The Built Environment

Seattle is a town full of unemployed architects, as the building trade continues to crawl through recession. Empty holes abound, fenced and tarped over during the long wait for financing to return. In the meantime, this group show (from the city's permanent collection) features 22 artists who can build models on a small, cheap scale or simply paint and photograph what's already in place. There are also sketches on view here for unrealized Pioneer Square redevelopment plans from the '80s (funny how that problem never goes away) and some paintings of urban scenes far from Seattle. Local architectural photographer John Stamets made a study of Frank Gehry's EMP while it was being built 11 years back. Whatever you think of the curio/nostalgia shop inside, it's still an amazing building, a major addition to the skyline, even if few locals deign to visit. He captured the undulating almost watery substructure before the titanium skin was added. The image would make as much sense turned upside down or sideways. Like a cross between M.C. Escher and Antonio Gaudí, these revealed bones seem to climb and descend all out of logic and gravity. There's nothing settled about Gehry's design (or Stamets' photo). Instead of statis: flux. It's like the ripples of a pond never stop moving. Maybe that's the sadness of architecture: That the design process has to come to an end. At least Paul Allen's EMP/SFM was completed before the dot-com bust. We're left to wonder when anything so architecturally audacious will move from blueprint to final form. BRIAN MILLER

Mondays-Fridays, 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Starts: July 7. Continues through Sept. 30, 2011

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