EcoStructure January/February 2010 : Page 34
flashback 1 In any weather, the views from Seattle’s Pier 56 to the Olympic Mountains are nothing short of spectacular: cruise ships and ferries plying the waters of Elliott Bay, misty islands in the distance, occasionally an orca surfacing, seabirds circling. Home to architectural firm Mithun for the past 10 years, the pier marks the intersection of old and new, of history and a bright green tomorrow. Building on its success with the REI flagship stores and several other high-profile projects (including a new corporate campus for Sun Systems, now Accu-Med Systems, in Anacortes, Wash.), Mithun had tripled in size by the late 1990s. From its downtown location, the firm’s leadership sought more space on Seattle’s waterfront, which at that time was an area filled with abandoned warehouses, a few scattered restaurants, and the remnants of tourist attractions. They viewed adaptive reuse of one of the historic piers as a catalyst for change in helping to preserve the waterfront. Mithun CEO Bert Gregory also envisioned the new office as a living laboratory: an opportunity to demonstrate new sustainable design ideas while integrating these practices into the firm’s culture. As the project’s design architect, Gregory and his team worked closely with Coughlin Porter Lundeen (structural engineer), Edifice Construction (general contractor), and the building’s owner to transform the dark, dusty, turn-of-the-century Pier 56 into prime office space. As a historic building, the pier’s basic shape and outlines had to be retained; 34 Eco-STRucTuRE.coM yet the renovation also would require seismic upgrades throughout the predominately timber structure. By placing shear walls where they would be least disruptive, engineers preserved interior open space according to the architect’s design intent, admitting light and views never seen before within the beautiful old structure. Today, the nearly 200-person architecture firm occupies the entire second floor, a modular system of open workstations organized around a circulation spine that leads to a common area (called The Point) at the end of the pier. Constructed of sanded, unfinished wood, all tables and dividers can be reconfigured quickly, enabling teams to collaborate more effectively around large projects. Besides extensive use of reclaimed and recycled lumber for the tenant improvements, the 36,000-square-foot Pier 56 serves as a showplace for Mithun’s deep green design approach. Operable clerestory windows run the length of the building, admitting daylight and sufficient ventilation for the office to take full advantage of natural cooling during summer months. The design also features durable, salvaged wood and low-VOC finishes throughout in the oriented strand board flooring, open frame office partitions, and solid core doors. Central to the design intent, and perhaps the project’s most tangible success over the past decade, the architects wanted to connect staff opening page, 3: Mithun | Doug scott; 1: Robert pisano; 2: courtesy Mithun.