The Exceptional, Everyday Architecture of Seattle, Washington
Seattle, Washington is a place like no other, nestled between the salt waters of Puget Sound and the fresh waters of Lake Washington, in the most northwestern state of our great nation. With a population of over 700,000, Seattle easily triples the next largest city in Washington state in terms of people, with an amazing array of different architectural home styles, many of which take their inspiration from Seattle’s iconic buildings, sweeping natural vistas, culture or history.
Here are some architectural styles you’ll see on more everyday houses around the city:
Seattle has the distinction of being a city with its own special architectural style, named in honor of its local take on the classic foursquare house design. Seattle Boxes rose to prominence in the 1900’s and became so popular that some neighborhoods like Seattle’s Capitol Hill community feature almost nothing else. Like a standard classic box design, these two story homes feature four rooms downstairs including a foyer, dining room, large kitchen and living room, then four bedrooms upstairs. Seattle Boxes earn their distinction though by adding massive bay windows upstairs that extend out over the first floor with a single, large dormer window jutting out of the center of the top floor.
Seattle’s iconic Space Needle isn’t this city’s only example of futuristic architecture designed to capture the spirit and imagination of buildings of tomorrow. Unlike the squared corners and sharp lines of some classical homes, futuristic architecture makes use metallic and glass surfaces with long, curved lines that convey a sense of motion and fluidity. Neighborhoods like Washington Park in east central Seattle offer several examples of homes that merge futuristic design and function.
From the 1940s to 1970s, the Pacific Northwest region was overtaken by a style that is now known as “Mid-Century Modern Architecture,” recognized by its use of open floor plans, modern aesthetics, and large windows, designed to bring as much natural light inside as possible. The Dowell residence, in the heart of Seattle’s Seward Park, is a perfect example of this movement, with its open atrium and cedar-lined walls of windows.
Known for having a heavy masonry base, Roman arches, and different architectural details on each floor, this architectural style is one of Seattle’s oldest, with examples dating back to the 1850s in neighborhoods like Pioneer Square in downtown Seattle. The Romanesque movement drew its inspiration from Roman styled designs that were increasing popular in medieval Europe, which featured almost a castle-like look that included gothic arches, thick stonework, expansive entryways, and conical-roofed towers that might be round or square in design.
Although Seattle certainly doesn’t have exclusive rights to the ever-popular bungalow, they certainly made an impression on this city and helped to usher in a wave of social change in the region. Popular from the early 1900s to the 1940s, Bungalows were embraced by families seeking to shrug off the perceived stuffiness of the Tudor and Victorian styles that were popular with older generations of the time. Bungalows heralded a less-formal living style with open, interior spaces and deep porches on which families could sit and talk to their neighbors. Seattle’s neighborhoods of Wallingford and Ravenna are renowned for their collection of bungalows, home to many growing families over the years.
The elegant Queen Anne style became popular in cities across America from the 1880s to 1910, with their distinctively steep yet irregular roofs, patterned shingles, wrap around L-shaped porch, dormer windows, gables and arches. This style embraced the excesses of decorative features, drawing from Victorian, Tudor and Romanesque styles. The affluent Seattle neighborhood of Queen Anne Hill was named in reference to the numerous examples of Queen Anne architecture used in many of its earliest homes.