The conference center in Pittsburgh was my destination for a rail conference in June. I was there for several days but it was only on the last day that I managed to get some time to head up to the roof area of the center. It had some interesting gardens with views across the roof structure and some art installations. It also had a great view across the river. The top wasn’t the only interesting spot. There was a route under the center too which I found on my first day there when I was struggling with how to actually get into the place. It was not very intuitive which, given the nature of the place, seems rather odd. I saw a few people riding bikes through this lower level, but I never went down there.
There area few buildings in Vancouver where the architects have been a little adventurous. Some of them are visible from the shore as you walk around Stanley Park and I grabbed some photos from a distance. There is one that is near the bridge as you drive towards Granville Island. You can see part of it from the Island but a good view is on the road as you drive by. I asked Nancy to try getting some shots as I was driving. The tapered edge makes the building feel like it is hanging over the road. Very interesting engineering!
Driving home from Steilacoom, I went up the coast rather than cutting straight in to the interstate. My route took me up towards the Tacoma Narrows bridges. The original bridge is well know to any engineering student and many people will be familiar with the footage of it collapsing in moderate winds. That bridge was replaced and, more recently, a second bridge was built alongside it. In the early evening light, both bridges were nicely illuminated so I stopped to get a few shots. Zooming in on the towers at the near end, I really liked the shapes of the towers and the pattern work on their surfaces.
Driving through the back roads in Anacortes, I came across Anacortes Castle. I think it is actually just a house but it is certainly one that has been styled to look like a castle. You probably couldn’t defend it from marauders very easily and the turret seemed to have a lot of open space inside but it is still an interesting looking building. It sits on a normal residential street so is quite out of keeping with the rest of the houses. Still, it is a talking point, I am sure!
There was a building at the bottom of the dam at Grand Coulee that was part of the dam infrastructure. Looking down on this building, it seemed so in keeping with a certain generation of architecture. Concrete buildings were in vogue at that time and they were very functional and lacking in much in the way of aesthetics. Given that this was part of the work generation program of the Great Depression, maybe the focus was on function rather than form. I wonder what someone would do with such a requirement if they were commissioned to design such a building today.
The visit of friends seems to provide us with ever more new things to learn about Seattle. Mark and Rosie were in town and Rosie told us about Seattle Public Library being worth a visit. I had never been to the library and was totally unaware of it. I must have been within a couple of blocks of it many times but never saw it. As we got close to it when walking up the street, we were all taken by the external architecture.
The outside was great but the inside was just as worthwhile. Each floor seemed to have a different style to it. There was a lot of open space within the building and you could go to the top floor which gave you a high view outside the building as well as a view straight down throughout the whole of the building to the first level. As someone with little love for heights, I took a look down but didn’t spend too much time up there. It was a long way down!
The cherry blossoms were the reason for us visiting the campus of the University of Washington as I covered in a previous post. Since we were there and it was a lovely day, we also figured a bit more of the campus was worth a look. We strolled around for a while and checked out the different styles of building that make up the university.
There is a wide variety of building types. The oldest buildings are generally pretty nice looking. Some of the most recent ones are also architecturally interesting. There was some Art Deco to see and then there is a bleaker phase. UW is a bit like other campuses I have seen. There is a phase of concrete and plain brick. This style was very much of its time but sadly, I don’t find it has stood the test of time too well. The concrete particularly is harsh with the style having been to avoid making any effort to finish the surface. They just poured at different times and the joins are left to see. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time but I don’t care for it. I’m sure in architecture classes they still discuss its merits but it’s not for me.
When Chris and Sam visited, Sam had a list of things she wanted to do. I have to admit that one of those things I had no idea existed until she mentioned it. Having been here eighteen months and also having been through the area involved a couple of times, this was a bit embarrassing. The subject is the Amazon Spheres. Amazon seems to control a lot of territory in Seattle these days but, while most of this is in traditional office space, the Spheres are something different.
They are an environmental space that encompasses a wide range of plant life. It is designed to be used by employees as they have meetings or not to work alone for a while. They can relax in these spaces. At the weekends, though, it is sometimes made available for the public to visit for free. You just have to book a slot. We didn’t know about this when Sam and Chris were here so we only saw them from the outside. However, we did then know a little more and were able to plan a visit when Tom and Lenore came to stay.
The interior of the Spheres is something that you can guess at when you are looking from outside but being inside is totally amazing. The huge diversity of plant types throughout the space is incredible. The engineering of the spheres themselves and of the stairs and walkways within are very cool to someone with that sort of background like me. The ability to sustain the plants and keep them fed and watered is impressive and every turn takes you to something new and interesting. Couple that with some cool workspaces for the staff to use for meetings and you have a unique building complex. I would happily go back there on another occasion just to hang out and relax while possibly photographing more of the plants. I could probably have multiple posts of shots from this place but I shall make do with a combination of architectural shots and some of the plants for now. If you are planning on coming to Seattle, try and time it to coincide with one of the open weekends and give yourself enough time.
I briefly saw Tokyo Station last time I was in Japan. This time I wanted to take a better look. While the station has been significantly redeveloped over the years, the west frontage that looks towards the Imperial Palace has retained the brick structure designed and built over 100 years ago (although some rebuilding was necessary over the years). I think it is an interesting looking building and an interesting contrast with the high-rise developments around it or even the old buildings that can still be found in the city.
I got there in mid-morning and my brain was obviously not firing on all cylinders. The front was in shade with the sun quite high in the sky and I thought for some reason I had left it too late. I ended up taking a bunch of pictures of the building, none of which I was terribly happy with given the shadow on the front and the bright overall conditions. I did shoot some of the details around the hallways and overhangs which were fine.
It was only later when I returned from the Palace grounds that I realized which way the building was facing and that the sun had now come around to the front of the station, not retreated. Consequently, things were a lot more brightly illuminated. Let’s not kid ourselves. Midday sun is not the greatest thing for shooting but, for getting snapshots for the trip, this was a significant improvement. With such a wide and low structure, a panorama was obviously going to be tried!
When we visited the Pacific Bonsai Museum, the parking lot was by a large office building that seemed pretty strange. It was settled in a valley between two ridges with multiple levels with much greenery attached. I was curious about it when we arrived and decided to look further when we came back. It appeared that you could almost see through the building on some levels. When we got closer, it was clear that the building wasn’t in use – at least on the level we were.
When we got home, Nancy did a little more research on it. It used to be the headquarters of the Weyerhaeuser company. It was considered quite a cutting edge place when it was built but the company has moved downtown and I am not sure whether anyone is using it now. It does appear to be maintained and there are security patrols but not much seems to be going on. We debated whether it would be a nice place to work or a bit far from stuff and isolated.