Expedia on the waterfront

On a lovely September afternoon we took a walk along a recently improved part of the waterfront, adjacent to Expedia’s new headquarters.

Expedia Campus aerial rendering of the finished project

Expedia Group took over the 40-acres campus from Amgen, when that bio-technology company moved out of state. There’s parking for 2300 cars, but Expedia wants most of those stalls to remain empty on work days, offering free Orca cards and other incentives to keep employees from making single-occupant vehicle trips into Seattle.

At this point the building renovations (Amgen had biology research labs) have been completed, Expedia is moving into the buildings in phases, and the surrounding landscape treatments are being completed. A portion of the public improvements, including walking and bicycle paths and shoreline treatments have been provided as part of the project.

Expedia group’s head of global real estate said when Amgen left, they jumped at the chance to take it over. “We worked with our landscape architects to create just a brilliant experience. We purposefully challenged what corporate interiors might be,” said Mark Nagle, Expedia Group’s Vice President for Global Real Estate.

The Amgen complex was very private , but Expedia really opened it up, so that employees have a great view out to Elliott Bay and all those cruise ship customers they serve, plus people running the waterfront trail have a chance to see onto the new campus.

This also provided the vantage points from which we could see everything.

We parked in the ground level of the Expedia garage – space provided as a public benefit – and started along the new paths.

New Expedia headquarters and shoreline bicycle path

The new paths offer gracious landscape separations between bicycles and pedestrians as well as establishing a green framework for the Expedia campus.

Shoreline walking path

Occasional seating provides viewing of cruise ship operations (but not this season). Towards the “corner” of the site, the designers have introduced a “hill” as a conscious viewing point.

Viewing Hill

A gravel side path eases up the north flank, offering accessible access to the viewing point at the top, from which the harbor and Mt Rainier come into view.

On the south side of the hill, facing this view (and sunshine) a stepping set of stone and grass terraces offer places to sit and take everything in. The rugged landscaping, composed of rocks, logs and a variety of grasses is all an intentional component of the project.

The other flank has a bit more rugged quality as it faces the water and periodic tide and wave intrusion.

This hill also allowed us to see how Expedia had revised the original Amgen approach, and how the new facility sits adjacent to the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 86 – Grain Facility. It’s not the most felicitous relationship; but Expedia was working with a lot of constraints.

A little farther down the trail, we could look back “into” the center of the complex.

Expedia Headquarters from the shoreline

In the view above, the white elements on the right comprise the portion built by Amgen, though they have been significantly altered in character. The large glassy element on the left is a totally new building added by Expedia – close-up below.

This building, with its Jenga-like stacked floors, creates an almost total contrast to the earlier buildings and to the landscaping improvements. It’s pretty obvious that this is intentional. The landscaping between this building and the shoreline pays homage to typical Northwest beach environments – strewn with logs interlaced with rugged grasses.

It appears that this approach is partly aesthetic and partly functional – in the sense that in the event of high water storm events, some flooding could occur in this area.

The next portion of the project was mysterious, though I’m sure there must have been a programmatic requirement.

In dramatic contrast to the nearby grain silos, a small facility (conference area?) has been built with a sharp-edged roof and rusted steel fencing.

We continued a bit farther down the path towards the grain terminal.

The grain is unloaded from railroad hopper cars on the far side of the silos, stored in them until needed, and then transferred by the diagonal conveyor to the dock where the cargo ships wait.

Of course, our Space Needle guardian tower anchors the center of the view.

The photogenic qualities of the operation are undeniable.

A little closer to the terminal we came on a small rain garden developed by the Port to help manage water and potential contamination running from the site to the harbor.

This includes, of course, an explanation of what you’re seeing, since rain gardens by themselves don’t stand out in any unusual way.

Finally, the reward for working your way past the grain terminal is an expansive view of the harbor and Mt Rainier.

Not a bad way to finish off the walk.

Queen Anne 2020 Farmers Market

2020 Farmers Market sign

Thursday, May 28, the Queen Anne Farmers Market opened its 2020 season, operating for the first time under Corona virus social constraints.

With help from the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), Matt Kelly, Director of the Market worked out a plan that would allow shoppers and farmers to all have a safe experience. This produced an L-shaped market plan, incorporating one block of West Crockett Street and a portion of adjoining 1st Avenue West, next to McClure Middle School.

In addition, all of the vendor booths were arrayed along just one side of each street, and were separated from each other by 10′ of open space. Customer flow ran one-way through the market, starting near the entrance to the Queen Anne Pool and working its way north and then east to the exit, adjacent to Queen Anne Avenue.

The market staff metered entrance to the shopping zone to control the total number of shoppers in the area at any one time. This required a waiting line, with appropriate social distancing.

waiting line

Chalk X’s on the sidewalk marked the required 6′ spacing.

Signs adjacent to the waiting line explained the rules

Other signs outlined the range of vendor participation.

A staff attendant talked by phone with another person at the exit to determine when and how many people to let in.

This person stood at the junction of the regular waiting line and the line for people who had placed preorders for pickup.

Good graphics in the shopping zone made things easy to understand.

And the openness of the space (in contrast to typical prior years) made it easy to see each vendor and the variety of produce.

Many shoppers wore masks, and some also wore gloves. For those without gloves, hand sanitizer was provided near both the entrance and exit.

At each vendor booth, social distancing for people waiting their turn had been marked out on the pavement, in this case where local Council-member Andrew Lewis in the blue jacket is illustrating how to wait one’s turn to buy flowers. He rang the bell to help open the market.

It appears in the photo above, that the booth is blocking the crosswalk; but crosswalk traffic had been rerouted to an adjacent corner. In addition, circulation for general pedestrian traffic had been clearly maintained on sidewalks around the perimeter of the market (below at McClure school).

For the first market day in this new format, a reasonable number and variety of vendors were present; but the layout did produce a somewhat less vibrant than normal atmosphere.

That will likely change as the market kicks into gear in June and July and more people become aware of how easy it is to shop. One major difference that could immediately be felt was that the familiar food trucks and community dining table were not in place. It’s possible that some of them will return in August; but Matt Kelly says that will need to be worked out with SDOT as social distancing requirements evolve over the summer.

Market staff made sure that shoppers’ questions were answered and also monitored the social distancing as required.

Other staff controlled the exit point to Queen Anne Avenue and the flow of customers, and then let the entry point staff know to let more people in.

It was overall a calm, safe and positive first day opening. It will be interesting to see how things develop as summer really kicks into gear and we move into phases 2 and 3 of the civic reopening.

Seattle Asian Art Museum

On a recent trip we ventured across town to take in the latest incarnation of SAM, the Seattle Art Museum, in its original, Volunteer Park Home.

SAAM Main Entrance

The Seattle Asian Art Museum is located inside Volunteer Park in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. Part of the Seattle Art Museum, the SAAM occupies the 1933 Art Deco building (designed by Carl F. Gould of the architectural firm Bebb and Gould and listed on the National Register of Historic Places) which was originally home to the Seattle Art Museum’s main collection.

The Seattle Art Museum was founded in 1933 by Richard E. Fuller, a collector of Asian art. Local history sources describe Dr. Fuller’s evolution: “A man who sought to use his skills and resources to serve his community, Dr. Richard E. Fuller (1897–1976) acted as Director of the Seattle Art Museum from its founding in 1933 until 1973. His passion for Asian art, at a time when its importance was not yet fully acknowledged in this country, was ignited in childhood by his mother’s “cabinet of curiosities,” full of the treasures she collected in her own youthful travels in Asia. Together with his mother, Mrs. Eugene (Margaret Elizabeth MacTavish) Fuller, Dr. Fuller built for Seattle one of the premier collections of Asian art in the United States”.

Dr. Fuller and his mother, Mrs. Margaret E. MacTavish Fuller at the main entrance

In recent decades, public appreciation and understanding of Asian art has increased greatly. On the occasion of the museum’s 80th anniversary this year, 2020, the exhibition, A Fuller View of China, Japan, and Korea is both a tribute and a celebration of Dr. Fuller’s legacy and special recognition of SAM’s sustained efforts in collecting and researching Asian art. It was this exhibit that we went to see and experience.

The museum occupies a dramatic site in Volunteer Park at the top of Capitol Hill.

View of downtown Seattle and Puget Sound from above Volunteer Park (courtesy of LMN Architects)

A walk around the exterior reveals the ways in which the formal Art Deco building has been expanded to serve its more contemporary mission.

SAAM Main Entrance

Formal and decorative, the original museum presents both a simple and complex expression towards its site. The bulk of the building, clad in sandstone, stands as a fortress in the lush wooded Volunteer Park site; but the entrance clearly signals that something rich and complex can be found on the inside. At the same time, though, a pair of camels poke a bit of whimsy into all of this seriousness.

SAAM Camel

From the rear of the museum, which projects out into a more landscaped setting, the more modern and contemporary expression of the building becomes clear.

SAAM Park side

Whereas the original museum provided an almost exclusively interior experience, the latest incarnation reaches out and draws light in – and this approach also reflects the way in which the collection is experienced. The museum adopted the idea of showing its artworks as a series of thematic groupings rather than historic periods; and Seattle architects, LMN, carried this idea into the design of the addition to the building. Below, for example, is the way in which the new glass box above looks from the inside, drawing some of the park visually into the display areas and allowing the light quality to change all day long.

SAAM looking to the park

This drama presents its own display challenges of course, in that the constantly changing natural light qualities may, or may not, effectively show off the art.

SAAM – Camel and 3 vases

I personally really enjoyed the interplay between these forms, their decorative surfaces and the complex tree forms in the background; but I can understand that others might find all of that texture distracting. The benefit of the space, though, is that it’s open to experiment in finding various ways for the artworks to tell their stories.

But to begin again at the beginning, the decorative doors bring you in.

Momentarily, the grand scale of the entrance gives way to the smaller scale activities of ticketing and gift shop in a space that seems too small to be a museum introduction.

SAAM Entrance Lobby

As originally configured, in the 1930’s, this small lobby needed only to provide space for circulation, with ticketing and a coat room off to the side. In today’s museum world, the many ‘public’ needs have to compete for space.

In a somewhat abrupt but very dramatic way the lobby gives way, up a short flight of stairs, to the dramatic center courtyard and its electronic sky art.

“Kenzan Tsutakawa-Chinn: Gather” – looking back toward the entrance lobby.

The severe formal quality of the space has been here from the beginning so the somewhat severe electronic sky art fits right in. On either side, formal doorways and gates give access to the interior gallery spaces to each side.

The gates, painted black act almost as a language against the sandstone.

At the far end of the space from the lobby, a small pool and sculpture offer some focus and a welcome to the brightly day-lighted circulation spaces beyond.

Up close, the small scale draws you in; but I think that this particular piece struggles to “hold its own” against the drama of the large court.

Leaving the courtyard and moving along the new glass hallway leads to the major, new, stunning contemporary gallery and its current show, BE / LONGING, dominated by a piece called “SomeOne” by Do Ho Suh, a Korean-born artist.

SomeOne by Do Ho Suh

He describes the work as, “an assignment at the Rhode Island School of Design – to express identity through clothing – made him think about ‘my identity as a Korean in the United States’.” SAAM Notes – I thought the number of overlaying images and symbols of this piece, including its enigmatic name, really drew to enjoy it at multiple scales.

SomeOne – rear view

“Recalling his two-year mandatory service in the Korean military, Suh built a garment out of thousands of dog tags, soldiers’ IDs that reduce individual lives to a handful of letters and numbers. The sculpture, taking the shape of an Asian armor, embodies a recurring theme for Suh: the relationship of the individual to the larger society.” SAAM Notes

SomeOne – dogtag detail

The overall theme of this exhibit was explained nearby:

The variety of work in this gallery was impressive. Here are a few examples.

“Yuka” from the My Grandmothers series

Miwa Yanagi’s staged photographs offer a collision of East and West, present and future. for this series, the artist interviewed Japanese girls aged fourteen to twenty and asked them to imagine themselves in fifty years’ time. This photograph of a spirited couple speeding across the Golden Gate Bridge was based on the vision of a girl named Yuka, who saw herself as a carefree “grandma” living “somewhere far, far away” with her playboy lover. SAAM notes – I really liked the way this piece expressed a desire with which I have no experience.

Villagers – stoneware – Akio Takamori

Growing up in postwar Japan, Akio Takamori was exposed to a wide range of people through his father’s medical clinic, which was located near a red-light district. Years later, as a mature artist working in Seattle, Takamori recalled his childhood experiences by creating communities of individuals with carefully crafted identities, such as this group of villagers. SAAM Notes – I liked the folk quality of this work; but in this gallery full of big, provocative pieces it felt a bit overwhelmed and hard to get close to.

Villagers – stoneware – Akio Takamori – detail
Family Tree – Zhang Huan

When he lived in New York City from 1998 to 2006, the Chinese artist Zhang Huan staged many provocative performances. In one, documented in these nine photographs, his face was progressively inscribed with words from ancient Chinese divination, which predicts the future based on one’s facial features. The text gradually obscures Zhang’s features until the words are lost and his face is completely covered with black ink. Instead of revealing his fate, the words conceal his identity . . .SAAM Notes – It would be interesting to hear how someone of Chinese culture would interpret this.

Bewitched – Arctic – Jung Yeondoo

Who I am is not always who I want to be. A young girl working at Baskin Robbins in Seoul dreams of going to the Arctic. The artist helped her realize her dream in the photographs. He photographed her twice; once in her daily job at the ice cream shop, wearing a pink apron and sweeping the floor, and again transported to an Arctic-like snowy place, dressed in a fur coat and fur pants. SAAM Notes

Bewitched – Baskin Robbins – Jung Yeondoo
Tooba – Shirin Neshat

In this two-channel video installation, Shirin Neshat stages a symbolic tale of tension and transcendence set in a world blending memory and imagination. She explores her identity as Iranian, as female, and as emigree. Inspired by the novel Women without Men by Iranian writer Shahrnoush Parsipour, Tooba (meaning “tree of paradise”) revolves around a feminine tree described in the Qur’an. Especially for Sufis, this tree symbolizes peace, nourishment, and hope. SAAM Notes.

It’s difficult to convey in one photo, the eerie quality of this portrayal of people moving through the desert to a tree surrounded by a wall with no sound or music and shown on two opposing screens at the same time, but intentionally not in sync. Experiential !

Colored Vases – Ai Weiwei

The Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei is know for provocative art that challenges the status quo. In this work, one from his iconoclastic oeuvre, he gathered a group of supposedly ancient earthenware vases and coated them with modern industrial paint. Covered with new paint, what is underneath – like history itself – is “no longer visible, but is still there.” SAAM Notes. – Hard to say if this was more provocative or spoofing, compared to other work of his that I’ve seen.

I really like the presence of this large gallery as a key part of the museum, and the way, with this inaugural exhibition, the museum has signaled its intention to use it to convey thematic ideas from Asian artists. I don’t know if future shows will be all contemporary like this one or not; but I don’t think that’s the point. The point is to explore ideas about Asian art and may very well go off in a variety of directions – something I would look forward to.

In the meantime, we also wandered through some of the older galleries and looked at the ways in which many of their works had been gathered into thematic groupings. A few of these will give you the idea.

Four Deities

These were four of a larger group of Buddhas of different cultures. It was not possible to tell if they had originally been part of full statues, though it appears that way. It’s remarkable how distinctive they are and yet at the same time they all convey a similar expression.

SAAM has a number of wonderful screens in its collection.

Kinkishoga (The Four Accomplishments) – Kano Takanobu

This one is called Kinkishoga – the four accomplishments being, playing the zither (kin) and the game go (ki), practicing calligraphy (sho) and appreciating painting (ga), seen to be the activities of a cultivated Chinese scholar-gentleman. After having been appropriated in Japan, this subject was popular for door panels and folding screens during the 15th and 16th centuries. It saw some variations, such as in the rightmost panel here, where a Daoist immortal story was added – SAAM Notes

I looked at each panel individually.

Calligraphy Art
playing go
Playing the Zither
Daoist Immortal Story

Pretty fascinating to see each of these activities up close and so beautifully rendered. Of course, they represent key aspects of life for cultured gentleMEN and do not pretend to present what life was like for people in general.

Rakuchu rakugai zu (Scenes in and around the Capital) – Edo period (1603-1868)

In this pair of screens, seasonal outings and festivals in the old capital, Kyoto, are depicted at famous landmarks or scenic spots.

Rakuchu rakugai zu (Scenes in and around the Capital) – Edo period (1603-1868)

In the center of this (righthand) screen, the city’s most important festival, Gion Matsuri, is shown. It started as an event to appease the god of good health and end a plague in the 9th century. Today, thousands of people participate in this annual festival to pray for good health. SAAM Notes

Given the ferocious quality of our current coronavirus, we may need an annual festival ourselves – or perhaps a thousand-armed bodhisattva to intercede for us.

Thousand-armed, eleven-headed Guanyin – China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644)

Guanyin, or “one who hears the prayers of the world,” is the embodiment of compassion. He is the most popular of the many celestial bodhisattvas, or compassionate guides, of Buddhism. With multiple arms and heads, this work signifies Guanyin’s infinite powers and immeasurable reach. The teachings and ritual formulas of esoteric or tantric branches of Buddhism were secret; they held hidden meanings that could be unlocked only with initiation and a teacher’s guidance. Yet theses traditions spread widely from India to Tibet, Mongolia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and the East Asian countries of China, Korea, and Japan. SAAM Notes

And for those of you who want to check on the number of arms, here’s a close-up to get you started.

Thousand-armed, eleven-headed Guanyin – China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644) – detail

I didn’t see a ‘collection’ of clothing per se, but there were definitely a few exquisite pieces; and I know that the museum has a striking kimono collection.

Imperial Robe – 18th to early 19th century – China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911)

As with many pieces in the museum’s collection, this one was donated, by Henry and Mary Ann James, on the 75th Anniversary of the museum.

And, in the spirit of some of the earlier part of Dr. Fuller’s collection, here’s a terra cotta gentleman wishing you a good day and hoping you come for another visit.

Or, visit the Seattle Asian Art Museum on line at: http://www.seattleartmuseum.org/