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MISCmedia MAIL for 1/25/16
Jan 24th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

On the day after an NFL playoff day that our boys had no part of, we discuss the much-delayed dawn of the First Hill Streetcar; Bill Gates sells out (again); a lucid voice against the Oregon militia doodz; and a new Seattle arts org gives a big grant to an established NY artist (with great radical credentials).

MISCmedia MAIL for 1/20/16
Jan 19th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

As the Obama Era’s final year begins, we discuss gated lots for people who live in vehicles; plans to legalize extant pot-delivery services; big expansion plans for the Victoria Clipper; and the UW’s plans to raze more of its brutalist old dorms.

MISCmedia MAIL for 1/14/16
Jan 13th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

A good friend of mine is trying to survive kidney disease while keeping her indie bookstore alive. Also: how to keep artists in town; a pact on reviving Ride the Ducks; mental-health crises; making tech products “For Women.”

MISCmedia MAIL for 1/8/16
Jan 7th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Our first Friday e-missive in three weeks, due to holiday schedules, includes: the resumption of Bertha tunnel digging; a comprehensive Seattle transit map (no, there really wasn’t one before); “concerned neighborhood” groups show their bigotries; tampons for charity; and the usual scads of weekend activity options.

MISCmedia MAIL for 1/5/16
Jan 5th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

In Toosday’s nooze: Jim McDermott’s leaving; the Oregon militia doodz aren’t; Sawant really is a socialist; birth control can be gotten without a prescription (in other states); FAA vs. 101-story tower plan.

MISCmedia MAIL for 1/4/16
Jan 3rd, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

The work year begins and so does MISCmedia MAIL, with: white gunmen get not to be called “terrorists;” the region’s oldest gay bar quietly disappears; a Seahawks triumph; and what will Jim McDermott do?

MISCmedia MAIL for 12/24/15
Dec 24th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

As the holidaze (and, just perhaps, snow) loom, MISCmedia MAIL covers the legacy of Chubby & Tubby; fun with fish names; looming layoffs for MS “permatemps;” a private techie-shuttle-bus startup; and many weekend activities.

MISCmedia MAIL for 12/14/15
Dec 13th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

The darkest two weeks of the year are underway, and we’re here to help you survive. On Monday, read about more weather woes; anti-Islamaphobia marchers; just how Microsoft and other companies shave their tax bills; and a real-estate developer who tried to improve views from his property by poisoning neighbors’ trees.

MISCmedia MAIL for 12/10/15
Dec 9th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

Bauhaus Coffee’s sudden demise; the polar-opposite fates of KEXP and KPLU; how *not* to talk about women dating male sports fans; and just what is “urbanism” anyway? All this and more in Thursday’s MISCmedia MAIL.
MISCmeida MAIL for 12/9/15
Dec 8th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

As KEXP moves into its super-deluxe new digs, our midweek report remembers its far-less-slick precursor KCMU. Also: dampness everywhere; Amazon’s plans for the Dog House/Hurricane Cafe block; Troy Kelley refuses to quit.

MISCmedia MAIL for 12/8/15: SOLITUDE AMONG THE RUINS
Dec 8th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

eitel ruins

tiffany von arnim

In Tuesday’s e-missive: a visit to the beautifully decrepit Eitel Building before it gets “restored”; a rural school district may be charter schools’ legal savior; Comcast offers Seattle a slightly better franchise deal; and a brief thought about the John Lennon shooting’s anniversary.

MISCmedia MAIL for 12/7/15
Dec 6th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

Monday’s missive contains the disappearance of Group Health as we know it; the neo-Nazi march that wasn’t; the final (at last) election result in City Council District 1;  tough times for an artist/entrepreneur; and a brief thought about Pearl Harbor Day.

MISCmedia MAIL for 11/12/15
Nov 11th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

In Thursday’s MISCmedia MAIL: Remembering another practical li’l apartment building; a posthumous arts bounty from the Kingdome; the predictable truth behind the anti-Starbucks ranter; can KeyArena be rebuilt without taxpayer funds?
 
MISCmedia MAIL for 11/5/15
Nov 5th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

There’s no such thing as “old news” for election pundits. Also in MISCmedia MAIL for Friday: More thoughts on the soon-to-be-temporarily-gone Gum Wall; sports teams’ “pay-triotism;” a 17-mile freeway backup.
 
OF ‘FACADISM’ AND FALSE FRONTS
Oct 8th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

ex bill's off bway construx

In December 2013, I wrote in this space about Bill’s Off Broadway, the legendary Capitol Hill pizza joint and bar.

It had just closed earlier that month. Its building at Harvard and East Pine was going to be replaced by a fancy new mixed-use development.

Now, Bill’s is back.

It’s got the same owners, much of the same staff, and the same menus.

It’s got the same interior color scheme.

It’s at the same corner.

But it’s not the same place; and it’s not in the same space.

Only the street-facing outer brick walls remain from the old building. Everything else, including the Bill’s interior, is all-new. Above the brick front, modern steel and glass construction rises six stories up.

exterior 1b

This sort of thing is going on all over Pike, Pine, and Union streets on Capitol Hill. Everything from printing plants to luxury-car dealerships has been removed except for the skins. A few blocks away, even the beloved Harvard Exit Theater is being razed-and-rebuilt like this.

It’s going on all over South Lake Union. The massive Troy Laundry building has already been hollowed out. The former Seattle Times building, its interior recently defaced by squatters, will probably also vanish except for its art-deco frontage.

In these and other places around town, you can see forlorn exterior walls of brick and terra cotta, artificially braced up, standing in front of nothing but construction holes.

In the frontier towns of the Old West (including pioneer Seattle), main streets were full of “false front” architecture. Grand, pompous storefronts stood proudly as signs of civic ambition, drawing people into the little one- or two-story stick structures hiding behind them.

Today’s “façadism” (yes, that’s a term some people use for this phenomenon) attempts an opposite aesthetic goal.

It seeks to mask the harsh, brutal, hyper-efficient modernity of a structure by offering a make-believe connection to the funky old building it replaced. Long-time residents can drive past it and imagine that the historic old building is still there, as long as they don’t look too closely.

But that’s about all it does.

It doesn’t preserve the spaces within, or their diverse uses.

Eugenia Woo, a local historic-preservation advocate and current director of preservation for Historic Seattle, writes about “What Price Façadism?” in the latest issue of Arcade, the local architectural/design journal.

Woo decries the practice, as an aesthetic travesty that fails to preserve the old buildings’ “authenticity”:

Stripped of everything but its facade, a building loses its integrity and significance, rendering it an architectural ornament with no relation to its history, function, use, construction method or cultural heritage. With only its primary facades saved, the original structure is gone, including the roof, interior features and volume of space.… Further, the scale and massing of the new building change the rhythm and feel of a block and neighborhood.”

Crosscut.com’s Knute Berger recently noted that property owners have sometimes manipulated the façades they’re supposedly preserving.

Berger writes that preservation advocates “have accused developers of damaging the historic integrity of building exteriors to ensure their building won’t be made a landmark, yet preserving the building’s skin as a ploy to win approval for more height for a new project. In other words, façade protections could actually be undercutting true preservation.”

Berger also notes that, at least in the Pike/Pine Corridor, current regulations have the effect of encouraging façadism instead of true preservation: “If an old building’s exterior is deemed to have architectural and contextual character, a developer can get additional height for a new structure in exchange for saving the façade. In other words, extra density and square-footage is dangled as an incentive to save an original exterior.”

The current tech-office boom, a legacy of city officials promoting urban development at almost any price (except in “single family” zones), and popular trends that see urban life as more attractive than suburban life have combined to create a “perfect storm” of development fever. This has put pressure on  the continued existence of old commercial and industrial buildings, throughout Seattle.

Growth, say pro-development “urbanists,” is inevitable.

But façadism needn’t be.

There are other ways to keep Seattle’s built history alive, while accommodating new residents and new uses.

Instead of false façades, Woo would rather see a form of “smart planning” that either preserves historic buildings whole or replaces them whole with “new projects that are well designed, perhaps the landmarks of tomorrow, cohesively knitted into the streetscape.”

ex bauhaus facadism

(Cross-posted with City Living Seattle.)

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