Saturday, November 16, 2013

Ryther Campus Renewal

Ryther is a children's behavioral heath services institution located in North Seattle. For generations Ryther has provided care for children in the state foster care system, many of them suffering from abuse, neglect, and addiction.  Over the years, state funding has become leaner and a funding gap has opened up between the cost of providing care and what the state is willing to pay for it.  Ryther has always managed to bridge this gap through philanthropic support, but doing so has been a constant struggle. Recently, Ryther began a new initiative to secure their future by opening their doors to private outpatients, becoming a health care provider that can serve any child or family that needs help with the wide range of issues where Ryther is uniquely qualified to help.

To facilitate this transition, Ryther has embarked on a major fundraising initiative to renovate the campus. While much of our work will focus on the nuts & bolts of getting the buildings fixed up and ready for another generation of service, we've also been tasked with something really special:  Transforming a fairly non-descript institutional campus into a place that is expressive of its unique nature, namely that Ryther is a mission driven institution, dedicated to healing families and helping children to realize a better life.

Throughout the process we have looked for opportunities to express the child centered nature of the institution through architectural form.  Just in time for Ryther's annual fundraiser, we unveiled our design for the new campus entry and lobby.

The project  features many unique design elements, but the common theme that runs throughout is that they are invitations to children to engage with their environment in an open-ended, creative, and imaginative way.  They are a way of expressing, in built form, the values of the institution.  They are playthings for children, but also a means to communicate Ryther's values to parents who are making choices about where to take their children for help.

Design Team: David Neiman, Liz Pisciotta, Erin Feeney. John Barker Landscape Architect

New campus "kidscape" features playful hopping stones that weave along the entry path and into the garden areas. A forest of colorful poles are used to mount bird and bat habitats, lighting fixtures, and signage.  Footholds on the poles allow kids to climb and walk among them.

New entry to the clinical services building.  A leaf shaped canopy captures rainwater from the upper roof and channels it into a new stream bed.  The building entry features a playful entry door sized just for kids.

The walls, ceiling, and floor of the lobby takes the color ideas that begin in the kidscape and extends them inside.  The design features a playful mix of ceiling coves, niches, skylights and pendant lights.  The kids corner can be accessed by crawling through big holes in the surrounding walls.

The campus lobby kids corner.  A  peaceful, skylit space intended to encourage calm behavior, the room is decorated with a sea-to-sky mural, soft furniture, and a thickened wall that kids can nest inside.

Therapy rooms feature a inviting floor-play corner, colorful lighting, and decorative ceiling clouds.

First brainstorm sketch of the pole forest.

In addition to being Ryther's architect, we are also proud supporters.  If you wish to join us in making a donation to Ryther, here is the link to their fundraising page.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Madrona Art Walk Today 2-5pm

Our office is participating in today's Madrona Art Walk.  We are featuring the work of Iona Park, a recent emigre from New York to Seattle.  Iona's work features bold color and texture studies as well as landscapes and still life studies.  Drop on by, check out the art, get the whirlwind tour of our new office while you're at it.  1421 34th Ave Suite 100

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Housing on the Green - West Seattle Church of the Nazarene

This month we began work on a new housing development for the West Seattle Church of the Nazarene.  In a year where we have designed a number of unique projects, this may be the most unusual of the bunch.

The project began a few months ago when our client Paar Development was approached by WSCN to look at their churchyard as a potential development site.  The church sits on a large parcel of land with an adjacent green that has for generations served as open space for the neighborhood.  The church building itself needs significant repair and the WSCN leadership was faced with the prospect of having to sell off the land to raise money for the repairs.  Joe Paar and I reviewed the site, determined that its zoning would allow two new single family homes and quickly concluded that such a development could not generate enough revenue to meet WSCN's needs.  In developing two houses, WSCN would give up their legacy and still be unable to fix the church.  The idea was a non-starter.

I continued to do some digging.  After a bit of research, I concluded that the site was a candidate for re-zoning.  So I drew up a quick site plan based on changing from single family zone to low-rise multi-family zone (LR1) that would allow development of six units.  By increasing the unit density, the new plan could generate enough return to pay for the church repairs with enough left over to build a playground in the park as well.  We returned to the congregation with the new proposal, it was met with great enthusiasm, and earlier this month we began the process of applying for a contract re-zone on the site.

Existing SF Zoning.  Two Single Family Homes.  In this scheme, all of the open space becomes private yards for the homes, the church loses her legacy open space, and the scheme fails to generate the revenue needed to repair the church.

Rezone to LR1.  The change to multi-family zoning allows six (6) new units along the back of the property, saving the front two thirds as a public green.  This scheme generates enough revenue to repair the church and upgrade the park.

The re-zoning process is lengthy and complicated.  It'll likely take 12-18 months to get through the various hoops.  We filed the initial paperwork last week to get the process started.  Much to our surprise, within a couple of days West Seattle Blog (WSB) had picked up the story, that the church site was to be re-zoned and that townhouses would be built on the site. The comment section was filled with many concerns about the trees, the neighborhood, development, parking, etc..  Pastors Shaun and Terry Mattson quickly got the editor of WSB in for an interview, and filled in some of the details about the project.  A follow-up story in WSB was well received and the comments were very encouraging. Comparing the tenor of the two stories and the public reaction is an object lesson in the importance of talking to the neighbors about upcoming projects.  Nothing is worse than what people will imagine if given an information vacuum.

Over the next few months we'll work through the initial process with the city, put together some preliminary design ideas and the head out into the neighborhood to do public meetings & get feedback from the folks that live nearby.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Beacon Green in the Sunday Times

Lawrence Cheek has a very thoughtful article about small scale infill housing in the Sunday Times that features some discussion of our Beacon Green project.

...Still more innovative is David Neiman’s Beacon Green town-house project on Beacon Hill, a beneficiary of that code revision.
Like a lot of local architects, Neiman had steamed for years over Seattle’s dreary “four-pack” and “six-pack” design convention for infill town houses, which typically feature two flanks of craftsmanoid units with a dark and dreary concrete “autocourt” between for driveway and parking. In 2006 Neiman hatched an idea for a three-unit commission he had: Why not put a lid on the autocourt, preserving ground-level parking, and turn its topsides into a second-floor outdoor commons?
“It violated about 15 different parts of the code,” Neiman says. “We had to submit to a very high level of scrutiny, and it was a two-year process just to get from idea to permit. By then it was 2008, and the bottom fell out of the capital market, so the project never saw the light of day.”
Neiman didn’t have much work for the next few years, so along with a number of underemployed architects in other small firms, he spent considerable time working with the city toward liberalized multifamily housing rules. The efforts bore fruit, and Beacon Green, an improved version of the lid/deck idea, is now nearing completion. Six modest-sized (885 to 1,350 square feet), three-story town houses will share a second-floor deck of 1,240 square feet with parking underneath. Each unit will have a semiprivate area on the deck delineated by planters. An idealist, Neiman expects that sharing the rest of the deck will energize a sense of community within the development.
“People who buy here will self-select,” Neiman predicts. “If you want a yard with a 6-foot fence and want to be left alone, you won’t be coming here. If you want a certain level of interaction with your neighbors, you will. My intuition is that the world is probably divided 50-50 this way.”...

Beacon Green Tour

We had a great turnout today for the Beacon Green Tour.  A couple hundred people came through, some architects & design wonks, but mostly the general public.  People responded really well to the courtyard concept & were very interested (or patient at least) in a little talk I did about the history of the Seattle townhouse & how Beacon fits into that story.  Next up comes Marion Green our project at 14th & Marion, starting construction in November.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Beacon Green Tour Saturday 9/14 10am-4pm

The AIA Explore Design Tour is tomorrow, Saturday Sept 14th, 10am-4pm.
1734 13th Avenue S (North Beacon Hill).

If you've been within earshot lately, or have not properly calibrated your spam filter, you've probably heard me say it already...but perhaps it bears repeating:  Beacon Green is an entirely new kind townhouse project featuring housing clustered around a shared courtyard that builds community among neighbors.  For the last 25 years, almost every townhouse in Seattle was built on the 4-pack model, which was essentially a parking diagram that people had to live above.  It took seven years of work, but we've finally managed to bring a project to market that turns all of that on its head. Beacon Green is housing designed from the ground up around the needs of people, open space, and community.

Project Size:  Six (6) three-story townhomes.  Five (5) parking spaces.  Unit size varies from 1450sf 3br to 880sf 2br units.  Two of the units can flex from 1br to 3br depending on how the parking level is used.

Construction cost:  $125 per SF construction cost.  Does not include land & soft costs (design, permits, financing, etc.)

Sales:  Units are all sold.  Sales prices ranged from $350,000 to $465,000 (approx $340/sf)

Notable Features:

  • Built-Green 4-Star Certified.
  • High-efficiency heat pump for heating and A/C (4x more efficient than gas).
  • Heat Pump hot water system (2.5x more efficient than gas).
  • Heat recovery ventilation saves energy and insures clean healthy interior air.
  • High-efficiency spray foam and blown-in-blanket super-insulation system.
  • Durable rain-screen siding system.
  • The project provides more than 2.5x the amount of open space required by code.
  • Flexible parking scheme allows owners to use basement level for parking or bedrooms, adapt over time.
  • Smaller unit sizes and higher unit density creates housing that is more affordable, make better use of city land, puts more people close to transit. 
  • Unit 6 is designed for a basement ADU that allows the owner to have rental income, more flexibility over time.
  • Low VOC finishes, cork flooring, modular carpet tiles, recycled content tile.

Tickets are available for the Tour at Beacon Green, 1734 13th Avenue S.  I also have (4) comps available.  First come first served!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Beacon Green in Seattle Magazine

Seattle Magazine / Northwest Home has a feature article about the Explore Design Home Tour that features Beacon Green.  The article can be seen at:

Beacon Green is just a couple weeks away from completion and has just sold out. Paar Development had an event to celebrate substantial completion where I had a chance to meet a couple of the buyers.  They were very excited to move in & be a part of a small community.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Beacon Green...Getting Close

Beacon Green, our first courtyard townhouse project, is approaching completion.  Some notable milestones coming up:

  • August 27th we'll have a small VIP event to celebrate substantial completion. 
  • The September issue of Seattle Magazine/Northwest Home will have a feature on the project.  We'll send out a link when the issue hits the newstand.
  • September 14th we will be one of seven projects featured in the AIA Explore Design Home Tour. Tickets for the tour can be purchased via the AIA website:
  • Five of the six units have already been sold.  Just one more to go!
If you can't make the tour but really want to see the project, send me an email & I'll set something up.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Beacon Green Selected for 2013 Explore Design Tour

Our Beacon Green project has been selected as one of seven featured projects for the AIA's Explore Design Home Tour, highlighting some of Seattle's most innovative new housing projects.  We're honored to be in such distinguished company.

AIA Seattle

2013 Explore Design Home Tour

AIA Seattle is excited to announce the seven local homes that will be featured in the first-annual Explore Design Home Tour on September 14, 2013.

Thank you to each of the AIA Seattle Members and Member Firms who submitted an application. The strong submission pool demonstrated not only the high quality of our members' work, but also the desire of AIA Seattle architects to share the value of design with the public.  

This September, we invite our city to experience how great design can inspire our everyday lives through the Explore Design Home Tour, a component of the Seattle Design Festival. 

  beacon green courtyard townhomes
family share 
  flipflop houses
  greenfire campus
 Beacon Green

 Family Share

 FlipFlop House(s)

 Greenfire Campus

leschi residence 
  park passive
  sunrise vista

 Leschi Residence

 Park Passive

 Sunrise Vista

seattle magazine
Special thanks to our media partner Seattle magazine.
Watch for a special feature of the 2013 Explore Design Home Tour
in the September issue of Seattle magazine & Northwest Home. 

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

AIA NW Home Open House

240 people turned out to tour the Walsh Hollon Residence today.  It was a great opportunity for us to talk about Umbrella House & show off a really spectacular project.  Thanks so much to Greg Hollon and Brenda Walsh for letting us into their home and to the AIA & Northwest Home for selecting us for the honor.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Umbrella House Revisited

The Walsh Hollon Residence is the AIA NW Home House of Month.  It will be open for a public tour on Sunday May 19 from noon-3pm.  The project is located at 6816 29th Ave NE.

As we get ready for the tour, its a good opportunity to re-introduce Umbrella House, our approach to housing design in the Northwest, and examine how this approach is reflected in the Walsh Hollon Residence.

What makes this project an Umbrella House?

Umbrella House is a vision of contemporary architecture that is uniquely responsive to the climate of the Pacific Northwest, exploring the challenges and opportunities that arise when we build here, namely:

• It's gray outside.

• It's wet outside.

• It's nice outside.

Lets look at how we address each of these aspects of our climate at the Walsh Hollon Residence:


Over-sized windows capture as much natural light as possible. Openings are framed to allow the windows and doors to come all the way up to the ceiling. This provides more glass area in the exterior wall, and allows more opportunity to look to the horizon and see the dome of the sky.

Floor plans are open to borrow light between spaces and to maximize the potential to see through the house to the landscape and sky beyond.

The house configuration stretches across the full width of the lot to maximize the wall area that faces the street and backyard and minimize the wall area that faces the adjacent houses, improving their exposure to natural light and open views.


We begin with a simple roof form that protects the building from the weather and expresses the idea of shelter as the primary aesthetic.

Broad overhangs protect the siding and create dramatic shadows. Roof pitches are relatively shallow to expose the underside of the soffits.  Textured plywood and natural finishes provide dramatic effect.

Natural materials are used in locations where they are well protected from weathering. Exposed areas of the cladding use durable finishes that will minimize the need for maintenance.

Exposed exterior finishes include pained cement board, aluminum clad windows, and trex window sills.  In protected areas exterior finishes include stained cedar, MDF plywood, and stained fir framing.

The cladding system uses a commercial grade polypropylene building wrap, pre-formed window flashings, and a rain screen drainage plane that evacuates any water that gets behind the cladding. These features will dramatically increase the useful life of the building.  Future maintenance will be greatly reduced from that of a typical house.


When its not rainy and gray, its really nice here. The house is designed to open up and take advantage of the mild climate, connecting interior with the exterior spaces and using natural ventilation to cool the home

The operable wall on the main floor is the most obvious element that creates a seamless transition from the living space to the decks and into the landscape beyond.

Over-sized doors, operable windows, open floor plans are combined with double height spaces to encourage breezes and natural ventilation.  Operable windows at the top of the butterfly roof create convection currents that facilitate passive cooling of the house.

A greenhouse style glass roof covers the rear deck, extending the season where the house can remain open to the outside.


In addition to being an exemplar of our Umbrella House concept, the Walsh Hollon Residence is also one of our most ambitious homes in terms of its energy efficiency.

Notable features include:

A geothermal heat exchange system by Earthheat provides both domestic hot water radiant in-floor heating,
In the summer, the heat pumps can be reversed to provide radiant cooling as well.

High density spray foam and blown-in blanket insulation provide air sealing and insulation far beyond code requirements.

A 6 kilowatt photovoltaic solar array by AR Solar is connected to the grid and feeds enough power back into the system that the house has a net-zero energy bill.

Switched outlets throughout the house (grey switches) allow owners to shut off parasitic loads from appliances, chargers, printers, and the like.

An energy monitor allows the owners to see their energy consumption in real time and analyze records on their home computer as well.

AIA NW Home House of Month. 
Sunday May 19 from noon-3pm.
6816 29th Ave NE - Seattle, WA.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Beacon Green Featured in 2013 NW Green Home Tour

360 Panorama view from the roof deck
Beacon Green, our first Courtyard Townhouse project, will be featured in the NW Green Home Tour.  The tour is this Saturday - April 27th - 11 am to 5 pm.  Project address is 1734 13th Ave S.  Tours are open to all, you just show up & join in.

Street View

The project is just finishing up with the framing, but it'll be complete enough that you can walk through the floors & see the shared courtyard and the view from the roof decks.

View of the shared central courtyard

The Seattle smart car dealership will be bringing out one of their Smart for Two models to help show the unit that will be sold with a smart car included.

For more detail about the 2013 NW Green Home Tour - See

For more detail about the units for sale & project features, see

Tour: Saturday - April 27th - 11 am to 5 pm.  Project address 1734 13th Ave S

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Home of the Month

The Walsh Hollon Residence is featured in the May issue of NW Home.  The article is here. There will be a public open house on May 19th.  Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

One Corner Two Houses

The city is studying new legislation to regulate development on small single family infill lots.  Thus far the discussion has centered around neighborhood groups proposals to dramatically limit the size of such projects, and developers attempts to create new rules that would dramatically increase the number of potential sites for such projects.  Jim Burton and I have an opinion piece in Crosscut today laying out a new idea that we hope can address the concerns of both camps while providing infill that actually improves the fabric of neighborhoods.