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Urban Connections

Architecture and artwork merge seamlessly in transportation station

Sound Transit Top Honors July18

The Sound Transit University of Washington Station in Seattle links with the surrounding urban connections, including the University of Washington campus, medical center and campus sports facilities. Located at one of Seattle’s busiest intersections, the station and connected pedestrian bridge are part of a network of pathways, bicycle trails and multimodal transit connections.

Designed by Seattle-based LMN Architects, the station required clear wayfinding of all the different connections including the station entry, pedestrian bridge, grand stair, bicycle ramp and plaza. Throughout the station, design elements create a sense of movement and connection with the urban fabric. Circulation paths on the train platform follow an orchestrated sense of movements, constantly orientating users to the stations overall volume, structure and internal flow.

Howard Fitzpatrick, AIA, principal at LMN Architects and project designer for the UW Station, says visual connections between multiple levels create a strong sense of orientation. “The two-level glass entrance structure frames views of the surrounding context, including Lake Washington and the Cascade Mountains,” he says. “The transparency also serves as a light well, allowing daylight to reach down to the mezzanine level. Colored ceramic wall tiles animate the mezzanine and ticket vending areas with energetic, green motion lines.”

The station’s 55-foot-high central chamber is one of the highest interior volumes in the city. LMN Architects and artist Leo Saul Berk collaborated to create an integrated experience for travelers, where the architecture seamlessly merges with Berk’s artwork, “Subterraneum,” which expresses the geological layers of soil surrounding the station walls.

“The strong horizontals of the upper mezzanine give way to the cut-metal patterns of the art piece, which create a strong focus and sense of the surrounding earth, slowing the experience to escalator speed, and allowing for contemplation and awe,” explains Fitzpatrick. “The design intent was to create this pause in the descent to, and ascent from, the platform, where the viewer is surrounded by and subsumed within this immersive experience between ground level and platform. From the lower mezzanine—the bottom of the Subterraneum—the platform level becomes visible, once again leading the eye downward and back to the strong horizontality of the platform and trainway.”

“Subterraneum” is made up of a total of 907 panels, of which 553 are perforated. The aluminum panels from Bristol, Conn.-based Morin Corp., a Kingspan Group company, are mated with a blue polycarbonate panel adhered to its back. The selected polycarbonate has a light-diffusing additive to maximize diffused light across the panels, which is cast primarily by strategically placed floodlights and some infill LED strip lighting. The majority of the fixtures are concealed in back-of-house voids or above the ceiling.

Each perforated panel, from Ceilings Plus, Los Angeles, is unique, and was labeled discretely for fabrication and installation. The general module was a 4-by-4-foot grid, but, because they are placed on angled walls, most panels are parallelograms. The aluminum panels were finished with an orbital sander and protected with a clear matte powder coat.

“At the platform level, the track walls are perforated metal for sound attenuation and ease of maintenance, above which are solid metal wall panels in the dark areas above the platform,” Fitzpatrick says. “Steel framing supports the lights, speakers and other systems above the platform.”

Once the steel framework of vertical steel ribs with horizontal purlins was set, the fabricator, Krueger Sheet Metal, Seattle, was provided laser as-builts to produce the panel layout. LMN Architects worked with Krueger Sheet Metal to verify the panel layout. Once approved, they were digitally transferred to Berk to transfer his patterns to the panels. Each panel was sent back as individual digital files for fabrication with the pre-established coding.