Art Museums are always a labor of love by those who create them for their communities – especially when they are created, curated and then opened to the public free of charge. Charles and Emma Frye were avid art collectors and patrons of the arts, and following Charles Frye’s death in 1940, their extensive collection was gifted in perpetuity to the people of Seattle via the opening of the Frye Art Museum.
In addition to the Frye’s Founding Collection, they host a rolling calendar of exhibitions from many varieties of art, children’s storytelling hours that are augmented with art, musical concerts, classes, workshops and many other events – all free of charge. To discover what wonderful things they have scheduled this month – their 65th Anniversary – take a look at their Calendar of Events.
For a really lovely afternoon, grab lunch at the Gallery Café, tour the exhibitions and then visit the Frye Store for something gorgeous and unique to add to your own collection.
Just because the Christmas decor is put away and the festive mood of the holidays is over doesn’t mean we have to stop creating a snug and cozy home. It’s a good time to embrace winter Hygge! If you aren’t familiar with Hygge, it’s a Danish word for feeling content and cozy.
Here are seven ways to bring Hygge style comfort to your home, even during the dreariest winter month of the year!
Even if you feel like you’re lacking in the cozy department, simply addressing your lighting will make a huge difference. Layers of lighting make every room feel more welcoming. In the daytime, natural light is ideal. But for evenings, it’s nice to add a cozy glow. A good rule of thumb is to try to have a least three light sources in every room. Use a mix of table lamps, floor lamps, task lamps, and overhead lighting. Consider using warmer light bulbs for the coziest ambiance.
Your home will offer a sense of comfort when you incorporate some favorite photos of loved ones, treasured hand-me-downs, antiques or flea-market finds, eye-catching conversation starters, art that inspires you, special mementos, or simply things that make you smile.
AN INVITING AROMA
What aroma feels ‘cozy’ to you? Set the tone for your home by filling it up with winter scents that inspire you.
The coziest homes contain a variety different textures that delight the eye. Incorporate different touch-worthy materials through pillows, drapery, throw blankets, rugs, lamps, and furniture. The fabric possibilities are endless: velvet, woven, knit, embroidered, grain sack, faux fur, tweed, etc. You can also consider creating contrast with varying materials like metal, wood, glass, rattan, mirrored, painted, and more.
A PLACE TO CURL UP
Make yourself a special cozy place to relax. A reading chair will be extra cozy with some good books nearby in a basket, a lamp, a footstool, a side table to set a cup of tea, and a soft blanket you can curl up in.
A BIT OF WARMTH
Every home can benefit from warmth. No matter what your color scheme, you can add warmth through natural tones like wood, leather, jute, warm metals, etc.
A room comes to life when an organic element is incorporated into the decor. Every room can benefit from having at least one plant, bouquet of flowers, or even a sprig of greenery like eucalyptus to remind us that spring is on its way.
Hidden in South Seattle, Kubota Garden is a stunning 20 acre landscape that blends Japanese garden concepts with native Northwest plants. Master landscaper Fujitaro Kubota was a horticultural pioneer when he began merging Japanese design techniques with North American materials in his display garden in 1927. His vision has undeniably permeated the horticulture culture of the Puget Sound area and remains as one of the most enduring and beloved landscaping designs in countless home gardens.
It’s the most romantic park in the city, and still one of Seattle’s best-kept secrets. Stroll among the flowers, picnic on the lawn, or just climb up a tree for a private moment. The intimate and natural setting makes this a lovely spot for small gatherings, so don’t be surprised if you stumble upon a wedding during your visit.
Located on a hill overlooking Lake Washington in Northeast Seattle, giant pipe-like structures murmur, whistle, and howl when the wind blows through them at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration center on Sand Point Way.
Designed and built by sculptor Douglas Hollis, it is one of several art installations to be enjoyed on the NOAA campus. And if you’re wondering, the answer is yes: the Seattle band Soundgarden was named after this inspiring piece.
Visiting the NOAA campus is free, but security is tight. Make sure to bring a photo ID with you in order to get a day pass, and be prepared to have your bags searched. You also have to park your car and hike about a half mile to get to the art installations, but the walk is well worth it.
Once the site of a gravel pit, the Thomas C. Wales Park is an urban wildlife habitat and public art installation on Queen Anne. Adam Kuby’s five “Quarry Rings” that punctuate the site not only allude to the landscape’s history but create bird and nesting habitats within the park, as well. Walk the path through the park to get the best view of each of them.
Located a few blocks north of the more popular Lincoln Park in West Seattle, this little gem will not disappoint you. It is a waterfront park with about 300 feet of beach area, plus an acre of land above it with tennis courts and swings. Take a picnic lunch or launch a kayak from the water’s edge.
The interactive studio is adding dimension to architectural rendering
Like the buildings and boats that architects design, the way they share their design renderings with clients is constantly evolving.
Frank Woll has remained at the forefront of technological innovation since he began offering industrial design services in 1994 as Frank Woll Design. Recently, the company updated its name to FWD3D to reflect the latest advances. It has also been increasing its focus on projects here in the Puget Sound region.
“Our long-term immersion in technology as well as our decades working on complex projects allows us to produce, design and visualize in a unique way,” Woll told Seattle Arts & Architecture.
FWD3D is an interactive design studio for architects, real estate developers, yacht builders, and product manufacturers. The company has used drones for HD video and photography to capture landscape imagery that is then integrated in 3D renderings for commercial real estate projects. It also has several in-house 3D printers to provide rapid prototyping and modeling for client presentations.
A boon for real estate sales
The company’s latest endeavor is to combine Woll’s 3D design skills with virtual reality (VR) software to develop virtual walkthroughs that assist architects with project planning and design.
“The VR capability is really useful for commercial real estate developers who want to start pre-selling or pre-leasing even before ground is broken on the full-sized model unit,” Woll said.
The company’s design work covers a wide range of real estate projects, from townhouses to single-family residences to industrial projects like the SODO Honda/Toyota dealership.
In the early days of the company, Woll’s love of “blue water cruising” across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans was complemented by his expertise in boatbuilding and design. Advancing technology now let him provide yacht designers with 3D visualizations for presentations, whether the project was a small family sailboat or Paul Allen’s “superyacht.”
One of Seattle’s unique outdoor spectator events returns on Saturday, May 7 with the 30th Annual Windermere Cup. The Montlake Cut will be the site for the event, which immediately precedes opening festivities for Seattle Yacht Club, which in turn signal the opening of Seattle’s boating season.
This year’s historic event benefits from last year’s historic restoration of diplomatic ties with America’s Caribbean neighbor Cuba. Cuban Men’s and Women’s National Rowing Teams will be the headlining opponents. Among the homeland favorites will be the rowing men of Stanford University and women of the University of San Diego.
This is the 30th year for the Windermere Cup, which was created in 1986 by Windermere Real Estate founder John Jacobi, in partnership with the University of Washington, which is still our event co-partner along with the Seattle Yacht Club. In 1986, the goal was to bring the best team in the world to Seattle’s Montlake Cut, which at the time was the Soviets, writes Windermere’s Shelley Rossi. The Soviet Union brought its men’s and women’s crews and won both races.
It is now one of the world’s premier rowing events and a staple of Seattle’s rowing community. The Windermere Cup will include a number of events during the week leading up to race day. The Seattle Yacht Club’s Opening Day parade through the Montlake Cut will immediately follow the racing.
Currently celebrating 16 years in business, Michael says. I learn the most about design by reaching beyond practical and aesthetics qualities, to understand how a place will affect people. “I learn the most about horticulture by working with plants and understanding what conditions they need to thrive. After a while you just know what is going to work. I never approach a project with a one-size-fits-all attitude,” he insists.
“My great grand parents were big wheat farmers in Pullman, Washington. When I was growing up, mother grew geraniums from seed and spaded up the vegetable garden every spring. I learned a lot,” he recalls.
After a remodeling job gutted much of the family’s half-acre in North Seattle, Michael was given his first design project. “I had full reign”, he recalls. During the process of planning the garden, he watched as contractors build decks, patios and place rocks. “I learned more about the design and construction side of things.” He started to learn the botanical names of plants. After studying Latin for three years in high school, Michael continued on to the University of Oregon to study design and fine art.
A home on Mercer Island, after . . .
and that Mercer Island home before.
A home in Lake Samammish in need of some landscape …
And the same Lake Samammish home after work was completed.
Another view of the yard in Lake Samammish before landscaping …
Alongside a driveway in Madison Park, before landscape design . . .
And the same spot today.
The other side of the entryway in Madison Park …
And how it welcomes visitors today.
A small front yard in Greenwood seems uninviting, but …
After the design work, it's hard to pass the spot without taking a seat.
Helping Buyers, Sellers and Owners
Michael Muro and his team understand how environment and aesthetics affect buying decisions and how to maximize the value of a property. This is a great asset to Marilyn Smith Real Estate and other realtors listing homes in the Seattle area. “ I love working with Marilyn because she really gets it. She understands what we are doing and the value it brings.” People may wait to look at enhancements like landscaping until they feel the need to upgrade their property in order to list it,” Michael says. Each year, according to a 2013 Harris Interactive survey, ten percent of Americans hire professionals to dress up their properties, spending less than half what the average family spends annually on clothing, thus resulting increased curb appeal added value.
“I try to urge folks to think long term. Then they have a chance to nurture and enjoy their garden as it matures.” New construction often leaves new owners with uninspired, standardized landscaping or none at all. They want to make it their own – they want something more personal that fits their lifestyle. We feel confident recommending Michael because he looks at the big picture and makes suggestions based on the clients needs and interests.
“I focus on creating privacy,” says Muro. “Big houses, even with big yards, often are close together. My work includes creating spaces that are intimate – where people want to be.
Things to Consideration Before Landscaping
When asked about landscaping for erosion control, Michael cautions “Any slope area must be carefully assessed. There are city codes that dictate protocols based on the location and severity of the slope. For minor concerns in average garden conditions, a lot that can be done by selecting appropriate plants and ground cover.
“There are a lot of variables we consider when planning a garden. We bring a wide range of considerations to the job,” Muro says. “It is important to understand the micro climate of a site to do it justice.
Michael Muro is a member of APLD, WALP, and The Dunn Gardens Foundation, Friends of the Conservatory and the American Horticultural Society.
For more information visit michaelmuro.com or call (206) 240-0410.
Talented Seattle-based architect Robert Zimmer joined forces with acclaimed veteran Harry O. Ray to form zimmerraystudios in 2008. The company recently introduced a new website, which seemed a good time to ask Bob for a few minutes to discuss his work, his ongoing partnership, and regional architecture with Seattle Arts & Architecture.
The launch of zimmerraystudios came after Bob (left) ran his own practice for more than a decade. In the 18 years before that he was a Principal at LMN Architects. There, his design and management skills were called upon to lead numerous public projects, including convention and conference centers, cultural facilities, higher education buildings and most recently the award-winning Seattle Central Library. These usually required coordination with other prominent firms and occasionally brought him in contact with such influential and inspiring designers as Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, and the late Arthur Erickson and Charles Moore.
Harry began his career in the early 1980s in Southern Nevada and then earned Bachelor and Masters degrees at the University of Washington. It was there he developed a deep love for the Northwest and remained in Seattle for 15 years before returning to Nevada in 2002. His design work includes the first major expansion of McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, and a great deal of the subsequent airport development. During his career he has coordinated multiple-scale projects ranging from the large and long-term to the small and personal.
He has been associated with several Seattle firms including LMN, NBBJ and TRA and has worked on a variety of large-scale master plans, from a three-county public transportation center to a airport concourse expansion and the Seattle Mariners baseball stadium.
We asked Bob for a few examples of his favorite work.
"One design I call the Admiral Live-Work project (at top of page and in slideshow below) is a flexible live-work building with two dwelling units," he said. "This design can be used to create a space that will easily transform into a multi-family or commercial structure."
Front view of house mitigates the scale between single family homes (left) and multi-family structure (right)
View of back courtyard with private patio, basque of maples, and an urban garden.
Open plan living and dining spaces as seen from the kitchen
A stairway connects a flexible multi-media conference-room-by-day and home-theater-by-night to the ground level office spaces.
Careful planning accommodates energy and living enhancements and over time.
"Another is Leschi House (below), which was a redesign of an over-budget pseudo-craftsman expansion project," he said. "The promise to the owner, and challenge, was to bring the project back within budget, including design fees. In turn, the client had to agree to be open to simpler and more modern design expressions in obtaining their desired goals."
Lake Washington view out corner window of second floor master suite.
Exterior, front-of-house view of remodeled and expanded bungalow.
The third was Capital Hill House.
"This project was completed in three phases that required a master plan that would accommodate the evolution of build-outs for a growing family," Zimmer said. "The first phase was a remodel of a 1906 structure. It had been chopped into a house and illegal apartment and needed to be turned into a modern single family home. The second phase was to create a flexible backyard storage and car park structure, and the third phase was the addition of a second-story master suite."
The modernized and combined kitchen and dining (and mud room beyond) were inserted into the 1906 structure.
An original kitchen bearing wall was replaced with a new steel beam to promote openness.
The original living room corner fireplace / oil heating system was reoriented to the kitchen and modified to support a new beam, provide storage, and receive the flue of a new wood stove.
"Fourth was the Arboretum at the University of Idaho (rendering below), where we were to design a new structure emphasizing entrance to one of North America's best arboreta. The solution was entirely non-architectural. There is no structure whatsoever. Rather, we had to merge two arboreta and create a new gathering place. It was necessary that the arboreta and gathering space recall the campus origins — an Olmsted-designed green space — and finally, to extend the academic mall. This required cutting a swath through a dense, steep slope arboretum to the highest summit in the area, which is where the president’s residence is located and adjacent to the new gathering space. It would be a circulatory system that connected some of the university’s greatest physical assets."
While Zimmer's business partner is an acclaimed architect, his life-partner is the acclaimed photographer Lara Swimmer, who was our first profile. It prompted a question about the role photography plays in documenting the work of architects as well as its value for public understanding.
U of Idaho Prichard Art Gallery – IDA site-specific installation for Swimmer & Zimmer exhibit
Children’s Classroom Center - Green Valley, NV – Flexible lobby doubles as library and after-hours event space
ExOfficio HQ - Seattle – LEED Silver-certified building renovation for clothing company
Capital Area Arts and Conference Center - Olympia – Rendering of proposed center in West Bay waterfront district
Two automobile dealerships in a single, six-story facility in Seattle’s SODO industrial neighborhood
"The role of the photographer is crucial for the design architect of a building," he told us. "In as few shots as possible, the photographer must record an accurate representation of the overall concept and then, with additional photography, thoroughly document the design. An architecture firm like zimmerraystudios uses photography of its designs extensively as a record as well as for marketing material in pursuit of other commissions."
Zimmerraystudios is already working on a variety of projects that will become part of Seattle's architectural profile. One is a group of three single-family homes on a critically steep slope with shared site stabilization and utility systems, vehicular and pedestrian access and conveyance systems. (In slideshow.)
"It is a challenging project that is both 'in the woods' and relatively close to downtown Seattle with the best attributes of both rural and urban conditions," Bob said. "We call it Triple-double House because each of the three structures is comprised of two units – a primary residence and an accessory dwelling unit. The entire development is unified by a site-stabilizing base of shared parking and a pedestrian entrance/hill climb. All six dwelling units are accessible by means of a terraced concourse and the entire circulation system is served by a single elevator and common stair system. While all three homes employ the same structural systems, they all exploit particular site attributes resulting in very different characteristics and experiences for their inhabitants."
A one-week concept study reveals the property’s potential and imparts design inspiration.
Three distinct two-unit homes with shared parking, vertical circulation and structural systems that capitalize on site attributes
View of central Garden Villa shows relationship to slope site and private views of landscape and living walls of the adjacent homes
Fully accessible Forest Lawn dwelling takes advantage of zero-lot-line side yard with naturally forested, steep-slope street right-of-way protected from "improvements"
The northernmost City View home boasts five floors for younger urban dwellers unafraid of stairs
Seattle Arts & Architecture will be following Bob and Harry's ongoing projects and updating this story as designs are completed. To check out their website, click zimmerraystudios.
Hollywood Art Director and Set Decorator Beth De Sort Re-Visualizes Staging
Re-purposing and re-vitalize client’s furnishings with a fresh look for the market-ready home!
While still working in Film Production, Beth De Sort‘s path towards staging real estate is a natural transition for re-vitalizing real estate properties. Having worked on many locations using the existing furniture, she utilizes the pieces in a different configuration breathing new life into the environment. The end result is a re-imagining of the space, which she augments with additional pieces and design elements. Beth consults on color and will redefine the client’s palette with an enriching design aesthetic.
Born and raised in Chicago and growing up in Los Angeles, Beth entered the world of movie making after attending Otis Parsons School of Design in Los Angeles and Film School at San Francisco State University. She has Art Directed and Decorated over 150 commercials, several films and television series. She has a keen design sensibility and is a sought after Set Decorator in the film business. She fell in love with the PNW while working on two different TV pilots in Portland and the subsequent 1994 Seattle series “Medicine Ball”. In 2015, the Art Director’s Guild nominated her for Set Decoration for a Diehard commercial.
Beth continues thriving in both mediums. A few of her influences are Oscar Niemeyer, A. Quincy Jones, Eva Zeisel, Julius Shulman, Arne Jacobsen, Harry Bertoia, Josep Jujol, Jan Davidsz. De Heem, Mary Colter, Vivienne Westwood, etc etc. Beth maintains a residence in Washington Park and frequently journeys to Los Angeles!
If Beth can make hell freeze over, she certainly can re-vamp your home for the hot hot hot real estate market!
Contact Beth directly, by email or on her mobile phone at 310-625-4282.
GRANDDAUGHTER ALICE SPEERS ON SEATTLE’S PIONEERING ARCHITECT
When 14-year-old Ellsworth Storey walked onto the grounds of the 1893 Columbia Exposition in his native Chicago, it was to see the future of urban development and architectural innovation.
Instead, he saw his own future.
The Exposition’s stately white buildings so impressed young Storey that he decided to become an architect. A few years later, while attending the University of Illinois, he toured Europe and the Middle East with his family and was inspired further.
In 1903, he graduated, married and moved to Seattle. He built two homes in the Denny Blaine neighborhood overlooking Lake Washington, one for his parents, and another for himself, wife Phoebe and daughters Eunice and Priscilla, who followed shortly after.
Storey would create buildings large and small, public and private, and in the process define what became known as “regionalism” or “the Northwest style.” Among the signature features of his work are extensive use of local materials, distinctive window treatments, multiple rooflines, projecting eaves, dark-stained exteriors, and the incorporation of elements from the Arts and Crafts concepts developed by fellow-Chicagoan Frank Lloyd Wright. One can clearly see echoes of Swiss building concepts he witnessed on that trip to Europe.
He died in 1960, but not before making a lasting impression on his granddaughter, Alice Speers, one of Priscilla’s three children.
“My own memories of our grandfather include his love for word play, his fondness for using some French phrases, and his constant tending and tinkering with fire – mostly in the fireplace,” Speers said recently.
A mother of two and former admissions officer for Lewis & Clark Law School, Speers fondly recalled a favorite memory of her mother’s.
“She told me about going with her father to the backyard with their easels and drawing materials,” she said. “The view overlooks Lake Washington and Mt. Rainier. She remembered her father helping her learn about perspective on that occasion.
“He was sometimes more interested in the architectural look of a space than in practicality,” Speers continued. “In his own home he did not design a closet in the master bedroom, and my grandmother Phoebe had to insist that he include space for their clothing!”
Between 1913 and 1916, Storey built a number of cottages on Colman Park in Mt. Baker now owned and managed by Speers and her older sister Kathleen, a retired psychiatric nurse, and her brother David, an electronics engineer.
“In 2014, the family collaborated with Historic Seattle to hold a centennial celebration of the Ellsworth Storey Cottages,” she said. “My siblings and I continue to own and manage these small homes as long-term rentals. Most tenants have occupied their cottages for many years and are permitted to alter the interiors with permission, but because the cottages are on the Historic Register, the exteriors cannot be altered.”
In Editor Jeffrey Karl Ochsner’s Shaping Seattle Architecture: A Historical Guide to the Architects (1994), Grant Hildebrand writes that “the cottages, together with the Evans house and the two Storey houses, have been most influential for later designers, perhaps because, in their fresh underivative forms and their thoughtfully imaginative use of simple local materials, they have been seen as Storey’s most original interpretations of the nature of building in the Puget Sound region.”
Speers made her own contribution to the Northwest, chairing the Environmental Commission of the Episcopal Church in western Oregon for 15 years. Currently her focus is on her garden, the family’s cottage industry, and her grandfather’s legacy.
The new storefront for Norberry Tile and Plumbing Studio
Silver tile used for Salty's kitchen
A beautiful counter backsplash.
Chatham 1 bath shown in Nero Marquina and Thassos.
The kitchen of a Mediterranean home
Bathrooms of a Mediterranean home and at the Seattle Art Museum
A TILE ARTISAN ADDS HIGH-END PLUMBING FOR HIS NEW RETAIL STORE
I’ve known Craig Norberg for many years. His Norberry Tile has been producing high-end, custom-designed tiling for houses since 1997.
On May 21, Craig will again have a retail outlet. It’s been a few years since the closing of his location in the Seattle Design Center. Prior to that he had been on 2nd Avenue S. in Pioneer Square.
But anyone who knows Craig’s creativity and attention to detail and service will be heartened to hear he’ll soon be opening a full retail operation at 1400 31st Ave S. in Leschi, where he’s maintained a small office since leaving the Design Center. I’m very familiar with this spot because it’s near my house, on a super sweet street with two restaurants, two coffee shops, two gyms and now his store.
On my neighborhood walks, I’ve been able to check his progress through the front window and recently decided it would be fun to contact him for a Seattle Arts & Architecture profile and get the full story on how he got to this point and what lies ahead.
Ambivalent about architecture
“I felt destined for architecture,” said the 48-year-old Norberg, “and planned to major in it at college until Bill Pederson, of Kohn Pederson Fox, detected some ambivalence and asked if my heart was really in it.”
That reality check was pivotal as Craig instead pursued a general liberal arts degree and upon graduation decided to follow his real passion: hands-on work designing tile for the design-build market.
“What I wanted to do was bring back the kind of beautiful materials that had all but disappeared,” he told me. “I felt this would be doing something positive for the industry. I thought it might be short term and then I’d get on with architecture, but for me, the tile industry became like Hotel California, ‘You can check in but you can’t check out.'”
At 27 he became the youngest tile salesperson at a newly opened Waterworks in Manhattan, the company’s first showroom outside of Connecticut.
“Working at Waterworks gave me a real understanding of the importance of quality design as well as how to brand a business.”
It was then that Craig headed back to Seattle where his father, Doug Norberg, was a commercial developer with Wright Runstad and Co. He began providing sustainable materials to Wright Runstad’s LEED-driven projects, and soon Norberry Tile was born.
“The concept was to bring craft and design back to construction with a sophisticated pallet of hard surfaces for architects and designers,” he said.
“We became the go-to hard surface provider for King County’s publicly funded commercial buildings. You can still see the experimental, sustainable surfaces we installed on on elevator lobbies in the King Street Station at 2nd and Jackson.”
Other public installations where Norberry Tile’s work can be seen are The Raw Bar at Salty’s, Seattle Art Museum and the original Restaurant Zoe.
Craig, who has lectured at Historic Seattle events, continues to represent tile and period hard surfaces for Historic Seattle fundraisers and Seattle’s Preservation Guild among others. He is co-chair of the Mount Baker neighborhood’s Home Tour, which has been held every other year since the 1970s to raise funds for the oldest sustaining clubhouse in Seattle.
Brand new branding
Now Norberry Tile is back with a retail location that will also serve as a teaching studio for design. But there’s a twist. The new location on 31st Ave. S is called Norberry Tile and Plumbing Studio.
“Elijah Farrell has been brought on as the plumbing guru,” Craig explained. “His extensive experience selling for Keller Supply, along with his reputation for customer service, has made him a favorite salesperson among many vendors. He’s going to help solidify Norberry’s position in both the tile and plumbing industries.
“Together, we will make Norberry a vehicle to create exceptional environments with beautiful custom tile walls, floors and counters,” he continued. “And we’ll accent that with top-of-the-line faucets, curbless showers and steam room solutions. I’m stoked that we have acquired three top U.S. tile lines: Blue Slide Art Tile out of Pt. Reyes, California; Antiquities in Maine; and L’Esperance in New York state.”
To learn more about Norberry Tile and Plumbing Studio, visit their website. And to keep up with Craig’s latest news, subscribe to his blog.
After studying film theory and media at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School and then at the Sorbonne’s Center for Film and Critical Studies in Paris, Lara Swimmer visited Berlin in 1992 and was inspired by the architectural revival brought on by German reunification.
“There was construction and deconstruction everywhere,” she told Sunset magazine in 2005. “It felt like a staging ground for something really big. There was the sense of history in the air.”
When she had left for Europe, besides having edited her (Bush High School) yearbook and taken filmmaking and fine art photography at Penn’s Graduate School of Fine Art, she’d not seriously considered photography as a career. Now she was returning to Seattle with new perspectives and the skill to capture them. She began her ascent through the ranks of architectural photographers, opening her own studio in 1996 and soon having work exhibited locally, then nationally and internationally. Her photographs have appeared in numerous books and periodicals including Metropolis, Architect, Architectural Record, Wallpaper* and The New York Times and she has collaborated with local publisher Documentary Media on over five books, recently on INSPIRED: Churches of Seattle.
An air of history. Swimmer’s photographs engage viewers with color and composition, but reward even a casual glance with detailed information. These are artistic documents that capture buildings, homes, schools, or other facilities in our time and hold them for all time.
“Photography, specifically very fine-tuned architectural photography, is necessary in not only showcasing a particular residence or multifamily property, but also in simply creating 2D representations of physical localities that the average consumer cannot access in person, in a timely manner,” she told Seattle Arts & Architecture. “In other words, without the imagery, the building may as well not exist.
“A knowledge of architecture often must take place without direct contact with the building,” she added. “And therefore clean, realistic photography comes into play as the medium behind the message.”
As both documentarist and collaborator, Swimmer is not just preserving a project but also representing the work of the talented architects, designers and construction teams responsible for it.
“Favorite building types to shoot are, first and foremost, public and regional libraries and university libraries, for everything they represent,” said Swimmer, who was made an honorary member of the AIA (American Institute of Architects) Seattle in 2005. “Art museums and installations are next, and last but not least are well designed, well-built and geographically well-situated residential projects. I also do a lot documentation of historic preservation.”
Some of the civic renovation projects she has photographed include Seattle’s Paramount Theater, Union Station and Key Arena, and she has worked with Seattle Symphony, Experience Music Project, Tacoma and Bellevue Art Museums, the Seattle Central Library, Seattle Art Museum, Olympic Sculpture Park, Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and, currently, the Urban Outfitters campus at the historic Philadelphia Naval Shipyards.
Swimmer is presently scheduling photography on the newly completed Union Stables project on Western Avenue for architects Weinstein AU, who did the shell and core and historic preservation portion, along with builder Lease Crutcher Lewis, developer Allergra Properties, and Miller Hull Partnership, who did interior spaces.
“We are installing a permanent print exhibit in the lobby, which will hold an opening reception on April 23 from 4:30 to 5:30,” she said. “I’m also scheduled to shoot to branch libraries in Louisville, Kentucky in April and a botanical gardens project in Naples, Florida in June.”
To view more examples of Lara Swimmer’s work or to contact her directly, visit her website.
THE APPRECIATIVE EYE
Here are three shots in which Swimmer has resolved a key photographic challenge. With SafeCo Field, every floodlight and fluorescent, which the human eye will balance automatically but a camera cannot, has been carefully brought into harmony so that a rich Seattle dusk can frame the building.
SafeCo Field, Seattle
In each of the residential photographs below there are a variety of environments with individual demands. Again, she balances indoor and outdoor light as well as natural and artificial sources to create a singular composition that does not sacrifice richness of tone and color.
The Seattle landscape is filled with both fine art and architecture. Much of the artwork is available to enjoy in public spaces throughout the city. Here are a few images of some of my favorites, along with recent stories by reporters, bloggers, and the artists themselves.
Top: Linda Thomas wrote about these in a tongue in cheek article called I Don’t Get It
Center: An Examiner story details some of the best places to see free public art in Seattle.
Bottom: A smaller version of this alien-looking item was what once was used to “undo” typing. Read more at Real Clear Arts.