Pilchuck Glass School establishes an impactful urban presence in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood that combines the organization’s administrative office space with a public art gallery. Through the creative adaptive-reuse of existing materials from the building, aesthetic and functional goals are achieved within the project’s extremely tight budget. Not only did the incorporation of the original heavy timber and steel beams into the interior upgrades save on material costs, it creates an impactful contrast to the glass art displayed throughout the gallery, echoing the picturesque setting of the school’s main campus.
When first exploring the future office space, what was found inside became the pivotal concept for the design: several large piles of old-growth heavy timber and steel beams that had once been part of the original building. By repurposing these materials, the office and gallery spaces echo the dynamic tension between rugged structure and the delicateness of glass art. With the exception of a few necessary locations, the steel and timber beams were left in their original state and re-used throughout the space, in both the structure itself as well as some of the administrative furniture and art perches in the gallery. For example, the large conference room table incorporates beams and wheels from the building’s original elevator into its design. The conference room itself is clad with remnants of the mezzanine floor that was originally scheduled to be thrown away. The reception desk utilizes a “stacked” design for the original wood and steel beams, indicative of the way these materials were originally found when the design team entered the space.
In an effort to connect the various administrative activities with the art itself, a number of casual glass art displays take advantage of the abundance of natural light in the space and are positioned in multiple locations throughout the office. The stair leading to the upper administration area is the central focus of the prevalent dialog between art and structure. It is comprised of unfinished, cold-rolled steel that reiterates the cast-iron columns of the building. The backlit risers are made of cast glass that gives the stair a sort of “floating” quality. Additionally, these risers can be changed out, acting as a resident, revolving exhibit.