LMN Architects have completed the USD 2 billion statement expansion to the Seattle Convention Center. Government and city officials hope the new building can create more activity in the city core by enlivening a downtown business district that has recently declined in traffic due to the pandemic, which resulted in hybrid work policies and safety concerns.
Called the Summit, the 1.5 million square foot complex is considered North America's first vertical Convention Center. It includes a staggering 573 770 square feet of event space, a 58 000 square foot column-free and divisible ballroom, 348 450 square feet of exhibit space, a 140 700 square foot lobby space, and a 14 000 square foot Garden terrace. The convention center programs are distributed across six levels of event space, including two exhibit halls stacked, one above and one below grade.
Reinforcing this, a street-level plaza at 9th Ave and Pine Streets provides quality public exterior space for residents and visitors and links to a publicly accessible retail market, while exterior terraces accommodate a variety of activities overlooking iconic views of the city.
Beyond the staggering scale of the spaces and the diverse program, the Summit also features a striking steel, wood, and glass exterior. The most prominent feature is the glass-enclosed atrium stair along Pine Street that exposes the interior circulation patterns along the edge of the building to the city while revealing dramatic views to building occupants of Capitol Hill, First Hill, South Lake Union, Pike Place Market, and Elliott Bay as they move up the stairway.
The building's rich yet neutral colour palette includes wood, natural stone, blackened hot rolled steel, and light-reflecting surfaces in line with the Pacific Northwest character. In particular, reclaimed wood features throughout the design and is included in an extensive plywood chandelier in the main lobby that is made of 45 panels with CNC cutouts of the microscopic cell structures of 12 different native trees. In the main ballroom, a 65-foot-high ceiling includes 3,900 suspended 'wormwood' boards cut from log booms. Other elements with a regional character include ropes from the maritime industry, rivets from the aerospace industry, and cassette tapes from Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Sir Mix-a-Lot on the fourth floor.
The project achieved a LEED Gold certification thanks to measuring including the specification of recycled materials, biobased fabric panels, a rain harvesting system estimated to reduce irrigation used by 89%, and roof panels designed to improve the building's energy performance by 30% over the baseline rating.
Downtown Seattle Association President and CEO Jon Scholes notes that many other cities locate convention centers on the edge of town. In contrast, projects like this at the heart of the city of Seattle help create more vibrancy and draw people to the downtown core. DSA statistics indicated that nearly 2.2 million visitors ventured downtown in December 2022. This number is still well below the 2.7 million visitors in December 2019 before the pandemic, but a positive 8% increase compared to December 2021.