The conceptual design for the proposed Pearl West office building appears to be solidifying into a more finished one. Revisions such as a new ground floor arcade, party wall windows, and the streetscape treatments have more detail now. Some changes are positive, while others are negative.
A central light well is proposed to cut into the top seven floors on the North elevation, and a three foot separation from the property line will allow for some windows along the edges without precluding future redevelopment on either neighboring lot (the historic Gann Building and the adjacent single-story PNCA studio). On the ‘front’ side of the building the originally proposed ground floor has been altered to include an arcade under the brick veneer lintels of the second floor. A rather nice addition since it would create a push pull effect along 14th Avenue and be true to the intent of making the building look like a remodeled warehouse without deviating too much into kitsch. The ground level’s floor-to-ceiling height has also been raised to allow for more light to venture into the receded retail and lobby spaces.
The arcade does come with a hitch, however, as the ground floor colonnade is now offset from the rest of the building to allow for a more flexible covered outdoor space (presumably for a restaurant). This would not be such a big deal had the architects not emphasized the traditional massing of the building with its tapering pier design. There are only two piers out of alignment, and they happen to be on the most prominent corner (the columns are staggered neatly on the 14th Avenue side). It’s just perplexing to see a seemingly reactive response derail the overall expression of a building when other possibilities are plausible. I can understand that the designer may want to break up the rigidity of the repetitive facade or play with people’s sense of openings and openness, but this building has only so much going for it architecturally making it all that more important to maintain the overarching ideology. I have digressed, and the piers are only a minor detail. I would welcome this building regardless, as a project of this size will inevitably bring new life to what is currently an underutilized surface parking lot. [Edit: THA Architecture, who are working collaboratively with] GBD, the firm behind the Brewery Blocks and numerous other projects up and down the West Coast, are known for their urbanistic designs [including Atwater Place, another joint venture between the two], and I’m sure the final product will be successful.