2022 AIA CA DESIGN AWARDS
Climate Action Award
Architect: Aidlin Darling Design
Project Location: Seattle, Washington
Photographer: Adam Rouse
Located on Expedia Group’s new 40-acre corporate campus bordering Seattle’s coastline, the Prow is a biophilic retreat for the company’s staff and executives. The design creates a soulful sanctuary that is integrated with the surrounding environment and away from the day-to-day offices, allowing employees to clear their mind and thus spurring innovation. The resulting concept was driven by two primary influences: form and function.
“An extraordinary project that is uplifting and transformative. Use of local/regional materials, vegetated roof, passive cooling strategies, and biophilia all contributed to its success.” – 2022 Design Awards Jury
The building gesture is born from a series of cascading plateaus descending from the offices down to Elliot Bay. The walls are crafted from the same stone as the riprap along the Elliott Bay shoreline. As the building emerges from these biodiverse terraces, its planted roof plane restores native vegetation to the site, previously covered in a water-dependent manicured lawn. In short, The Prow is a living part of the landscape design itself.
The Prow was specifically designed with an extensive exterior deck and interior meeting space to allow for a range of Expedia Group’s needs including programmed events for local and visiting employees.
If any design aspect of The Prow resonates most clearly, it is its intrinsic and inextricable connection to place – the Pacific Northwest and more acutely the Seattle waterfront and Elliot Bay. The building gesture is born from a series of cascading plateaus descending from the office buildings of the new campus down to Elliot Bay, who’s edges are defined by canted stone rip rap walls – the same stone as the rip rap found along the adjacent waterfront shoreline protecting the land from the fluctuating tidal bay. As the building emerges from these biodiverse terraces, the planted roof plane of The Prow returns native vegetation to the footprint the building now occupies, which was previously covered in a water dependent manicured lawn from the previous campus grounds. As the newly restored landscape on the roof of the building matures, the flora will sponsor a return of the fauna indigenous to the area – mosses and lichens on the rip rap walls, insects that pollenate flowers, birds that feed on the insects, and so on.
The Prow uses low flow plumbing fixtures with sensor operation on faucets and filtered water equipment. All rain water that falls on the roof is either absorbed by the vegetated roof plantings, or naturally makes its way to the bioswale integrated into the landscape at the tail end of the building. All potable water used for irrigation, at the Prow and on the entire site, is highly efficient in it’s systems as part of the Gold Certification for the SITES v2.
The Prow is inherently a multi-use space, that can host a variety of functions – small brainstorming sessions to large thinktanks, lectures, events, gatherings, et al. As such, the economic advantage of the space for Expedia Group is that the Prow is truly a multi-dimensional, multi-usable space that can be emptied of furniture and reprogrammed within a day’s notice, and re-imagined in the future when it’s use could be modified to accommodate changing demands.
The envelope of the building strived to meet the dualling demands of the stringent SEC’s efficient energy consumption requirements, and the ample natural daylight and fresh air access concerns of a healthy, well-balanced building. By maximizing the glazing area allowed by code, natural daylight is used for the illumination of the interior spaces for a large percentage of its day use. In parallel to this, the building uses high performance, thermally broken aluminum storefront and sliding door systems with high efficiency IGUs to meet energy efficiency requirements, along with undergoing rigorous air tight testing required for SEC compliance.
The Prow was designed as a biophilic retreat within the unfolding landscape of the urban campus’s design. It’s roof gesture and interior spatial orientation were generated to maximize illumination of the spaces with natural daylight for the majority of its day use. A large panel of sliding glass doors opens on to an exterior deck to blend interior and exterior activities, providing each with ample fresh air. Fresh air dampers also allow for clean interior air circulation when external weather conditions do not allow the doors to be open. All materials also meet the strict Salmon Safe Toxicity Guidelines.
The Prow was designed to gracefully age with its natural surroundings. As the majority of the exposed monolithic walls were created from rip-rap quarry spalled stone, the presence of patina over time will add to its character, and will require zero maintenance. The overall material palette is defined by indigenous Pacific Northwest materials, expressed by the warm wooden floors and ceiling composed of locally sourced Douglas Fir, and dark stained rough sawn cedar siding used on the interior cabinetry. What metal finishes are exposed use durable powder coat marine grade finishes to reduce or eliminate the need for future refinishing.
The Prow has been specifically designed as a multi-functional space that is able to meet the fluctuating needs of the client, as well as its engagement with the community. With the shifting and / or removal of interior furnishings, the space can be transformed into an event space, a lecture hall, a small or large scaled casual gathering space, or any host of other programs that could be accommodated through its open design.
Approaching the Prow from within the campus, one is met by two black portals elegantly positioned within a single-story stone wall—representing the threshold between the everyday and the aspirational. The larger of the two is flanked by sidelights that quietly reveal a wooden interior and Elliott Bay in the distance. Once inside, the occupant is surrounded by a singular room crafted from natural materials. The northern and eastern walls are solid, while the southern and western walls are glazed—dramatically framing a panoramic yet intimate view of Mount Rainier and Elliott Bay. The south facing glazing retracts and opens to a floating deck covered by a 50-foot cantilevered, rising roof plane. In its current configuration, a heroic Nakashima table with seating for twenty people that facilitates meetings with satellite offices around the world anchors the northern end of the main space. Centered on the expansive view, a casual seating area for individual and collective brainstorming is situated which overlaps in to outdoor furniture on the exterior deck. As a user moves to the most southern tip of the floating deck, an intimate gathering of seating around a fireplace is found – the fire being the original vehicle for transcendent thought.
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