The Devils and Details of Belltown


[ Site 17 North, at Western Ave. and Wall St. in Belltown ]

I like it. Because, unlike Belltown Court (see previous post), there is life and vision in its design, from the massing and form, down to the detailing.

A big reason why so many people react negatively to new development is the lack of quality detailing. Why is it that subtle and rich detailing, such as you tend to find on the older brick buildings, is so much less common today? This contrast is well illustrated here.

It’s a complex question, but I believe that overall it is a reflection of a culture that, as it has become ever more utilitarian, is forgetting how to value what can’t be quantified. When a building is designed and built by a culture in which the bottom line rules, it shows. In contrast, cultures that value human realms beyond the material tend to produce buildings that people love.

3 Responses to “The Devils and Details of Belltown”

  1. dorian gray

    You can believe that sure. But it’s wrong on some levels. When projects are obtaining financing for both mezz and perm, an appraisal of the project is done which is used by the financiers to approve/pass on the project. Other neighboring projects are comped out and the projected returns are calculated. The incremental return for ornate fenestration vs. the same monies used for club house and work-out room is non-existent so the lenders will ask for it to be put on the VE list (value engineer) of items to potentially save money. IF however it was required per code as many neo-traditional neighborhoods require them http://www.rosemarybeach.com/ then it is possible HOWEVER it increases costs which have to be passed on to future renters raising the rental rates which many believe will become similar to S.F. Also note that a good portion of projects are financed by pension funds -the same ones we contribute to in our 401k. Some are extremely specialized (Teachers, Union etc.) and effectively are passing the return back to the investors through 401k returns.

  2. danb

    But the question remains, DG: why is it that high quality detailing was financially feasible in the past, but not now? Is it simply because we value workout rooms more?

  3. Lana

    Well written article.

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