City Hall. We selected four winners:
We also recognized one project for honorable mention:
Department of Finance and Administrative Services
Fire Station 20 creates a civic presence in the Interbay neighborhood and serves as a model of sustainable design. The station was moved to its current location to improve response coverage and reduce gaps in service. It was designed on the premise of maximizing efficiencies within the building while minimizing deployment time during emergency response.Given the highly visible site, the city of Seattle identified the project as an opportunity to create a strong civic presence for the Fire Department while setting a new high-performance design standard for its facilities.
Fire Station 20 houses one engine company with space to accommodate a future EMS vehicle. Acoustically isolated bunks are located on the first floor to minimize response time. The beanery (kitchen / dining room), dayroom, and physical training rooms are located on the second floor to maximize access to daylight and views. The station utilizes durable materials such as polished concrete floors and heavy duty hardware to withstand the demands of heavy use and for ease of maintenance.
The design team took an aggressive approach to achieve LEED Platinum status. Heating and cooling is provided by a ground source water-to-water heat pump system. The 35-kilowatt photovoltaic array on the roof provides 27 percent of the energy used by the station. LED fixtures, occupancy sensors and daylight harvesting further increase the energy savings. Bio-retention planters and green roofs contain plants, soil and gravel which manage stormwater, cool the site, and integrate the masonry building walls with the hillside retaining walls. Native, drought-tolerant plants are used to buffer the station from the street, and require very little water once established.
The Energy Use Index (EUI) shows a 70% energy savings over a typical fire station. Through an ambitious sustainable design agenda, the project achieved 98 points and LEED platinum status, making it the highest-scoring fire station in the country in 2015. The station is open for community tours, utilizing signage to explain the station’s sustainable systems and through a low-energy flip-dot sign connected to the building’s control system that displays information on energy, water, and carbon savings.
Visit the Fire Station 20 page for further information.
Seattle Department of Transportation
The vision of the Bicycle Master Plan (BMP) is to create a bicycle network that is an integral part of daily life for people of all ages and abilities. The BMP summarizes the way that Seattle will accommodate people who would like to ride a bike for any trip purpose throughout the city. The phrase “all ages and abilities” is a common theme used throughout the planning process and within the plan itself. This means planning for all potential users of the network, not just niche riders that are comfortable riding a bicycle in shared lanes with vehicles. The BMP focuses on addressing trails, protected bicycle lanes, and neighborhood greenways. The goal of the BMP is to encourage higher ridership, and provide safe connections important destinations throughout the city.
Over the next 20 years, Seattle will add 120,000 new people and 115,000 jobs within city limits. Key to accommodating this growth will be increasing bicycle investments as well as nurturing Seattle’s bicycle culture in a manner that purposefully benefits the city’s livability, affordability, public health, economic competitiveness, and natural environment. The BMP charts a path to these outcomes.
The BMP recommends 100 miles of protected bicycle lanes, 250 miles of neighborhood greenways and 79 miles of trails to complete the “all ages and abilities” vision. The plan also recommended an implementation plan that will allow SDOT to be more transparent about the upcoming 5-year bicycle facility implementation and program work plan.
Visit the Seattle Bicycle Master Plan Page for further information.
UW Light Rail Station
University of Washington Station is part of the University Link Extension that runs north from downtown Seattle through 3.3 miles of twin-bored tunnels via the Capitol Hill Station. Sound Transit’s vision for the University Link Extension began with the initial planning phase starting in the late 1990’s with final design beginning in 2007. Situated immediately adjacent to the athletic facilities, the location is well-placed to serve the University campus at large with a pedestrian/bicycle bridge. A pedestrian bridge connects the station to the University of Washington campus.
The above-grade portion of University Station comprises a 2-level, glass-clad entrance structure, with views to the UW campus, Lake Washington and Mount Rainier. The pedestrian and bicycle bridge connects to the station in three ways: to the upper level of the station entrance structure; a bicycle ramp that descends gradually to the plaza; and a wide stair integrated with the bridge’s pedestrian lane. At grade, the entrance structure opens to a plaza that unifies the complex activities surrounding Husky Stadium. The scale of the plaza accommodates large crowds attending Husky football games and events at the Alaska Airlines Arena. Departing crowds can queue efficiently on the plaza, allowing station operators to control the pace of patrons entering the station.
At the heart of the station experience, the escalators and glass elevator pass through a 55-foot high central chamber, one of the highest interior volumes in the city. LMN Architects and artist Leo Saul Berk collaborated to create an integrated experience for travelers, where the architecture seamlessly merges with his artwork, Subterraneum, that expresses the geological layers of soil surrounding the station walls.
Back lit, perforated metal panels clad the chamber walls, forming patterns of light that express the geological layers of earth, and suffuse the space with ambient light. The vertical angle of the chamber walls changes along the long axis, creating a twisting volume that offers varying views of the artwork from different vantage points on the escalators passing through the space. Various vantage points at the mezzanine and at the bottom of the chamber offer a chance to take in the views in a more static way. Glass end-walls take on the skewed shape of the chamber and provide a preview of the experience from the platform.
Visit the University of Washington Light Rail Station page for further information.
Seattle Public Utilities. Seattle Parks and Recreation
The Lower Mapes Creek Restoration Project re-created roughly 400 feet of a historical creek in Beer Sheva Park. The project was a collaboration between Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) to provide critical Chinook salmon rearing habitat and an environmental amenity in the Rainier Beach neighborhood. SPU minimized community disruption and found efficiencies by completing the stream restoration project in combination with a separate project to reduce combined sewer overflows to Lake Washington. The combined cost for both projects was $6.4M and both projects were placed into service in late 2014. SPU also partnered with the Department of Arts & Culture to include two public art installations.
SPU constructed two separate projects concurrently under a single construction contract: (1) 52nd Ave S CSO Reduction Project & (2) Lower Mapes Creek Restoration Project. The 52nd Ave S CSO Reduction Project constructed a new pipeline to convey peak flows of combined sewage to King County’s pump station at S Henderson St & Seward Park Ave S. The Lower Mapes Creek Restoration Project installed a new pipeline along a parallel alignment to carry Mapes Creek, which originates in Kubota Gardens, to Beer Sheva Park. The creek was restored to a re-created stream channel within the park to provide high-quality fish refuge and rearing habitat for juvenile Chinook salmon migrating to Puget Sound. Community benefits from the project include: a new environmental amenity (creek), improved water quality (reduction in combined sewer overflows), new public art within Beer Sheva Park and within the Mapes Creek Walkway, reconstructed Mapes Creek Walkway, and landscaping along the pipeline alignment. Project partners included SPR, Seattle Department of Arts & Culture, granting agencies King Conservation District and the Washington State Recreation & Conservation Office, and the Lake Washington/Cedar/Sammamish Watershed Salmon Recovery Council.
Visit the Mapes Creek Restoration page for further information.
WHEEL, Homeless Remembrance Project
Visit the Homeless Remembrance Project page for further information.
The connection between Lake Union and Elliott Bay has deep historical roots. A Duwamish village at the south end of Lake Union once connected via a westward trail through a meadow to Elliott Bay, where Native Americans maintained fishing encampments. Citizens, neighborhood groups, and city planners have long dreamed of reconnecting Lake Union, Seattle Center, and Elliott Bay.
In 1999, SDOT, the City, and Seattle Center partnered to develop the original concept of a link between Elliott Bay and Lake Union. In 2008, a group of stakeholders came together to champion the Lake to Bay Loop, which resulted in the current on-the-street wayfinding that identifies a 3.75-mile pedestrian path.
In 2013, the Lake2Bay Coalition, a citizen / stakeholder group, developed a comprehensive public space vision for the area between the waterfront and South Lake Union, which includes some of our most important and iconic public spaces — Seattle Center, Myrtle Edwards Park, the SAM Olympic Sculpture Park, Denny Park, and Lake Union Park.
In our reviews, we made recommendations for the Lake to Bay plan, including:
The work of the Lake2Bay Coalition has taken the Lake to Bay Loop to its next iteration by reimagining this city-defining connection. Download their recently completed Opportunities Plan and visit Lake2Bay page at Seattle Parks Foundation for more information.
With funding from the 2000 Pro Parks Levy, Seattle Parks and Recreation purchased a 0.8-acre residential property in Ballard to develop a defunct "church" site into a new neighborhood park. For almost two years the community made the park their own, adapting the remaining relics of the church for play, events, and work parties. They discovered a “Magic and Mystery” within the park that Site Workshop was eager to preserve.
Formerly the 9th Ave NW Park, Kirke Park honors the Norwegian heritage of the neighborhood. Kirke, “church” in Norwegian, also references the Church of Seventh Elect in Spiritual Israel, which stood as a cultural institution of the neighborhood at the site for more than 90 years. The new park includes several “rooms” that reflect the site’s past and the neighborhood’s future, including:
The park effectively mixes creative and physical play, exploration and discovery, and the beauty of the natural world.
Kirke Park was also a pilot project for the new Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES). Like LEED for buildings, SITES provides comprehensive guidelines for environmentally responsible site development, focusing on soil health, water use, ecological benefits, materials, and maintenance resources.
Visit the Kirke Park page at Seattle Parks and Recreation.
In 2008, the University of Washington developed a comprehensive student housing master plan for the campus. Located at NE Campus Pkwy and Brooklyn Ave NE, Elm Hall and Alder Hall are two of the four student housing facilities built as Phase 1 of this master plan. To fully develop the sites of Elm and Alder Halls, the University petitioned to close, or "vacate", two alleys, which allowed the project to strengthen the quality of the architecture along NE Campus Pkwy and create opportunities to enhance the public realm.
Owner / Client Team
One of two City-owned solid waste transfer stations in Seattle, South Transfer Station receives the majority of refuse and yard waste collected by garbage trucks. The facility consolidates waste into shipping containers for long-haul transport to the Columbia Ridge Landfill in Oregon. Yard waste is delivered to a composting facility and other recyclables shipped to recycling processors.
South Transfer Station replaced the South Recycling and Disposal Station. Seattle needed a new transfer station to maintain reliable transfer of waste and recyclables out of the city in a safe and environmentally sound manner. Seattle Public Utilities also needed a new station to manage the variety of waste in a way that would allow the City to divert more materials from disposal and increase the recycling rate.
Carol dePelecyn, artist-in-residence at South Transfer Station, integrated artwork into the new facility's design. In response to the community's love for the nearby South Park Bridge, and given her practice of repurposing salvaged industrial materials, dePelecyn memoralized the bridge with a sculpture made from decking of the dismantled bridge. She also designed a mural for the north and south walls of the main building.
Visit the South Transfer Station page at Seattle Public Utilities.
Bell Street Park is a hybrid of park spirit and street functions. Four blocks between 1st and 5th Avenues are the first phase of a long-range vision for a green street corridor stretching from Elliott Bay through Belltown to historic Denny Park. When rising land values made the acquisition of parkland in the vicinity difficult, community leaders and Seattle Parks and Recreation saw the public right-of-way as an underused resource that could help meet the open space needs of residents. The design and permitting process lasted from 2009 to 2013. The project was conducted between 2013 and March 2014, and had a budget of approximately $3 million.
The project’s biggest challenge was safely adding park quality experiences — strolling and playing, gathering and eating — while retaining vehicle access. Belltown deserved an outdoor living room, but this street park would also continue to serve cars, bikes, buses, and emergency vehicles. Three key decisions addressed these conflicting needs:
Visit the Bell Street Park page at Seattle Parks and Recreation.
This second part of a multi-phase drainage improvement effort addresses the Madison Valley neighborhood's history of major sewer backups and surface water flooding. Phase 2 of the Madison Valley Stormwater Project included:
Adam Kuby’s artwork, Hydro-Bio-Geo, animates the exposed façade of the 14-foot-tall holding tank. Downspouts and weep holes send water down the wall to a rain garden below. The downspouts and weep holes become lush and green as they are colonized with moss and ferns. In between, faux-bark façades lead to 29 cavity-nesting bird houses embedded in the wall. What would have been a simple stone wall is now a site for natural processes to emerge and become visible.
Hydro-Bio-Geo is a companion piece to multi-part artwork, Incrementally, located nearby at a detention facility. Kuby’s artworks are collaborations with the built and natural world that aim to foster a sense of connection in our increasingly fractured environment. Each project provides an opportunity to explore how human activity and natural systems can better coexist, and how art can promote a deeper sense of place.
Visit the Madison Valley Stormwater Project page at Seattle Public Utilities.
Located at the intersection of Martin Luther King, Jr Way S and S Jackson St in Seattle’s Central District neighborhood, Fire Station 6 replaced a beloved but outdated historic building three blocks west. The new station design provides up-to-date facilities, improves firefighter response time, and creates safer vehicle circulation while establishing a strong civic presence at a busy and, until now, overlooked intersection.
The highly transparent apparatus bay puts the fire trucks on display and advertises its presence to the surrounding community. The Station Office’s location at street level adjacent to the apparatus bay offers visibility in multiple directions and creates a readily identifiable front door staffed 24/7.
A small plaza at the northeast corner of the site affords space for pedestrians to safely observe the inner workings of the apparatus bay, which has proved especially popular for the local preschool population. Artwork above the apparatus bay doors by Seattle artist Steve Gardner references Art Deco symbols from the original station.
Fire Station 6 is a LEED Gold building. Sustainability strategies include a ground source heat pump system, a substantial extensive vegetative roof, stormwater reclamation system for irrigation, permeable paving, and energy-efficient HVAC and envelope detailing.
Visit the Fire Station 6 page at the Fire Facilities and Emergency Response Levy site.
Completed in April of 2011, the Mount Baker Fire Station is located off of Rainier Ave S close to Franklin High School. Starting with a clear functional plan, the design team capitalized on an opportunity to connect with the nearby school and organized the plan to include a balcony where fire personnel could interact with students passing by — breaking down a common institutional separation and creating a stronger connection to the neighborhood. The project deserves recognition for its clear planning concept, innovative use of materials, and comprehensive sustainable design strategy — exceeding the City’s requirements by achieving LEED Gold Certification. We believe it will serve as a model for future Fire Station design through its thoughtful use of a modest budget to produce an elegant civic building that fits into a neighborhood context.
Visit the Fire Station 30 website.
Summit Slope Park is located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood at the intersection of E John Street and Summit Avenue E. The project reclaims the edge of the urban block creating an inviting infill park that responds to the complex scale, texture, and flow of the surrounding neighborhood. A difficult location and small site is enhanced by a simple yet elegant design concept. Un-manicured community gardens, formal lawn spaces, gathering places, and seating elements are artfully integrated in the small park to create a place that fosters a sense of community, while engaging the public in thoughtful and meaningful ways. The juxtaposition of formal lawns and un-manicured gardens brings out the character of the park and the individual expression of the users. Contemporary details and material use are well executed and enhance the integration into the neighborhood. The space provides a “backyard” feel while opening up to the larger community. Neighborhood pride in the park is evident in the use and stewardship of the community. The park is a clear example of how simple design and detailing can become a backdrop to the neighborhood, enhance our experience of the city, and create a well-used and loved space for the community.
Visit the Summit Slope Park website.
The alley vacation (closure) and associated redesign of Block 101 (Amazon.com) is a stellar example of how public and private sectors can collaborate to elevate the ground-level urban experience for the public amidst a mixed-used commercial project. The corporate sponsor clearly benefits from an increase in overall building flexibility but their ambitions need not run at odds with public benefit. Block 101 is both a well-integrated civic amenity and an urban campus courtyard. The scales vary from intimate to impressive as one walks from the improved street past the rehabilitated historic structure and into the well-detailed plaza. Integration of diverse uses, including retail, provides an open invitation for more than just the tenant company employees. And the overall circulation and quality of landscape, material, and execution creates an active and attractive experience in lieu of what could have been a cold, introverted private office tower. Block 101 raises the bar and expectation of what private developers can do in the name of civic benefit when the public sector provides the opportunity. Alley vacation for private development is an exception, not a given, and the return must be palpable to diverse users as it is here with this project.
Designers & Construction
This multi‐modal hub strategy is centered around the King Street Station and includes nearly every mode of transportation from pedestrians to heavy rail, and all the transportation agencies operating in the city. Conceived and developed in-house, the strategy benefitted from input by many people whose insight, vision, and knowledge of the area supported new ways of thinking. It provides strategic tools and ways to accomplish projects of varying sizes and types along several different timelines and in conjunction with other improvements, developments, and projects as they occur. Along with transportation ideas, it addresses the social realm, art, and culture, providing integrated urban strategies that look to strengthening the area as a place rather than simply a location to change modes of motion. Although this plan has not yet been adopted by City Council, it is already informing activity in the area. The King Street Station has received a new plaza, bringing much needed attention to the Jackson Street level. The Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs Public Art Program is planning a temporary artwork for the plaza. The King Street Station Hub Strategy, with its modest public investment, strong vision and inclusive approach, has the potential to be life changing for an area that has been “in‐between” for so long.
The Swale on Yale is Seattle’s newest and most urbane venture in creating multi‐functional green infrastructure. It provides treatment for stormwater runoff flowing to Lake Union, improves streetscapes for all users, and creates green space within a dense and developing Seattle neighborhood. Space was even more limited here than at the city’s previous streetside swale projects. The project team responded with a different kind of solution – a cross‐section with vertical walls, details with clean lines, and a simple, yet strong, planting design. The Commission applauds the partnership between SPU, SDOT, DPD, and Vulcan for project development, and all members of the project team for their collaborative and creative design process. They have gone beyond what would have already been an ambitious, state-of-the-art infrastructure project, compounding its potential to enrich the public realm. We believe that, when implemented, the Swale on Yale will become an exemplary case study of green infrastructure in a dense urban context.
Partner Agencies & Firms
Visit the Swale on Yale website.
Thornton Creek Water Quality Channel is a tremendous and relevant experiment in the urban realm, a celebration of water in green infrastructure. It is an alternative biofiltration project that celebrates the daylighting and cleansing of a portion of Thornton Creek. It is at the same time a dynamic and beautiful urban public space that has helped anchor and catalyze adjacent development, capturing the interest of the community and changing the attitude towards green infrastructure.
Fremont Peak Park is more than an urban oasis with a panoramic view. It exemplifies what is possible when community initiative meets good design. It shows us that small, intimate spaces can have a tremendous neighborhood impact. It reminds us that the dedicated work of tenacious individuals can pay dividends. The park seamlessly integrates art and landscape while its design successfully tells a story, provides space for both quiet reflection and community gatherings, and captures the spirit of Fremont.
Andy Sheffer, Seattle Parks and Recreation
The Woodland Park Zoo Penguin Exhibit is a fantastic example of integrative design. Adherence to a comprehensive, well-defined scope and a vigorous process have lead to a design that goes well beyond showcasing the penguins, their environment, and survival.The project achieves a new benchmark of impressive sustainability and multicultural educational objectives, and includes the capacity for on-going monitoring and adjustment.The exhibit’s low-key attitude and careful attention to design strengthens a significant entrance to the zoo.
The Seattle Center Century 21 Master Plan provides a bold and fully integrated concept to open the campus from its center to its perimeters. The master plan architecturally will unify old and new spaces, and unite the physical and programmatic elements that make Seattle Center one of the nation’s best gathering places. Besides calling for strengthenrf connections, a bold vision for the Center House, and new direction for Memorial Stadium, the plan opens up ten acres of new open space, the vital connective tissue of the Seattle Center.
The Sound Transit Central Link project superbly balances complex technical objectives with community planning and urban design objectives. Its strength built upon a long term vision and skillful leadership who maintained commitment to the vision throughout implementation. The result is a robust system of elements and art works that provide variety, localized differences, and a sense of place along the route and at the stations. The project has positively and profoundly affected the perception of rail transit in the Seattle area, generating excitement and support for system expansion.