The Fussy Eye: Small Hopes

All those tarped, empty construction pits around town are killing the design trade. Architecture firms are shrinking into their partners' back bedrooms and basements. But the Seattle Architecture Foundation is putting on a happy face with its annual model show—most of them for unbuilt projects, hence the name: Hope: Something to Build On. (The temporary space where the show is up was vacated by an office-furniture showroom, another sign of the times.) The little white models and colorful renderings are basically ads for services, but the same is true in any art gallery. Here we have empty-nester trophy houses, a few office parks, and one or two whimsical design studies. But the little wooden diorama that most catches the eye, though it's at shoe level, is the North Lot proposal by Zimmer Gunsul Frasca on behalf of Daniels Development. Unlike the other models, here's something that would, if built, really change and benefit the city. Filling some four acres south of King Street, the project required a rezone after years of haggling. Its present form, in four clustered towers, would cost more than $200 million and provide 600-plus units of housing, plus office and retail space. (In the photo above, you're looking south down Occidental toward Qwest Field.) Meanwhile, as the developer waits for the economy to improve, empty storefronts abound and the neighborhood feels as if it's collapsing. Hope indeed seems very, very small. (Through July 31.) 

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