Architecture of the Industry

Another part in a new series I am using on a trial run is examining the headier topics, putting a microscope on the things that really matter and adding fuel to a fire hoping the discussion will start and take root. This one centers on a changing Seattle city and with it, similar cities all across the United States.

[Do we only care about people thinking we’re cool? Because the answer seems to be the state of Seattle architecture. It seems to be where the civic dollars go. The sculpture park, the museum. Can you name any others? Don’t get me wrong, there are some okay office buildings going up and some fancy hotels and condos for those global visitors needing a crashpad on their vacations and business trips, but where is that everyday love? ]

This should be obvious, but it wasn’t obvious to me. Take a look at the economy. Money drives. If we looked at companies utterly changing our city’s dna, our demographic make-up, then we arrive at Amazon, Google, Facebook about to finish a new office here, and of course Microsoft, Uber and Redfin and Zillow. What is a $600 billion dollar industry for the city, is coming out with the latest and greatest in computing (citing). Those positions are being filled with professionals making a salary over 2x the median income for individuals in the city.

New building always caters to the money maker, architecture at the hands of industry. This isn’t old news or fact. Historically this was the railroad, this was the gold and silver rush, this was oil and this is now the tech boom. It is just harder to see this day and age because the industry is invisible to the majority of the city. The railroads and the gold and silver rushes, respectively, took a large visible presence in their new environs. Cloud computing is virtually invisible, flying under the radar until you hear a friend of a friend or a friend who works for the companies mentioned above and hear about what they do in their offices behind closed doors. They are usually new to the city, for the sake of argument, new means moved here over the last 3 years.

This equates to cities built on the projections of a 3-year betting period and all chips are in. The more risk the more reward and people are falling all over themselves to get those building permits in and cash in on their bet. Can you imagine? This is how all cities have developed – over the span of a 2-5 year boom and it shapes the next 100 plus years.

That puts things into perspective for me. It’s why Pioneer Square, one of the cities neighborhoods containing the some of the old building stock, is so curious. That was built on the projection of 2 years and developers making money quick during the west migration of the late 19th century. Those streets and blocks and parks and squares function for people today even though the environment is vastly different. Even though people aren’t buying mining supplies, however there are still people camping everywhere near there (some things really don’t change).

 

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