The Fussy Eye: Buildings Without Badges

Empty and unfinished buildings often look more interesting before they achieve their final form. Without signage or tenants, you're left to guess their purpose. It's the architecture of unrealized possibility and hope, a grace period that ends with occupancy. The strange undulating façade on Denny Way at Second Avenue offers few clues as to its future use (designed by Bassetti Architects, it opens in February). Facing Denny, the windowless wall ripples inward, as if the building were holding its breath. The concavity resembles a wave or a windblown sheet, complemented on the roof by a curious little penthouse structure with upswept eaves—almost tiki-style. The south façade on Denny is clad in heat-crinkled titanium shingles that were baked after milling, giving them the golden, wrinkly texture of old Almond Roca foil. The weather and sun will fall on each square differently, and each will age differently. One clue to the building's future use comes from two stanchions poking out of the titanium trough. Clearly something is meant to be hung there, though I prefer the present vacancy—the riddle of it. The $38 million structure has a need to fill. The congregants of First United Methodist Church, after dwindling to a few hundred and selling their old church at Fifth and Marion (after a court fight over landmarking), are presently worshipping in a borrowed theater at Seattle Center until their new building opens. And facing Denny—named for the man who was a member when First United was founded in 1853—a cross will hang in the metal valley. 

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