I’ve ridden my bike under this thing more than 800 times and somehow have remained lethargically ambivalent about it. Sure is big and fancy all glistening in light and shadow.

When it was completed back in 2001, some folks — most notably Peter Steinbrueck — were not so equivocal. The main gripe was that it blocked the view corridor from Capitol Hill down to Elliott Bay — true enough. And the fallout has made it far more difficult to get new street overpass structures approved in Seattle.

The other major flaw in this “galleria” is that it doesn’t do much other than look interesting. Ideally, the goal of putting up such a structure would to form a comfortable urban room below, where people would gather, out of the weather, to window shop or sit at cafe tables spilling out on to the sidewalk. But this one has an inherent defect — it’s out of human scale — too high and wide to create a cozy sense of enclosure. And besides, there aren’t enough street-oriented businesses along that block of Pike to sufficiently activate the street. The Convention Center is an internally focused use.

It does block the rain. A nice perk for conventioneers walking to a cab, but when it’s raining in Seattle it’s also usually too cold to hang out at a sidewalk table. And when it isn’t raining we crave the sun, but get robbed by overhead structures.

Huh, maybe I don’t like this thing after all.

11 Responses to “Megagalleria”

  1. Keo

    Perhaps failing in some of its original intentions, it’s undeniably striking and makes an impression on visitors. It’s definitely something to remember the Washington State Convention Center by.

    When I was a kid growing up in Spokane, I would visit Seattle and after the amazing drive in on I-90, between this structure, the Columbia tower and the Space Needle, I was pretty sure I had found the coolest place on earth :-)

  2. Chris

    I generally like it. The fact is there are going to be two huge hulking buildings on either side, the convention center needs the contiguous space to functions and the center is a large driver of economic value to the City. …A testament to the benefit of this massive canopy is that I’ve never noticed the truck bridge before

  3. Finishtag

    I am also disappointed by the indoor space it creates. I’ve been to benefit luncheons in that building and the bridge is just a foyer for the largest ballroom. If you could actually have an event in the bridge, that might be impressive.

  4. Ryan

    I dislike this immensely. It’s probably one of my least favorite parts of downtown. A structure like this should at least create interesting lighting and shadows when it’s sunny and not doing its primary duty of protecting pedestrians and convention goers from rain. However, this is just boring. It’s not interesting in the least bit. From the materials to the design, it’s mundane and unoriginal; moreover, it’s unnecessary. There’s no real use for it.

    For a decent example of a how this kind of structure can be done right, see Kansas City’s Power & Light District.

  5. dan cortland

    It’s a real dead zone on the street underneath, a thoroughly unpleasant pedestrian experience. One for the textbooks on the perils of letting the private encroach on the public. Norm Rice used federal blight abatement money to create blight.

  6. Keith

    I’ve always just considered it part of the silliness that is convention centers: no better, no worse, just big, expensive, and only there for visitors…

  7. EeePC

    We need something to stare at while waiting 2 hours for a table at Cheesecake Factory.

  8. Sabina Pade

    The opaque overhead walkway that traverses the street and blocks light seems to me the most salient design problem here. Dunno whether it would be realistic to hope for a lot of sidewalk activity within what amounts to an automobile tunnel – glazed galleries have little charm when filled with the roar and fumes of motorized traffic. Also, this particular gallery, which barely reads when approached from the northeast and presents a strongly compressive perspective when approached from the southwest, occupies a difficult terrain.

    Yet were this gallery truly airy and light, and not obscured by a cement slab clumsily hung in its middle, it could be a handsome portal to downtown, a modern take on the signature city gates of old.

  9. dan cortland

    Yeah, the lack of light is the killer.

    The whole concoction off-gasses the suburban design conviction that mingling with the locals between sitting through “Wetlands creation: let’s pretend it works” and “Midnight tree removal: you CAN get away with it!” is bound to be nasty. Luckily, someone had thrown out most of an old train station, and by cutting off the ends of some pillars that wouldn’t fit, it could be stuffed between the buildings to connect them.

  10. cjh

    Equivocal is probably healthier (there, I’m equivocating). Looking at it with tourist eyes, it’s quite a sight. And as a pedestrian, I find the several block stretch from the Convention Center to Minor to be MUCH more unpleasant – that’s the real break between Capitol Hill and downtown, not the silly galleria.

  11. Joe G

    I have to admit then when i first visited Seattle (six months prior to moving here), I was very impressed by the site of the convention center. Having lived here two years now, and having walked from downtown to capitol hill hundreds of times underneath this monster, I will agree that there is definitely a major lack of life there. But I will also submit that this lack of life does not begin or end under this structure, rather it is a lack of life the encompasses the vast majority of the downtown core. Love this city, but I can’t wait for the day that it is treated with the same respect that other fabulous cities are given. The shopping district is in desperate need of a quadrupling of the amount of commercial retail and cafes and restaurants that are open well into the night. I can see this slowly, SLOWLY changing. Its moving from a working downtown to a livable downtown and I feel that this will only start to accelerate when the light rail opens and a wider range of people have a car less option to get downtown. I guarantee that a good chunk of people that are shopping at the area “malls” would love to come shopping downtown but don’t because they don’t want to deal with finding and paying for a place to park. As well, a lot of people are not very comfortable driving downtown.

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