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“Exploring Seattle’s Architectural Gem: The Reinvented Federal Reserve Building”


In the heart of Seattle, a city celebrated for its innovative spirit and forward-thinking ethos, stands a testament to historical preservation meshed with modernity—the Federal Reserve Building. Constructed in 1913, this landmark not only narrates a rich past but now, thanks to visionary property developer Martin Selig and the creative minds at Perkins&Will, showcases a blend of tradition and contemporary design.

Selig, who acquired this architectural treasure in 2014 at a government auction, envisioned a space that respects its heritage while embracing the future. To bring this vision to life, the renowned Seattle studio of Perkins&Will was enlisted to inject a fresh perspective into the venerable ‘stone box,’ enhancing it with modern elements and innovative features without overshadowing its historic essence.

The transformation project faced the intricate challenge of adhering to stringent preservation criteria set by federal and state authorities. Perkins&Will skillfully navigated these requirements, orchestrating a harmonious dialogue between the building’s storied past and its new chapter. A striking feature of the renovation is a glass structure that seemingly hovers above the original edifice, creating a visual spectacle that co-founder Erik Mott of Perkins&Will’s Seattle division finds particularly compelling. The interplay of the old and new structures imparts a commanding presence, symbolizing a bridge between eras.

Preservation Meets Innovation

In its latest incarnation, the building not only honors its roots but also sets a benchmark for sustainability and resilience. The meticulous renovation extended the building’s lifespan, integrating advanced technologies and sustainable practices. Original architectural elements, like stone and brass finishes, were carefully restored and reused, contributing to the building’s authentic charm and reducing its environmental impact.

The exterior’s limestone facade underwent a meticulous treatment to meet contemporary safety standards, especially in earthquake-prone Seattle. This process preserved the building’s historical aesthetic while enhancing its structural integrity. The effort to maintain the original materials significantly cut down the building’s carbon footprint, demonstrating a commitment to environmental stewardship alongside architectural preservation.

A Modern Marvel

The new addition, a glass structure, mirrors the original building’s dimensions but introduces a transparent, airy element that contrasts with the solidity of stone. This modern section extends to provide additional space, including a street-level retail area and versatile terraces. These new spaces offer tenants and visitors unique vantage points to engage with the city, embodying Seattle’s ethos of innovation and connection.

Martin Selig and the Perkins&Will team have achieved a remarkable feat, transforming the Federal Reserve Building into a landmark that resonates with both history aficionados and advocates of modern architecture. Their collaborative effort has resulted in a structure that stands as a beacon of thoughtful preservation and contemporary design, a true icon in Seattle’s architectural landscape.


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