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5 Best New Tweaks to the Seattle Arena Design

It's Seattle Arena Design Week. Break out the balloons.

HOK Architecture

Piping hot, fresh project proposal updates usher in a busy week in the Seattle Arena process. With two key meetings on the slate, the updates offer strong tweaks that edge toward final design approval.

On Thursday, September 3rd, the Seattle Design Commission will meet for a final discussion on the public benefits of the project. Barring any last minute changes, the commission is expected to vote on its recommendation to approve or deny the vacation of part of Occidental Ave. S to free up the project site.

That recommendation then goes to the Seattle Department of Transportation. SDOT will incorporate SDC's findings into a report submitted to the Seattle City Council that offers its own recommendation, as well as cost, feasibility, and procedural estimates.

But that's only the street. What about the building?

The Downtown Design Review Board will be holding the final meeting of its design guidance process for the actual arena itself on Tuesday, September 1st.

A recommendation is also the result of this meeting; signing off on the design by the DDRB is a necessary step in permitting the project. The last time the review board met on the Seattle Arena was nearly two years ago on September 17, 2013.

Here are the five best new tweaks in the updated proposal by the arena design team at HOK under review, in no particular order.

1. "Blimp View"

Seattle Arena Blimp Views

Click to embiggen image.

One of the forgotten aspects of arena design from the public perspective is just how sexy an image the building cuts in aerial establishing shots during television broadcasts. A company is going to pay an unseemly amount of moola to christen the new building as one of the great marketing schemes of the modern age. The images above give us our first taste of the lighting treatment that can be used to display the naming rights' winner inside the properly lit turbine.

2. Turbine Tailoring

Speaking of the turbine, the defining element of the arena -- the jet engine-inspired shell encasing the main bowl -- gets some refinement to lock down the unique character of the building.


Seattle Arena Dark Exterior

There was a point early in the process where the color of the turbine was altered to green to separate the concept from the criticism that it looked like a giant flan. They quickly went back to orange, but a number of the wood elements had a lighter color that made everything feel washed out in orange. Taking the DDRB's suggestion, the design team has gone with a darker wood motif that helps to distinguish the turbine's orange exterior and make it the focus of the arena.

Blade Definition

Seattle Arena Turbine Updates

Click to embiggen image.

A further revision is a clearer definition of the "blades" of the turbine, both on the exterior portion above the roof and throughout the interior. They've also given a stepped serrated edge to the top of the turbine to more sharply define the iris-like quality of the blades akin to a real jet turbine.

Bowl Access & Roof Access

Seattle Arena Bowl/Roof Access

Click to embiggen image.

The changes to the blade design have also been thoroughly incorporated into the two openings at the north and south of the turbine that allow access into the bowl and the Sonic Rings. In addition, at the very top of the openings, there is now access to the grass-covered roof, potentially for the public to use. It's not entirely clear why public access to the roof would be good, aside from a novelty, but the potential for unique use now expands. Outdoor tea with the team? A Beatles-esque rooftop concert? Marshaling from on high the potential Mariners World Series championship celebration in the plaza below?

3. Living Machine & Garden

Seattle Arena Plaza Updates

Click to embiggen image.

This is a bit of a cheat because it was brought to light in the presentation materials submitted to the SDC a couple of months ago, but this is perhaps the biggest amendment to the project proposal in the two-year hiatus, so it's likely going to get the most notice. The drumlins that had dominated the plaza design previously were always a bit too abstract and out-of-step for the space. It's possibly the most "Seattle" thing they could've done to replace it with a Living Machine, an ecological wastewater treatment and reuse technology.

The plantlife that is used in the treatment process doubles as a garden. And while the water will be reused throughout the arena, there is also a new water display at the west side of the plaza and a series of fountains laid into the plaza pavement to host fanciful dancing water shows.

4. Pedestrian Bridge

Seattle Arena Pedestrian Bridge

Click to embiggen image.

Also spoiled in the SDC materials about the public benefit, the iterative design of the pedestrian bridge along the planned repavement of S Holgate St. is another compelling feature that stands out in the proposal update. The bridge starts on the east near the Wells Fargo bank on the corner of Holgate and S 4th Ave. and lands near the arena's southwest lobby at Holgate and S 1st Ave. It will also directly connect to an arena exit on the main concourse level.

There are a few new tidbits about the bridge in the proposal. Most specific is the rain garden that will sit under the ramps and stairs of the bridge on the west side, adjacent to the arena, part of the green effort for the public space.

5. 1st Ave. Access

Seattle Arena 1st Ave Updates

Click to embiggen images.

Like Safeco Field, the S 1st Ave. side of the arena will be seen as the main facade. A selling point of the public benefit of the project is year-round access to the club/restaurant on ground ("event") level, as well as the new team store. And while they will make use of the LED signage in the plaza, the marketing images are going to live over here. Say hello, Foo Fighters!

Available to the public ahead of Tuesday evening's meeting, the pageturner of the proposal offers further details on these and other revisions and clarifications. Design porn for the masses.

All in all, these are refinements to solidify a strong project vision that stands a good chance at earning recommendations for both the design and the street vacation this week.