Seattle’s skyline has undergone dramatic changes in the last 100 years. It has gone from being dominated by hills and church steeples to boasting the headquarters of the world’s major corporations and banks.
During the early twentieth century, Seattle’s skyline sat in the shadows of Capitol and First Hill. Most notable was the Smith Tower. Complete in 1914, Smith Tower was the tallest skyscraper west of the Mississippi until 1931. The skyline was also dominated by the King Street Station Clock Tower and the steeples of the St. James Cathedral on top of Capitol Hill.
Built in the boom years of the 1980s, the modern skyscrapers hide most of these sights. Most notable among these skyscrapers are the towers built for Washington Mutual prior to its collapse in the 2008 financial crises.
The first of these towers was completed in 1988 and featured art-deco style decorations, soaring arches and sculpted roofs. You can see this tower in the middle of the sketch. Washington Mutual completed and moved into a second tower in 2006. Unlike the 80s Washington Mutual Tower, the 2007 tower uses clean, contemporary lines and a transparent aesthetic.
Another notable tower in the Seattle skyline is the Columbia Center on the far right of the drawing. The Columbia Center was completed in 1985 and reaches 967 feet above the ground, making it the tallest building in Seattle.
My favorite building in the Seattle Skyline is the Safeco Center. It is affectionately know as the deodorant building because of its distinctive green dome. It is in the middle of the sketch towards the front of the city’s skyline.
This drawing mostly shows the 1980′s Seattle skyline. Recent construction in the Belltown and Denny Triangle Neighborhoods to accommodate the expanding downtown population and the Amazon headquarters has added new towers to the skyline. Construction of the new sports arenas for the Seahawks and Mariners in the late 90s and early 2000s has also changed the city’s skyline profile.
Through it all, Seattle continues to maintain several skyline highlights. The Smith Tower has maintained its prominence, if not its height record, with its distinctive architecture and observation dome that glows green at night. While the city’s hills are now lost behind the towers, the Cascade Mountains still loom like a rocky tidal wave on sunny days. Most importantly, the Space Needle continues to hold its place as Seattle’s chief land mark. I hope that Seattleites will continue to maintain these important landmarks while experimenting with new urban forms.
Seattle Skyline by Logan Bingle is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.