By Kristan Hoffman
Over Labor Day weekend, I visited Seattle for the first time. The city is an interesting mix of big business and hippie culture, with vibrant art and foodie scenes too. I saw all the main attractions Mt. Rainer, Puget Sound, Pikes Place market, the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden & Glass but one of the most memorable highlights, at least for me, was something you probably wouldnt find in a travel guide.
4th Ave. About 35 stories tall. Cross-hatching support beams that you can see from the outside, like giant Xs. I think its brown with black windows. And it used to be owned by a bank.
This was the information my father had given me over the phone. Vague memories from decades ago. The reason my dad wanted me to find this building is that he had been part of the team that designed it, back when he worked for a big architectural firm. He has always done this: pointed out bits of history that are interesting or important to him, thinking theyll be interesting or important to everyone else too. Growing up I thought it was cool, then lame, then annoying, then endearing. Now that Im an adult, I think its all of those things at once.
Scanning the skyline from the Bainbridge ferry and later the Seattle monorail, I saw a handful of skyscrapers that were possible candidates including an ugly brown one that I desperately hoped was not his. But upon closer inspection, none of them had the cross-hatching support beams that my dad swore would confirm his buildings identity. They were like a litmus test, or a birthmark.
Fueled by a sense of daughterly duty, I decided to reserve my last morning in Seattle for tracking down my dads building. The strap of my duffel bag dug into my shoulder as I hiked up and down the hills, certain that somehow I could find this thing. Certain that my dads role in the project would echo through the years and serve as a homing beacon for me to follow.
That didnt happen. In the end, it took another phone call to my dad, and an assist from Google, to figure out which building it was. But at long last, I found it. Better yet: I liked it.
The building sits on the corner of Marion St. and 5th Ave, crisp and white, striped by dark windows. It has a little Asian restaurant in the ground floor, as well as a newsstand, an ATM, and other useful nooks. Its clustered in with several other skyscrapers some taller, some not but its gleaming façade distinguishes it from the crowd. Though it was built 30 years ago, the building still looks modern. The materials are attractive and have held up to both time and weather. There is good attention to detail, such as the tidy angles, the orange accent panels, and the lovely contrasting textures. Those cross-hatching beams are subtle, but elegant.
After taking photos and admiring it from the outside, I made my way inside. The interior was similarly sophisticated and stylish. As I wandered around, grinning, I found myself hoping that someone would stop me to ask what I was doing. Then I could say, Oh, Im here because my dads an architect. He designed this building.