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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Architectural Musings I

Last week was exciting for my friends back east who experienced both an earthquake and a hurricane, with subsequent flooding and power outages. I'm reliably informed they had the plague of locusts last year. Let's hope September will be less exciting.

Before we moved here, I had trouble imagining the built environment. I knew it would be different from London, certainly.  It's a young city, a mere babe by European standards (no Roman ruins), yet older than Miami where I grew up.  Following the terrible fire of 1889,  when the entire business district burned down, the city was rebuilt in brick.  But that's not what you see when you look at Seattle from the water today.  The skyline bristles with shiny glass and steel sky scrapers.  

There was a housing boom in the early part of the twentieth century and the neighbourhoods around the edges of the city are full of bungalows and similar small homes built in the 1910s and 1920s, often placed high atop hills with views that are breathtaking, sometimes literally.

Typical Seattle Bungalow atop Queen Anne
Some have been lovingly restored, with gleaming wooden floors and glowing stained glass accents.  Others have been gutted and unsympathetically expanded and updated to suit modern living styles, utterly ruining the character of the original design.  We saw examples of both types while house hunting.  The restored houses were lovely, but just wouldn't suit us. The modernised ones were just plain awful, awkward, impractical, ugly.  There must be some good renovation / extension jobs out there, but we didn't see any of them. So we ended up with a condo with a logical layout and a great view, even if it is a little bland.

Folly or lighthouse?

Along the way, we've spotted a few quirky buildings.  Like this one in Ballard, reminiscent of a lighthouse. It faces Ray's and the water.  There must be an interesting story there.

Or this adorable confection, squeezed between two condos near the beach in Alki (West Seattle) that looks a like something from the Garden Gnome Reserve only more so.
Beach house for garden gnomes

Once in a while we spot a little bit of 'Old Blighty'.  In this case, a red phone box outside a fish and chips establishment.  However, the observant among you will have noticed from the photos, Seattle enjoys a wee bit more sunshine here in August than London. But don't tell anyone or we'll be overrun with British tourists.
Red phone box and chippy

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