Historic Seattle market rings up award-winning design

by Caleb Parker

Photo courtesy Tnemec Company, Inc.
Photo courtesy Tnemec Company, Inc.

“Reclaiming a former municipal building site, Pike Place MarketFront is the first addition to Seattle’s [Washington] cherished farmer’s market in nearly 40 years. The final piece in a long-anticipated vision for a [4-ha] nine-acre neighborhood-turned-historic district, the project delivers nearly [3716 m2] 40,000 sf of public space and creates a new gateway from the city’s downtown area to its waterfront” – American Institute of Architects (AIA).

As an extension of the original Pike Place Market founded in 1907, the $74-million MarketFront project was constructed on a site previously used for surface parking. The MarketFront consists of 47 all-weather day stalls for farm and craft vendors, low-income senior housing, a pavilion and neighborhood center, an underground parking garage, and public viewing terraces overlooking Elliott Bay and Puget Sound.

Architects for the Miller Hull Partnership based the project’s design on concepts gathered from neighborhood stakeholders at 200 public meetings spanning more than two years. The plan emerging out of these sessions was to marry the culture and spirit of the original market with future changes embodied in Seattle’s revitalized waterfront. The waterfront is being developed on the site of an elevated highway viaduct, which is in the process of being demolished and removed (This is based on a news release from Miller Hull Partnership.).

In recognition of its work on the marketplace expansion, Miller Hull was presented with a 2019 AIA Institute Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design. The project also received the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design 2018 American Architectural Award.

Citing the project’s “grand public spaces framed by a contemporary lightness and transparency,” an AIA award announcement observed, “Pike Place MarketFront echoes a certain Pacific Northwest toughness in its cast-in-place concrete and engineered timber base. It is capped by an open-air structural steel-framed pavilion and features large expanses of glazing, adding to the industrial undertones.”

A complex site

The complicated but rewarding Pike Place MarketFront project in Seattle, Washington, earned the architects at the Miller Hull Partnership a 2019 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Institute Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design and the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design 2018 American Architectural Award. Photo courtesy Sky-Pix Aerial Photography
The complicated but rewarding Pike Place MarketFront project in Seattle, Washington, earned the architects at the Miller Hull Partnership a 2019 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Institute Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design and the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design 2018 American Architectural Award.
Photo courtesy Sky-Pix Aerial Photography

The multitude of public hearings was part of a rigorous process to gather direction on design and use from various constituencies and organizations, including vendors, residents, the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority (PDA), the Market Historical Commission, and several public agencies.

Among the takeaways from those meetings was the importance of historic views to the market’s stakeholders and the need for additional vendor space. Using 3D computer modeling, the design team analyzed the view corridor from existing market locations, building profiles, and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) engineering.

“It is a very complex site,” explained project manager Steve Doub, senior associate and specifier with Miller Hull. “There was no way to do the project without modeling it in 3D. It allowed us to develop renderings for all those public meetings so people could visualize what the space was going to be like and what the view corridor would be from the vendor stalls and the existing market out to the waterfront.”

Located on a steep hillside, the MarketFront sits above an active train tunnel running diagonally beneath the project site. The site is bounded on the west by the waterfront, a park to the north, a building on the south-end, and the Western Avenue thoroughfare to the east.

The centerpiece of the project, Producers Hall, is integrated into the area’s sloping topography and features heavy timber framing with steel bracing and brackets creating a rustic aesthetic. Building occupants include a brewery, chocolatier, biscuit shop, and space for a restaurant.

The site also accommodates a four-level parking garage cut into the hillside with capacity for 300 vehicles, in addition to spaces for 33 bicycles. The parking structure descending below Western Avenue is supported above the train tunnel by carefully positioned columns and concrete girders.

Westward views of Seattle’s waterfront can be seen from a rooftop terrace and steel-framed vendor pavilion located over the main building. With glazed roll-up doors on its east and west sides, the pavilion offers maximum transparency for optimum viewing of Elliott Bay. Steel members, bracing rods, and pre-tensioned lenticular trusses provide the pavilion with structural and seismic stability for year-round use by vendors and for special gatherings and cultural events scheduled after business hours.

The MarketFront’s steep slope and constricted terrain presented a special challenge for the project’s contractor, Sellen Construction, as well as the landscape architect, Berger Partnership. Berger is also working with James Corner Field Operations (JCFO) on Seattle’s future waterfront redevelopment.

Using natural materials and native plantings, the MarketFront’s landscape features circulation ramps compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ramps will eventually connect with the revitalized waterfront. Landscape lighting is unobtrusive while providing security and wayfinding during the evening hours (Read “New open space is the next step on a path to the waterfront,” by Jonathan Morley, published in the Daily Journal of Commerce.).

The interior and exterior lighting scheme throughout the MarketFront expansion was created by Dark Light Design. It is also involved with the waterfront revitalization project. MarketFront lighting fixtures lamped with energy-saving light-emitting diode (LED) technology are in keeping with luminaires found around the historic market.

“It gets dark pretty early in the Northwest during winter, so the building and grounds need to be well lit,” Doub emphasized. “Lighting is always
a concern for us, especially in these public spaces. Both the lighting and landscaping were meant to weave into the larger waterfront redevelopment, which is underway.”

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