Thursday, June 18, 2009

Home, Sweet Shipping Container - 1

You know, I don't write a lot about Western Avenue. It might be because not much happens there. It also might be that almost every building along Western is less than 15 years old. It doesn't have the semi-decrepit, time-worn appeal of the neighboring, numbered thoroughfares. When I moved into Belltown, Western was home to houses and warehouses. It's currently mostly apartments and condos. There's nothing wrong with that. Times change. Real estate gets bought and developed. It is the way of things. But I was recently struck by how cheap a lot of these new buildings looked. At first, I couldn't figure out why, but after a fashion it became painfully clear: many of the buildings along Western look like they've been fashioned out of shipping containers. Here is just one example, the Audrey (wow, what a bad name for a building!):

This is a shot from the corner of Western & Broad. Except for the windows and an angular aberration or two, it looks like this entire building could have arrived from China earlier this week. The only thing that's missing are the SeaLand, Hanjin, Hapag-Lloyd or Hyundai logos. Here are additional shots:

It just doesn't get any less container-like, does it? In a way, I understand how it could come to this. For one thing, Seattle is one of the world's busiest container ports. Why not illuminate that fact with an architectural ode or some such? In addition, when you're living in an apartment, you are literally stacked underneath and on top of your neighbors, so an imitation of stackable things is logical. Of course, living in such a building would make me feel like a sardine, but that's just me. Here at the Rivoli, my downstairs neighbor is a small appliance store and my upstairs neighbors include the world's loudest children. The ceilings are high and the spaces are small. I don't feel like I'm wedged between anybody. I just can't imagine living in a shipping container. Here's the thing: Western Avenue has a lot of these buildings. This is just the beginning of the series. Stay tuned.

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