Saturday/ the ‘Bo-Kaap’

The Bo-Kaap (pronunce ‘boo-uh-carp’) is a former township on the slopes of Signal Hill, above the Cape Town city center. It is the historical center of Cape Malay culture in Cape Town. The Nurul Islam Mosque, established in 1844, is also located in the area. Here are a few pictures that I took today.

This is a scene on Wale Street. I love the Volkswagen Beetle with the blue doors. The backdrop is Table Mountain, of course.
Gorgeous dark green and – Salmon? Coral Pink? houses on Wale Street.
This is the entrance to the Bo-Kaap Museum on Wale Street. I love the wavy cornice on the roof line.
This is Dorp Street.
The minaret of the mosque called Masjid Boorhaanol Islam on Longmarket St, holding its own against a massive development project a few blocks away. Efforts to designate Bo-Kaap as a heritage area have been underway since 2013, and it may finally be approved this year by the Cape Town City Council. Still, the status does not entirely prohibit new construction; it simply stipulates that new construction should be subject to much more scrutiny to ensure it fits in with the existing structures.
A view of the old and the new. This is on Chiappini Street.
Here is the Nurul Islam Mosque, located off Buitengracht Street, and established in 1834.
The Jameah Mosque on Chiappini Street was built in 1850.  It is also known as the Queen Victoria Mosque, as patronage of the British Crown, when the Cape Colony was under British rule.

Monday/ in Amsterdam

My flight made it into Schiphol airport at 12 noon local time, after the connection I had made in Reykjavik.

From Schiphol, I took the train to Amsterdam Central station.
The OV chipkaart that I had bought there, does the same as the Orca card that we have in Seattle, and more. The passenger uses it to tap on readers at train stations and on trains and buses, to pay the fare. The cards can be used anywhere in the Netherlands on local trains, trams and buses, and even on regional trains. Just not on ferries, yet.

The Boeing 757 that got us from Seattle to Keflavik airport. It is 6 am, and we are stepping into the terminal shuttle bus. It was 5 °C (40 °F), but man! it felt 10 degrees colder, with the icy windchill that whipped across the tarmac.
This is Amsterdam Central station, and I had just stepped off the train called the Sprinter. It’s just a 17 min run from Schiphol to Amsterdam Central.
The main facade for the Amsterdam Central Station building. Built from 1881 to 1889, it was designed by famous Dutch architect Petrus J.H. Cuypers. I cheated a little by just aiming at the top: there is construction and remodeling going on at the bottom, behind a fence.
I just had a few hours until sunset, and so I took the No 2 tram line from Central Station down to Nieuw Sloten and back. It is a great way to check out the scenery and the city.  The No 2 runs by several canals and town squares (Koningsplein, Keisersgracht, Prinsengracht, Leidseplein), as well as by the grounds of the Rijksmuseum.
Outside of central Amsterdam, and looking out from the tram, one finds plenty of 60’s and 70’s apartment buildings. These are built in a much simpler, modern style (than the traditional Dutch style). I like this one a lot: all straight lines, rectangles and squares.

Saturday/ the new SR-99 tunnel

Washington’s new State Route 99 tunnel was officially opened by Governor Jay Inslee today at 11 am. Shortly after that, the public was allowed to walk through it. (Earlier in the morning there was a fun run through the tunnel).

The public was also allowed to bid a final farewell to the Alaskan Way Viaduct. After this weekend, its demolition will start in earnest.

Drone video from WA Dept. of Transportation, shot at about 8 am this morning when the fun run started. The entrance to the southbound deck where the runners are assembling is on top, and to its left and lower down, is the northbound deck. (Inside the tunnel the decks are stacked on top of each other).
The north entrance to the southbound deck. A Space Needle glimpse is visible at the top left, and the building with the yellow chimneys house the tunnel ventilation equipment.
Just getting started, so two miles (3.2 km) to go! The top of the tunnel is still flat here (the top part of the picture) – so this ‘cut and cover’ section was done without the tunnel boring machine’s excavation. A little further in, the rounded ceiling shows the tunnel boring machine was at work.
Every 600 ft (200m) or so, there are emergency exit doors that lead into an escape tunnel, that will allow people trapped in the main tunnel, to escape from hazardous conditions.
Here is a peek of the emergency escape tunnel that runs along the main tunnel. (I stuck my phone camera into a ventilation grill opening). Those cement rings with the round and triangular recesses for bolts, were laid down as the boring machine chewed its way through the earth to create the tunnel.
There is a gentle slope down, and then a slope up again to get out of the tunnel. The tunnel had to be deep enough in places to clear existing sewage tunnels and the light rail train tunnel. Here at its lowest elevation, the tunnel crown is at 95 ft (29 m) below sea level. A little further north, it is 215 ft (65 m) deep at its greatest depth below ground.
Alright! Ahead is the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. We’re about to exit on the south end by the sport stadiums. Those giant tubular fans are for creating a draft along the main tunnel when traffic is stuck inside (in a traffic jam). The fans are not needed when traffic is flowing and thereby creating a draft in the tunnel.
Looking back at downtown Seattle after we had walked underneath it. This is the exit of the southbound part of the tunnel.
Today a final opportunity was offered for the public to walk around on the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Its demolition will start in the next week or so. This is the view looking south from Pike Place market.
Goodbye Viaduct! ‘Hello Waterfront’, said a similar banner on the other side.
Here’s a final view of the Alaskan Viaduct structure from the Seneca Street exit.

Saturday/ the Pioneer Building

I posted about the Pioneer Building before, but today I could get a nice picture of the front side – with all the leaves on the trees gone.

Several months after the Great Seattle Fire leveled 32 blocks of downtown in 1889, Henry Yesler proceeded with the construction of the Pioneer Building. The newly constructed building quickly became an important business location for downtown Seattle. During the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897, there were 48 different mining companies that had offices in it. [Source: Wikipedia]
The totem pole in front of the building is part of the property’s entry into the National Register of Historic Places. This totem pole is a replica of an original pole carved around 1790 by the Tlingit indigenous people. (The original one was seriously damaged by an arsonist in 1938).

Friday afternoon/ at the airport

I am at Narita airport, waiting to board my flight.
I took a quick taxi to Tokyo Station (too much luggage to use the subway!), and then the Narita Express train from there.

From my walk this morning before leaving for the airport: one of the outposts of the Imperial Palace (old name: Edo Castle). The Palace is located in a large park-like area near Tokyo Station, and is the primary residence of the Emperor of Japan (currently Emperor Akihito, age 85).

Thursday/ time’s up, time to go

Today was my last full day. I will head out to the airport after lunchtime tomorrow.
It was gloves-scarf-skull cap weather: no sun and only 6°C/ 42°F for a high. I went out to the very touristy surroundings at Asakusa Station (pagodas and shrines), and then made a stop at Omotesandō Station (glass and steel) as well.

Here comes the next train, this at Asakusa station. For once, there are no fencing panels, and no humans on the platform that spoil the clean lines of the picture :).
This 5-story pagoda near the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, is a 1973 reconstruction of the 942 original which was itself rebuilt in 1648. At 53 m/ 173 ft high, it is the second tallest pagoda in all of Japan.
On to newer constructions, though! This is the AO building in Aoyama, completed in 2008, and designed by renowned architectural firm Nihon Shikkei.
And how about the 6-story crystal glass tower nearby, showing off Italian luxury fashion house Prada’s offerings? Architects Herzog & de Meuron, constructed 2003.
Across the street, there’s a La Perla store on the corner (high-fashion lingerie, loungewear, bridal intimates & sleepwear), and an Anya Hindmarch store behind it (English fashion designer).
If you’re going to convince well-heeled people to part with lots of money for their threads, you’d better have some eye-catching store fronts, right? Tsumori Chisato (64) is a Japanese fashion designer, an ex-collaborator with famous Japanese designer Issey Miyake (80).
My last stop for the day was at Akasaka (not the same as Asakusa!). Nice vanishing edge on the SKI building (infotech office tower) on the left.

Tuesday/ along Meiji-Dori avenue

I spotted some unusual buildings along Meiji-Dori avenue today, while walking from Shibuya to the Harajuku station.
Some days I run myself ragged with too much walking! So for tomorrow, I plan to take the Nozomi Super Express to Nagoya. It’s 1h 40m in one direction.

The not-quite Art Deco building for the Pink Dragon store sells 1950s retro clothes, accessories and clocks. Down below is Cat Street Cafe, and a golden egg perched on a pillar .. but what that stands for, I am not sure!
Here is the swank new WeWork co-working space called The Iceberg, which opened in Aug 2018. They have offices around the world, also in Seattle.
An older apartment building near Harajuku station. I don’t know the name – I just liked the angled columns of bay windows.
A window display that shows Pepper the robot* coming to grips with his new Google Pixel 3 smartphone. (Does he ask: ‘OK Google, who is the smartest robot?’ ?).  *Manufactured by SoftBank Robotics.
The Tokyu Plaza shopping mall near Harajuku station has a faceted entrance covered with mirrors. It is only 3 pm, but the sun is already low. It sets at 4.40 pm.

Thursday/ Perth downtown

I took the train from Bull Creek Station to Perth Underground station today – it’s only 11 minutes.

The Western Australian economy must have picked up steam the last two years, because there is a lot of new construction going on in downtown Perth.

Here is the landmark Bell Tower (built 1999), surrounded by the Elizabeth Quay construction which is coming along, but not quite completed yet. Those oval towers on the far left are the The Towers at Elizabeth Quay, and offers 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom apartments for sale. The 3-bedrooms go for AU$1.2 million (US$ 860,000).
This lime-green Lamborghini (‘Lambo’) in front of the Louis Vuitton store has a plate that says ‘BOTOX’ .. is it a tongue-in-cheek joke? Does the owner love Botox? I don’t know.
Here is the old Perth Palace Hotel on the corner of William St and St George’s Terrace (built in 1897 during the Australian gold rush). Behind it is the BankWest Tower, completed in 1989 ‎(52 floors, 214 m / 702 ft).
I found this opal watch at the Perth Mint. Nice to look at, I’m not sure I like it well enough to wear it on my wrist.
Here is the mail man (in the neon green), about to stop at the gate of the annex (the white building) to St Mary’s Cathedral. It was warm today: 33 °C/ 92°F.
The gorgeous building of the Criterion Hotel, formerly the Regatta Hotel, is a hotel in Perth, Western Australia. It is the only remaining Art Deco hotel in the Perth Central Business District. [Source: Wikipedia].

Sunday/ a first look at First Light

We went down to the sales office for an elegant new condominium tower called First Light today, just to see what’s going on there.

The development will be done by Westbank, a Vancouver, B.C.-based firm.
It is still early days, though: the tower’s completion is only scheduled for some time in 2022.

The proposed First Light condominium tower (459 units, 48 floors) was designed by architect James KM Cheng. The design is somewhat minimalist, but features balconies for all the units, and check out that floating roof-top swimming pool (the beige-colored platform complete with tiny lounge chairs).
This is a sample of the steel-wire-and-glass-disk ‘curtains’ (designed by artist John Hogan), that will be strung outside the tower’s podium (lower five floors). It should add texture from afar, and reflect different colors of sunlight, depending on the viewing angle.

Wednesday/ Rainier Square Tower’s newfangled steel core

The Rainier Square Tower (59-story, 850 ft/ 259 m tall) in downtown Seattle, is getting off the ground, with its completion scheduled for early 2020.

Traditionally, a rebar-reinforced concrete core has been the preferred method of construction for Seattle’s towers. These cores are very good at bracing against wind and seismic loads. The construction process is slow, though: three to four days per floor, with the steel framing for each floor dependent on completion of the concrete work.

For Rainier Square Tower, a new steel plate & concrete composite fill design for its high-rise core is used. It has been developed by Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA) over many years. The system uses two steel plates connected by steel spacing ties, and then the cavity between the plates is filled with high-strength concrete.  An added boon is that this method is expected to reduce traditional construction time by 30% or more.

Here’s the current snapshot of the Rainier Square Tower construction cam, showing the carefully excavated hole and the first steel plates for the tower’s foundation and core. At the top right is the 1970s 40-story Rainier Tower, holding its own on its 12-story pedestal. Measurements show that that so far so good: everything on that side is solid.
I took this picture on Tuesday, showing another U-shaped, hollow section of two sets of connected steel plates, being put into place. The new Rainier Square Tower (59 floors) will be right next to the existing Rainier Tower (40 floors).
Left: A rendering of the completed Rainier Square Tower, designed by NBBJ – an American architecture, planning and design firm that was founded in Seattle in 1943, and today has offices around the world. The curve towards its top allows it to be built next to architect Minoru Yamasaki’s 1970’s Rainier Tower, without completely obscuring it. Right: The filled steel plate core will go up all the way to the top, making for a very resilient structure. [Rainier Square Tower rendering courtesy of Wright Runstad & Company; conceptual graphic of steel core courtesy of Magnusson Klemencic Associates].

Sunday/ here comes the Nexus tower

I went down Denny Way to go check on the construction of a condominium tower called the Nexus today, just north and east of downtown. The construction boom is still going full-steam with dozens of downtown and South Lake Union projects only now getting off the ground.

This is the base of the Nexus condominium tower with two of the four stacked ‘cubes’ it will eventually have, that are each offset by 8° from the one below it. Some 29 of the 389 units in the 41-story building are still available, priced from $1.2 million to the high $2 millions.
It’s all glass and steel one block away. This view from the corner of Stewart St and Boren Ave; corporate offices left and the AMLI Arc apartment tower on the right.
And one more block down, the $400 million Hyatt Regency (the Pacific Northwest’s largest hotel with 1,260 rooms) is about to open its doors to guests.

Thursday/ a visit to the U-District

The No 48 bus makes for an easy run up to the University (of Washington) District for me, and I did that today. (The main draw there for me is the big university bookstore, and the smaller second-hand bookstores, as well).

In another two years or so, the new Light Rail train station right there will be completed, and then I can take the train instead. That would be great!

Even though these apartments on University Way are painted in pastel colors, they are still a little wild (I think). Cool ginkgo tree in front of it, leaves in yellow fall color. Ginkgo trees are living fossil plants: they are found in fossils dating back 270 million years. So they were dinosaur food.
Oh man .. I hope the author is wrong about the thesis of his book. Yes, we want another great president. How about a decent one, at least? (The author basically says being President of the United States has become too arduous a job, and that our expectations are too high. He also wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post in 2014 titled ‘Barack Obama, disappointer in chief’. Mr Miller! Distinguished scholar that you are, we would like your opinion of President Donald Trump, please. My opinion: catastrophic disaster in chief).
This dog-eared picture is in Magus Bookstore. The guy is Russian, I’m sure, I thought, and famous, but I did not know who he is. Google Images to the rescue: it’s playwright Anton Chekhov (born 1860-died 1904, much too young, at 44, from tuberculosis).
The beautiful entrance on 15th Ave NE, to the University Temple United Methodist Church. The building was completed in 1927.

Tuesday/ the Seattle Tower

I guess Seattle has many gleaming glass and steel towers nowadays, but the Seattle Tower is one of the city’s original art deco gems.
Its construction was completed in 1929, and at the time it was called the Northern Life Building.

I just took a quick picture this afternoon, but looking at online pictures, I see I made the mistake of not going into the Tower’s lobby. Architect A.H. Albertson’s art deco design is featured inside and out, and the warm brown brickface of the Tower had held up well against the ravages of time.
Here is the Northern Life Tower (Seattle Tower), featured on an antique postcard, possibly from the 1930s or 1940s (no date was given for it). It tapers to the top in a pyramid, in progressively lighter shades of brown bricks.
And here is today: Google Streetview with the Seattle Tower (completed 1929, 27 storeys) in the middle, at the southeast corner of 3rd Ave. and University St. That’s the US Bank Centre building (completed 1989) in front of it, itself only the 8th tallest in the city at 44 storeys.

Tuesday/ gorgeous weather

We have had a streak of beautiful blue-sky days here in the city, reaching all of 72 °F (22 °C) on Tuesday.  A high pressure system parked above the Pacific Northwest will give us even more clear weather days, all through the weekend, say the meteorologists.

Here’s the corner of Madison St & 5th Ave, as I left the Seattle Central Library on Monday. Just to the top right of the triangular walkway I see a little bit of the City Centre Building where I used to work, then the IBM Building, the red brick vintage Kimpton Hotel, the tall Crowne Plaza Hotel behind it, and finally a little bit of the Union Square building to its right.

Wednesday/ Building Cure’s progress

Here’s what the completed building will look like. [Source: Aedas, Flad & Associates]
I walked by the construction site of the ‘Building Cure’ today.

It’s here in downtown Seattle near Denny Way. It is the new building for Seattle Children’s Research Institute to expand into. The Institute’s scientists develop cures and therapies for childhood diseases such as cancers, sickle cell anemia and type 1 diabetes.

The Institute has grown from just 40 employees in 2006 to more than 1,500 today.

The 13 floors are done, and now the glass and steel cladding (aluminum?) goes on.  Those round pillars stand at angles to each other to form the facets of the building’s sides. I hope the construction was not too much of a nightmare.
Colorful artwork on an electrical box on the pavement, by the existing Seattle Children’s Research Institute building.

Friday/ the LEGO Americana Roadshow

I lucked out and caught the last day when these LEGO ‘Americana Roadshow’ models were on display at Bellevue Square mall, last Sunday.
I don’t think I aspire to build giant LEGO models like these .. but maybe that is just because I don’t have hundreds of thousands of bricks to work with!

This is a life-size replica of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia (the original bell was installed in the steeple of the Pennsylvania state house, now called Independence Hall). It took two master builders 430 hours to build this model.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota – or an approximation of it! – in a glass display case. I love the little minifigures in orange with their pickaxes on the mountainside. The presidents from left to right are: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, and the memorial was completed in 1941.
The Statue of Liberty from Liberty Island, in the New York City harbor, was dedicated in 1886. This model is 1:25 scale, and took three builders a total of 320 hours.
Here’s the Jefferson Memorial from Washington, D.C., completed in 1943, modeled at 1:50 scale. The memorial is dedicated to Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), one of the most important of the American Founding Fathers as main drafter and writer of the Declaration of Independence.
The White House from Washington, D.C., official residence of the President of the United States. This 1:30 model – mercifully – spares us the spectacle of a mini-President Trump, waving at us from the porch.
Here is the United States Supreme Court building, 1:54 scale, also from Washington, D.C., and completed in 1935. ‘Equal Justice Under Law’ on the façade, presumably applies to any President of the United States, as well? The builders had to be creative with their use of bricks to model the human figures seated by the steps, and those on the façade.

Sunday/ 2nd Avenue construction

I made like the tourists in the city today, and walked around 2nd Avenue and the Seattle Waterfront.

It’s about 6 pm, but the sun is still blazing down from the west. The Alaskan Viaduct along the waterfront has been around since 1953, but its days are really numbered now. There is a replacement tunnel running underneath it with two decks of completed roadways that is undergoing a few months of testing. Towards the end of the year, the destruction of this viaduct will start.
Here’s the 2+U (or 2&U) tower taking shape at 2nd Avenue and University Street. On the right is an artist’s impression of the completed tower complex with its V-shaped columns. There will be 38 floors of office space, with some retail, and with public spaces at the ground level. The venerable 4-story Diller Hotel on the corner, is holding its own. It has a cozy bar inside. As a luxury hotel constructed in 1890, it was one of the first new buildings in the city after the destruction of the Great Seattle Fire of 1889.

Sunday/ South Lake Union walkabout

The mercury hit 90°F (32°C) here in the city today, and I waited for the fireball in the sky to sit a little lower, before I ventured out on my usual South Lake Union walkabout.  Here are some pictures.

Amazon’s third downtown tower on 7th Ave & Lenora, is now built up almost to its top. That top floor (in the core by the yellow crane) is floor 38, and the plan posted on says there will be 39 floors.
I caught the South Lake Union streetcar a little further down on Westlake Avenue. I’m sure The Hulk says ‘Puny humans make Hulk mad!’.
Moxy* is Marriott International’s new millennial-focused boutique hotel chain. I see this new one in SLU goes for $381 a night, right now in high season.  It is shockingly more expensive than the one I almost stayed at, at Frankfurt Airport last year, at $87 a night (in the dead of winter, though).  *A play on the word moxie? Moxie: a force of character, determination, or nerve.
Cute entrance sign at The Fox & The Finch apartments nearby. The building has 24 small one-bedroom apartments (600 sq ft). These will run the renter about $2,000 a month.  Yes, it’s new, great location, but it’s twice as much what one would pay in many other cities in the United States.
Here’s the nicely outfitted ATM at Umpqua Bank on Westlake Avenue. The first Umpqua Bank opened in Canyonville, Oregon, a timber town on the South Umpqua River, in 1953. There are also several distinct groups of Native Americans in Oregon named Umpqua.

Saturday/ townhouse triple

My ‘Townhouse Triple’ used up the last of my windows and white brick stock.
This illustrates the LEGO builder’s dilemma: which creations should one keep on permanent display, and which should one break down (to free the bricks for something else)?

A simple LEGO Townhouse. It’s a MOC*.   *LEGO parlance for ‘My Own Creation’ .. not built from a LEGO set, nor from someone else’s build instructions.

Update 7/22: Here’s an updated model with an improved rooftop.

I added some red trim on the first and second floors, black fencing on the rooftop, and upgraded the roof tiles.

Monday/ another ‘woonerf’

I spotted a building on Saturday at the street food fair on 8th Ave, that had a striking glass-faced box (picture below). So I looked up the design drawing for it (on 

I see there is another woonerf in the making, next to it.  (At least one more is planned for 12th Ave). Woonerf (pronounce VONE-erf) is a Dutch word, for a street with park-like surroundings, that is shared by pedestrians, cyclists, and cars (driving slowly). 

The building on the right in the artist rendition, is the one in my photo below. The section of 8th Ave N between the two 6-story office buildings from Vulcan company, will become a ‘woonerf’, a modified street shared by everyone.
This enormous COF FEE sign is right across the street from the new building. Yes. One needs to know immediately where to find coffee when you want it, in Seattle!