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Seattle’s Most Beautiful Buildings

September 27th, 2011 by Michael

When we asked readers what they thought were the most beautiful buildings in Seattle, libraries, schools, churches, apartments and skyscrapers across the city were cited. But it was the subtle magnificence of the Magnolia branch of the Seattle Public Library that topped the list of Seattle’s most beautiful buildings.

Magnolia Library
The branch was designed by Seattle architect Paul Hayden Kirk and opened July 17, 1964.

In 2000, the Magnolia Community Club leveraged Opportunity Funds for a branch expansion for which construction began in 2007.

The $4.4 million renovation and expansion brought a new roof, new mechanical system components, technology, ventilation, electrical, computer connections and energy-efficient window glass. The architecture is considered an example of Northwest design with hints of Japanese influence.

Queen Anne High School
The epitome of classical revival, Queen Anne High School, now the Queen Anne High School Condominiums, is second on our list. The school, beautifully designed by F.A. Naramore and built in 1910, still stands today atop Queen Anne hill. It was closed in 1981, but is a living memory to many in the neighborhood.

Smith Tower
For years it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi. Arguably the most popular structure in the city (next to the Space Needle), the neoclassical tower was designed by the architectural firm Gaggin & Gaggin and completed in 1914.

Hiram M. Chittenden Locks administration building
Often completely overshadowed by the pump and drain action of the locks, this cast concrete building, built by the Army Corps of Engineers in the first decade of the 20th century, is quietly strong and charming – with an almost Italian villa sense to it – though the Carl S. English, Jr., Botanical Gardens to the north are decidedly English. Flags of Washington State and the Army Corps of Engineers fly above the building every day.

Sorrento Hotel
Done up in what is called the Italian Oasis style, the Sorrento Hotel at Cherry and Madison streets was erected in 1909 in anticipation of the crowds for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. The handsome brick façade is welcoming and affords sprawling views of the city.

Pacific Medical Building
The former home to Amazon.com, the Pac-Med building is a mountainous example of art deco design. The burnt sienna brick structure stands atop Beacon Hill and looks out west to the Olympics. Designed by Carl Frelinghuysen Gould and built in 1933, the iconic building is also on the National Register of Historic Places.

Queen Anne Library
The Queen Anne branch of the Seattle Public Library is both functional and beautiful. Built in 1914, the Tudor-Revival styled building sits quietly atop Queen Anne hill. The top floor is used for library services and the bottom floor has an open area where conferences, talks and large meetings take place.

Seattle Tower
Completed in 1929, the elegant Seattle Tower at 1218 Third Ave. makes anyone walking by stop and wonder. Designed by Albertson, Wilson and Richardson, the 27-floor art-deco-styled tower is a brick masterpiece. Formerly the Northern Life Tower, the building features 3 shades of brick and stands apart from neighboring buildings with more contemporary, if fleeting styles.

Arctic Hotel
You’ll know this one by the reliefs of walruses, tusks and all, that festoon the exterior.

The Arctic Hotel is sleek and narrow and built on the sloping terrain of Cherry Street at Third Street. It was designed by A. Warren Gould in the Beaux Arts style. It too is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Rainier Tower
This building is not for the squeamish. With its apple core base, the 31-story skyscraper designed by Minoru Yamasaki, who also designed the World Trade Center, brings a definitively 20th century feel to the city. It was completed in 1977. The pedestal base that tapers toward the ground might make one weak in the knees. If that’s the case, have a cup of soothing tea in the underground shopping plaza beneath the base.

Washington Mutual Tower
Modern. Art Deco. Extremely successful both inside and out. This tower at 1201 Third Ave. has it all. Its 55 storeys were completed in 1988 and designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates. Though it is nicknamed “The Sparkplug,” because of it’s shape, the building brings a modern East Coast feel to Seattle.

Church of Christ
This one is a bit unusual. The Church of Christ building at 2555 Eighth Ave. W. brings Italian renaissance to its Craftsman neighborhood. Designed by Harlan Thomas and built in 1926.

Bertschi School Science Wing
The Capitol Hill private school at 2227 10th Ave. E. opened its new science wing in February of this year. It’s dubbed the living building as it harvests rainwater, solar energy and is insulated by a vegetation roof. Designed by KMD Architects, the building even features a composting toilet that is not connected to the city sewer lines.

Holy Names Academy
Ensconced by oaks and cedars and set deep in the Capitol Hill neighborhood is the impressive edifice that is Holy Names Academy. It was designed in the neo-classical style by Albert Breitung and is identified by its pillared entryway and recessed dome.

Suzzallo Library – University of Washington
Iconic, cathedral-like and spiritual, this building dedicated to higher learning was designed by Charles H. Bebb and Carl F. Gould and completed in 1926. Most compelling is its 250-foot long, 52-foot wide and 65-foot high Graduate Reading Room. Lit with stained glass panels and low-slung lighting, the reading room gleams.

St. Ignatius Chapel – Seattle University
Decidedly modern, the Steven Holl-designed St. Ignatius Chapel captures movement and light few structures can claim. The chapel was completed in 1997. Holl describes the look as seven bottles of light in a stone box. Colored windows positioned at the nave, narthex, choir and processional allow for various shades of light to pour into the building at different times of day.

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