Inspired Structures

Architect Jerry Garcia’s snapshot tour of the Seattle he believes in.

What follows is a look at the city through the eyes of one of its rising architects, Jerry Garcia, who is currently a senior project manager at the venerable firm Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen. If it is possible for someone saddled with the name of a rock legend to “make a name for himself,” Garcia is doing it in the world of architecture. For many years he worked in relative obscurity, a sort of underground architect living hand to mouth. He caught the eye of Seattle movers and shakers when he built a model for a proposed restoration of Denny Park and displayed it at Western Bridge. I asked Jerry to take snapshots of some of his favorite Seattle structures. Afterwards, he talked to me about his affection for them. Quotes from our interview appear in the captions accompanying the photographs. — Emily White

Photography by Jerry Garcia.

Power Station, NE 75th ST. and 9th Ave. NE

“This is a Seattle City Light building. What I like about it is its super-formal twenties-era lines. The building speaks of industry and civic service. Amazing proportions, big steel windows — it is almost inadvertently beautiful.”


Seattle Tower, 1218 3rd Ave.

“This is the only Gotham building in town. People who are writers, filmmakers, etc., often look at the city in terms of potential backdrops, places where something would occur. The Seattle Tower is like that. It is a building where something would happen…a scene in a movie…If you look closely, you see that the bricks lighten in color as you go up, to emphasize distance. The builders used three different shades of brick to create this effect.”


Gold Building, 2033 6th ave.

“There are a few gold buildings in Seattle and I love them because of the way they distort everything around them and because they are fatigued. They show their age. The gold, the  insulated glass unit of that era, but especially the gold, does not perform well — it gets foggy, and I like how it allows itself to age… It gets really imperfect. There is this mirror but it is a distorting mirror and the gold heightens life or experience somehow.”


Green Lake Aqua Theatre, 6000 block, West Green Lake Way N.

“This is a beautiful relic. It’s seating for a stage that no longer exists, a floating stage where big entertainers like Bob Hope used to perform. The stage was a liability so they took it out…Now it’s a viewing platform for the everyday.”


1264 Eastlake Ave. E.

“This is the Seattle Space Needle corporate office. Why it appeals to me is that the design is so clear. It has this stone base. It is a simple little shoe box that cantilevers out over the stone base. Literally, it is a shoe box. There is a clarity that speaks of its time, the ’60s. And it is west facing so it has these slats that break up the sun. Pure mid-century modern.”


Seasons Café, 100 Prefontaine Place S.

“The rage now is green roofs and I love that there is one on this little deli. A planter is on top, with the deli down below. And the planter is built into the slope of the hillside.”


Catwalk, 4th Ave. between James and Jefferson

“This is a ‘prisoner pipe’ at the King County Courthouse. It’s how they transport prisoners and people who are on trial from the jail to the courthouse. Notice there are no windows. It is also a structure that helps you appreciate Seattle’s topography:  from Pioneer Square you look up and it is about seven stories tall and from the shopping quarter you look back and you are actually looking down on it.”


Arboretum Sewer Viaduct, Lake Washington Blvd.

“This bridge in the arboretum is one of Seattle’s beloved structures. What I love about it, though, is it isn’t what it appears to be. Its sole purpose is to function as a sewer viaduct. The sewage flows in between the arches and the walkway. They were trying to disguise a sewer by making a pedestrian bridge.”


Volunteer Park Water Tower, E. Prospect and 14th Ave. E.

“This tower reminds me of some of the domes in Italy. It’s a double shell, you walk into this very clear brick form, and inside it is a separate steel form. To get to the top you walk up the stairs and move in between these two very clear shapes.”


Seattle Public Library, 1000 4th Ave.

“This is the reading room at the downtown library. It’s ‘now’ architecture. You walk into it and you feel like you have stepped into the future a few years. Or like you are not in Seattle — maybe Japan — or Paris.”


Volunteer Park Conservatory, Volunteer Park Road and E. Highland Drive

“It’s like the crystal palace built in England in the 1850s. Held together by steel. Strong and delicate. And when you enter it you enter a totally different place, a totally warm place in the middle of winter.”


Pacific Science Center arches, 200 2nd Ave. N.

“This was built by  Yamasaki, the same architect who built the World Trade Towers. When I used to work near Myrtle Edwards park I would walk down Denny and see the arches in the foreground and then the Olympics in the background. So the arches mirrored the mountains.”


IBM Building, 1200 5th Ave.

“I love the rigidity of this building, the oddness, it is clumsy. The arches are horrible. This is Yamasaki as well. And he also built Rainier Tower in downtown Seattle. So Seattle has two towers, and the distance between them is roughly the same as the distance was between the World Trade Towers.”


University of Washington Faculty Club, 4020 E. Stevens Way

“This is a great building because it looks really mean from the back. It is so severe, white, institutional. Then you go in and it is warm, oriented around a courtyard space. Plenty of light. Sun breaks to the east.”


Pho Bac restaurant, 1254 S. Jackson St.

“Here is this intersection where five major streets come together. Pho Bac claimed its place at this intersection, claimed its corner. This triangular shape has been iconic for architectural responses to corners. Think of the Flatiron building in New York, which claims a corner in the same way. I love it that this humble little building tries to do what these historic buildings have done. And it does it.”


Madrona Park Shelter, 853 Lake Washington BLVD.

“This was built by Seattle architect Ellsworth Storey…I like that it hints at enclosure even though it is a completely open structure… And it looks like a simple little cabin with four columns, but really only has two, so it is a daring piece of structure, very tricky without showing it. There’s an asymmetry to it — the backside has no column so it completely floats.”


519 3rd Ave.

“What I like about this is it is so informal. It does what it needs to do. There is a set of stairs to take you into it. And on top is an apartment building built out of wood; it is really odd to see a wood structure still remaining in downtown Seattle. And then you get this nice storefront…The structure is a multi-use mishmash.”


U.S. Plywood Corp. Building, 4025 13th Ave. W.

“This is just east of the Ballard Bridge. What’s odd about it is that it’s a building on a pier — traditionally those are wood buildings. But this is a poured-in-place concrete building for a plywood company! So it’s ironic. Also, it is a small building but very majestic, hidden amongst this jumble of buildings — clarity amidst a jumble.”