June 24, 2019

The city of Seattle has long been known for its vibrant culture and innovation, especially when it comes to architecture.

There are challenges when building in a region like the Pacific Northwest, however. From its heavy rainfall to earthquake risks, architects and designers have to plan for resiliency and for the future.

In Seattle’s recent history, there are a few impressive building designs that stand out, both for their aesthetic and design success. Read more to see which projects put the city of Seattle on the map.

Russell Investments Center

Russell Investments Center in Seattle.


The Russell Investments Center is the city’s sixth tallest building and stands at nearly 600 feet. The Seattle skyscraper is 42 floors tall and was originally named the WaMu Center when construction started in 2004. The impressive tower includes a Sky Garden for visitors and the expansion of the Seattle Art Museum.

The original owner of the building made an agreement with the museum: It could expand up to the 12th floor over 20 years, as needed. To support this arrangement, the architectural firm NBBJ “designed a flexible space that included a series of removable floors and mechanical systems.” This ingenious design allowed for some of the office space to be converted to museum space when needed.

The building has a perfect ENERGY STAR® rating and also features a performance-based seismic design “never before attempted in the U.S.” Featuring full-height windows and expansive views of the city, the Center is Seattle’s most energy-efficient high rise.

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Chihuly Garden and Glass.


The Wright family are owners and managers of Seattle’s iconic Space Needle, and invited Northwest artist, Dale Chihuly, to collaborate with them on a local renovation project featuring his artwork. Chihuly agreed and was “delighted with the opportunity to design an Exhibition Hall, a Garden installation and a Glasshouse in his own community. “

The highlight of the Chihuly Garden and Glass project is the Glasshouse. The glass and steel structure contains 4,500 square feet of naturally lit space: a result of Chihuly’s “appreciation for conservatories.”

The open design allows for an innovative display of Chihuly’s work, which includes a 100-foot long sculpture that shifts in appearance with natural light throughout the day.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation



The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation wanted a campus that embodied its vision for building community on local and global levels, and the result is considered highly successful in the construction industry.

This center for learning and problem-solving features a design that conserves natural resources and provides optimal indoor occupant comfort. The design emphasizes rotating office wings symbolizing the Foundation’s commitment to global outreach. The campus is the world’s largest LEED Platinum non-profit building and includes an entire two acres of living roofs and a one-million-gallon underground rainwater storage tank.

Glass is also a prominent feature in the campus design: The glass breezeway is the campus’ main circulation corridor, promoting connection between building occupants and access to the outdoors. All of the campus’ building facades feature high-glazed glass, and interior walls and fixtures are built with quality glass for optimal daylighting and energy-efficiency.

UW Medicine Research building

UW Medicine Research Building in Seattle.


The UW Medicine Research building is a seven-story facility dedicated to collaboration and creativity. The building is home to several different medical lab groups involved in kidney research, vision sciences, immunology and infectious disease investigations.

The building’s facade features a dynamic modern glass design. The outdoor space features beautifully planned landscaping, and even includes a footbridge to create the illusion of a stream flowing through the plaza.

The purpose of the building is to support the well-being of the scientists that work there. The design features plenty of space for cross-disciplinary discussion, two large seminar areas and a conference room that doubles as the “living room of the building.”

The research laboratories are considered “models for the future and a great addition to the School of Medicine’s research portfolio,” said Jill Morelli, facilities director.

Seattle City Hall

Seattle City Hall building.


To reflect Seattle’s globally recognized profile, the design of its new City Hall reflects the “civility and livability” that the city is known for. The open and transparent facade of the building reflects Seattle’s goal of an accessible city government where citizens can easily use local services.

Glass curtain walls are featured in this impressive design, which respond to solar orientation and offer views of the city and Mount Rainier. Controlling daylighting and an under-floor air distribution system helps to reduce the building’s energy consumption and make indoor comfort a priority.

The Future of Seattle Architecture: First Light



The First Light building tower is a new project from Westbank, a Canadian luxury residential and mixed-use real estate development company. Construction is expected to be complete in 2022 and includes work and retail space at its base and more than 450 luxury condominiums for purchase.

Architect James K.M. Cheng and artist John Hogan wanted to bring optimal light to the building’s design. Hogan, a Seattle-based creator who works predominantly in glass, was invited to use the building as a sort of canvas.

With exterior glass veils that cloak the building’s base and rooftop, the project isn’t just a mixed-use building: It’s an exploration of “how light and glass can create thousands of luminous sculptural moments.”

Hogan’s work will be featured in the residential lobby, roof garden, and in unique light sculptures inside each residential unit.

Looking Ahead in Seattle Design

It’s exciting to see what kind of architecture Seattle has to offer and what’s on the horizon for design in the Emerald CIty. With a growing population and demand for innovative design, we’re sure to see more impressive architecture in the years ahead.

Looking for more design ideas and glass inspiration in the Pacific Northwest? Check out the gallery of projects from MINIMAL Glass + Door before you get started on your next design.


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