Design Links

Summer time gathering of the whole CAST

CAST crew celebrating Summer! The siren's call of Seattle's summer has brought everyone back to town.  Last night, we celebrated our the solstice (a little late), the return of Holly from Sonoma and Forrest from Madrid, and had a little send off for Gunnar who is heading back to Norway's midnight sun.

CAST has a few other reasons to celebrate:

We're starting a two projects in Mazama (schematic design images upcoming).

Kenny's house is nearing completion:


Our first modular home on Bainbridge Island for Michel and Chas just went on the market this morning:


And the Mazama Ranchero is going to be published in a few magazines this fall, as well as the Lichtenstein cottage in a feature about Small Spaces:


Plus, Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands is in permit, ready for construction this fall:


Happy summer, everyone!

Urban Agriculture and Organic Architecture

RBUFW Classroom building, view looking south from the entry path (architectural rendering) RBUFW Classroom Building

We've been on an intense push the last few weeks to develop a schematic design for the new Classroom Building at the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands (RBUFW). We're incredibly excited that Seattle Parks and Seattle Tilth were able to compress a two-phase master plan into a single project, but the result has been a very aggressive schedule for the design phase!

For  inspiration, we've been looking at pragmatic agricultural structures, both the simple closed forms of storage sheds and more "prismatic" shapes of greenhouses and barns. Greenhouses are particularly intriguing in the way the inside reveals a complicated structure and interior volume that is barely suggested by their taut and simple exterior form.

Greenhouse interior & exterior images

Sited to preserve the maximum agricultural land, the Classroom Building is nestled into a hillside along the east edge of the property. Three closed "boxes" containing support functions are slotted into the hillside, with the open space between accommodating the classroom and a grove of existing trees.

RBUFW Classroom Building Floor Plan

Above the boxes, a pair of elevated canopies create the primary function spaces and extend out over the pathway to provide plenty of covered outdoor space.


RBUFW Classroom Building, view from the SW (architectural rendering)

From the outside, these canopies appear as simple translucent volumes, but the inside reveals vaulted space, filtered sunlight and expressive structure. We've taken inspiration from architects such as MW Works and VJAA who accept the construction techniques of industrial space-making, but turn around and use those conventional materials in a very refined and thoughtful manner.

RBUFW classroom building, view under main porch (architectural rendering)

RBUFW classroom building, interior view (architectural rendering)


More media about RBUFW:

Seattle Magazine "On the Urban Farm"

Seattle's Child "Urban Farms Grow Healthy Eaters"

The Seattle Times "An Urban Farm Helps Immigrants from East Africa Settle in Seattle"

Saratoga Residence progress

CAST architecture arcade The Saratoga residence is moving along-soon we'll have the exterior wrapped up, and the arcade complete! The interior walnut cabinetry and floating stair treads/glass rail should be installed soon!

CAST architecture kitchen island

The kitchen, in the foreground, is going to feature a 14' long double loaded island, packed with functionality.  Tucked under the stairs, we'll have a nerve center for all the household computing and controls. There is a private, ornamental garden beyond the dining room's window wall.

Rainier Beach Urban Farm--Community Meeting

If you are interested in urban agriculture and would like to share your ideas to shape the Rainier Beach Urban Farm, please join us Saturday, July 28th from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm for an open event to discuss the project!  Stay for the community picnic or just get your hands dirty during the drop-in work party every Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm.


Rainier Beach Urban Farm

In collaboration with Seattle Tilth, the Friends of R.B.U.F.W., and the Berger Partnership, CAST will be designing an urban farm in Seattle.  The site is a former municipal nursery in Rainier Beach--10 acres of mostly wetland with some hoop houses at the north end.  We'll be undertaking the challenge to not only make a model for urban agriculture, we'll also be greatly increasing the ecological function of the wetlands.

This project is in one of the most diverse zip codes in the nation, and we'll be involving the community to shape the design, as well as creating facilities for small scale commercial farmers, entrepreneurs, and other programs such as Seattle Youth Garden Works.  The hope is to make a community hub centered on growing and sharing food.

The first community design meeting is June 19th on site (time TBD).  Please come and share your vision with us!

Chicken Coop for the Institute for Women's Excellence, Rwamagana, Rwanda.

We helped out a great organization, Orphans to Ambassadors with a pro bono design and donation for a chicken coop to help feed 423 orphans at the Institute for Women's Excellence in Rwanda.  During the month of May, they build the coop, some rocket stoves, and some rainwater harvesting projects for this and other orphanages in the area.  Great work!

Hopefully, we'll have the chance to help out with more their future projects!

Please support them with a donation!

Urban Intervention at the Seattle Center-- a vision for the next fifty years

In collaboration with the Berger Partnership ,Via Architecture, and Rushing, we put together a competition proposal for the replacement of Memorial Stadium and a new vision for the Center as a whole.

The design is an organic and topographic intervention that flows through the Center and surrounding neighborhoods, creating new connections, opportunities for new programs, and experiences at the Center. It creates a dense, flexible fabric stitched together with multi-modal transit to bring in new audiences, local/daily users, and new amenities for regional visitors.

Some of the important features:


Right now the Center acts as an island in the city, but should be a hub linking neighborhoods rather than separating them. To that end, we're showing a linkage through the Bay to Lake trail, a transit center with bus, Rapid Ride, sub grade parking, and a new loop of the streetcar. The northern edge, bounded by Mercer will have a new lid park to bring in foot/bike traffic from Queen Anne and a plaza at the corner of Mercer and 5th. Broad Street becomes a greenway linking to SAM Sculpture Park to Lake Union. In effect, it's location makes it an ideal 'transit oriented park' to draw Seattleites to and through the Center.

Layered landscape:

The new topography defines the Center Green, an organic open space at the heart that spills out in all directions. Memorial Stadium is replaced by a field with a 'kop' style hill as seating, perfect for multi-use such as a musical performance space.  From 5th, the landscape opens up for a vista to the International Fountain. Underneath the Center Green, we have a series of public event spaces, storefronts for fringe/alternative cultural institutions to colocate and share resources, layers of parking, and finally a grid of ground source heat pumps to lessen energy use for the Center overall.

We didn't stop at the boundaries of the original 9 acre site, but extended the idea to carve out new access from Uptown and the meandering pathways that run through the Center Green terminate at a bridge to the apex of Key Arena--a great new public view point to downtown and the Sound.

Expressive Environmental Infrastructure:

Beyond Seattle 2030, the design begins to illustrate the path toward making the world's first Living Building District. The goal is to create a beneficial closed loop system for using on site resources and expressing the infrastructure so visitors can see, understand, and take the lessons of sustainability home. Floating above the landscape, there is a layer of solar canopy (about 150K SF) to generate energy for the spaces on the 9 acre site. We also did a first pass on other locations for solar throughout the Center, and could easily add twice that amount on existing roofs and walls of other center buildings. The draped landscape collects storm water and purifies it through a series of rain gardens and native landscape.

The Center as a cultural incubator:

We're also proposing a mix of new, smaller multi use spaces to support the growth of new cultural generators, like SIFF and KEXP.  Tucked under the knoll overlooking the performance/field, we are proposing a new multi-use performance/community space which can be configured like the Center's Northwest Rooms or opened up for larger events. At the corner of Mercer and 5th, we've opened up a new urban plaza that acts as both a local Queen Anne gateway and spill out space for the community space and cultural incubators.

Although we were not selected as a finalist for the competition, I think we put together a very forward looking, connective, and sustainable solution which would do the city proud.

Special thanks to Studio 216 for the help with the renderings!

Future Shack 2011

Join us tonight at Future Shack 2011 for another evening of great dialogue about houses.  Last year I participated in the 'Speed-Date'---seven minutes to lay out the project and have a design brainstorm, then on to the next architect.  It was a blast, and this year Tim will be sitting in for me. After Speed Date Design, there will be a presentation of innovative ideas in housing.

Our entry, Urban Olympic, is a nine unit townhouse complex designed to use 90% less energy that typical code compliance housing.  See our entries over the last few years : 2011, 2009

It is at Fisher Pavillion in the Seattle Center, starting at 5 pm.

Washington Park Arboretum's new Visitor's Center

Arboretum Visitor Center-North Gateway I have been collaborating with Susan Black and Associates to formulate a vision for the expansion of the Washington Park Arboretum facilities, as part of the SR 520 replacement and the demolition of the highway ramps that currently dominate the north end of the Park.

With this project, we are proposing a " new gateway structure to orient visitors, provide space for general services and curation/collection exhibits, and fulfill many of the aims of the 2001 Master Plan.  As conceptualized, the development respects the history of the site and reclaims the altered landscape to natural, healthy conditions.  It will provide organization, orientation, and education for visitors as a means to explore the greater Arboretum.

view of entry plaza-Washington Park Arboretum Visitor Center North Gateway

As a gateway, the design will put visitors in the frame of mind for the study and enjoyment of the Park.  Balancing educational needs and recreation activities as functions that informally overlap and inform each other, the facility welcomes both types of visitor and enfolds them in the living greenness of the Arboretum/Lake Washington edge environment.  The building concept blends with the naturalistic organization of the site with minimal visual impact and performs as a closed loop system with regard to energy and water, using only resources collected on site.  The concept also enhances the connectivity to the adjacent neighborhood and trail system and welcomes pedestrian and bike traffic.


The buildings are gently folded into a rolling wetland rise like leaves blown in on the wind.  The roofs are gently articulated to provide shelter and solar access.  Rammed earth walls announce the gateway yet continue uninterupted through the glass to become an integral part of the ambiance of the facility.  Glass walls provide an invisible barrier to the surrounding landscape during the day.  In the evening, light from the buildings spills out onto grounds muted by the vegetation foliage.

Washington Park Arboretum Visitor Center North Gateway

Retaining a small remnant of the “flyover” bridge allows for the development of an elevated promenade for the establishment of a “pier garden”.  The pier would be planted in a series of linear landscapes culminating in an overlook of the southern waterway of the Mountlake Cut.  The pier garden provides the visitor a new perspective of the northern limits of the Arboretum, Foster Island and the day-lighted Arboretum Creek." (from the Concept Plan)

Ideally, the building will be designed to the standards of the Living Building Challenge.  I've anticipated about 75kW of photovoltaics on the roof, plus a ground source heat pump for building climate control, harvesting all rain water for the building's use and to irrigate the demonstration gardens.

We've only just put this out into the public sphere for comments, and I can imagine that we'll have some lively discussions about how a modern structure fits within the Olmsteadian structure of the park.  I ultimately think that the contemporary architecture will best serve the Foundation, rather than grafting high performance energy and sustainable systems onto something that is overtly historicist.   The Washington Park Arboretum can look both both into its own history and the future to chart a path for success in it's second century.

Renderings courtesy of Lambert Design Studio

Sunset Substation Update: Can we meet the Living Building Challenge?

We've done our first presentation of three ideas for the Sunset Substation Park.  More information about the three schemes are here, here, and here. 'BIG ROOF' SCHEME



The solar component of this park will produce between 20 kW and 30kW, and provide power for the community multipurpose space, and an emergency relief center.

We're looking at meeting the Living Building Challenge, the highest standard for sustainable construction.  It would be a major undertaking, since there are less than a hundred structures in the world currently attempting to meet this challenge, but we have a lot of things going for us at this scale of project.  As the project develops, I'll keeping posting information on the Challenge--how it is affecting the design, and the costs.

Phinney Ridge backyard cottage

phinney ridge backyard cottage We have been working with a couple who are planning on moving out of the original house, and into a new backyard cottage.  We're pushing the limits within the ordinance--almost exactly 800 square feet--in order to build a 2 bed room, bath and a half cottage. Although the house is small, the spaces inside feel just right.  And we'll be able to include a lot of high finish touches and crisp details because we aren't spending money on lots of square footage. Having a finite perimeter and volume really focuses the mind on the priorities of the design.

The character of the house the client's wanted is very craftsman and the scale and roofline fits right in with the neighborhood in general--certainly not the scary developer vision that opponents of the ordinance summoned during the public hearings.  It reinforces that these projects are for people with a vested interest in both their property and their neighborhood and are very sensitive to the impact on their neighbors.

Here is another view which shows off the walkout patio off the dining space, the entry mudroom and the band of windows that wrap the living room, dining and kitchen:

seattle backyard cottage in phinney ridge

We are also going to integrate a rain water harvesting system, radiant floors on a super efficient combination boiler, vaulted ceiling upstairs, and a extra height crawlspace with a rat slab to make up for some of the storage space lost in the downsizing.  For floor plans, follow the jump below:

First floor plan:


Second floor plan: