Sunday/ Amazon’s Block 20 & Block 21 buildings

My Sunday afternoon walk in the Denny Triangle was thwarted a little by a rain shower.  I did get a few pictures of the newest Amazon buildings that are almost completed, though.

The brown building with 8 storeys is Amazon Block 20, seen from the corner of 8th Ave and Blanchard.
This water feature is on the other side of the Block 20 building, on 7th Avenue.  It was designed by local sculptor Gerry Tsutakawa and is part of the public plaza there.
Here is Amazon Block 21 (2200 7th Ave), seen from the corner of 7th Ave and Blanchard St. It is part of Amazon’s expanding headquarters. The office tower on the left is 24 stories tall, and the building in the foreground 8 stories.  The oval building in the back is the McKenzie Apartments building, 40 stories tall. It was completed last year, and has 450 apartments.

Saturday/ the new apartments at Cap.Hill train station

The construction crews are making good progress on the three new apartment buildings by the Capitol Hill train station.

The three new buildings called A, B and C, from a draft proposal that I found online. The buildings are 7 stories tall and will offer a total of some new 350 apartments. I believe the assumption is that these apartment dwellers will NOT own cars. They have trains and buses (and Uber drivers) on their doorstep to take them anywhere in the city, after all.
The view from Denny Way, looking northeast. This is as tall as the new apartment buildings will go. The open space between the A building (left edge of the picture) and the B buildings (right) will be a public plaza.
This is a late afternoon picture, looking north on 10th Avenue with the B buildings on the left.  The homeowners on the right are getting some shade from the warm sun in summer, but they have lost a lot of sunlight that they used to have in winter!

Sunday walkabout

The walkways around the Denny Substation opened yesterday, and I went to take a look today.

The view at the top of the walkway at Denny Substation. This is at a 2nd floor elevation, and close to the corner of Denny Way & Stewart St.
One can now stand under the ‘Transforest’ artwork and, um, learn to appreciate it a little more!
Here’s a view from Stewart Street towards the Space Needle. The site in the middle of the picture is under construction (1200 Stewart St), and this current view will change dramatically over the next 18 months or so. Two 45-story towers on a 3-story podium will be constructed with some 1,050 apartments and retail space. (Whoah). The new building partially fitted with its glass windows is 1120 Denny Way: a complex of two 41-story apartments buildings. Upon completion, it will be the largest apartment building in the city’s history with 1,179 apartments.
The construction of the new ‘Building Cure‘ for Seattle Children’s Research Hospital is about to be completed. I love the mirror finish on the lettering. This is on Terry Avenue.
Also by the Building Cure are these colorful sidewalk chairs that can swivel.
A giant astronaut in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, promoting an exhibit of the 1969 moon landing in Seattle’s Museum of Flight.

Sunday walkabout

It was very pleasant this weekend in Seattle (69°F/  21°C). We had none of the turbulent, stormy weather that swept through the Midwest and elsewhere.
Here are two pictures from my downtown walkabout this afternoon.

Construction on these newest Amazon buildings, on the corner of Blanchard and 7th Avenue, have both topped out. There are 24 stories on the left tower, and 8 stories on the right. I trust that those crane bases and moorings have been double & triple-checked after the bad accident at the Google construction site. (The little red car is a Tesla Model 3).
And nearby on 5th Avenue, as always, was the monorail train doing its short run from the Space Needle to Westlake Center downtown. I think it’s pulling off quite a feat: it manages to look both retro AND futuristic at the same time!

Monday/ Rainier Square Tower taking shape

Here are two pictures that I took today, of the Rainier Square Tower. Construction workers have started to install the glass panels on the swooping side of the tower. Boy, I hope it will not be too tricky for window cleaners to scale down that side of the building to clean those slanted surfaces!

The construction of the Rainier Square Tower is at about 35 floors by my count. It will eventually be an 850-ft tall skyscraper (260 m), with 58 stories.
The new Rainier Square Tower is located at Union Street between 4th and 5th Avenues, adjacent to the existing Rainier Tower (the 41-story building on the pedestal, on the left).


Heartbreaking to see Notre Dame cathedral stand in flames. This must be what the end of the world will look like.

The Cathedral of Notre-Dame, was built in French Gothic Style and completed in 1345. One of the most iconic symbols of beauty and history in Paris – and the world –  it was engulfed in flames on Monday, leading to the collapse of part of its spire. Credit: Francois Guillot/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The damage to Notre Dame cathedral. [Source: Google Maps, Tim Meko, Aaron Steckelberg & Monica Ulmanu, The Washington Post]

Thursday/ the cherry blossoms at UW

The large cherry trees on the Quad of the University of Washington’s campus in Seattle’s University District are reaching their peak bloom, and I went out to take a look today.

The blossoms are 65% in bloom today, reports the UW website. The trees already look splendid to me, but maybe I will go back next week to experience them at full bloom! The 29 large cherry trees in the Quad are about 86 yrs old and in good shape.
‘Thanks to precious Earth and Mother Nature for cherry trees’, says this banner around the tree.
This administration building called Denny Hall is nearby the Quad. It is named after Arthur Denny, one of the founders of Seattle. It is the oldest building on the main UW campus, and was completed in 1895. It is looking great after a $56m renovation inside and out, that was completed in 2016.
A closer look at the main facade and its clock.
And I always stop on Red Square to take a picture of Suzzallo Library (Collegiate Gothic architecture, 1926). Side note: My alma mater in Stellenbosch, South Africa, also has a plaza called Red Square (die ‘Rooi Plein’) right by its main library.

Sunday/ Denny substation update

I went down to check on the construction of Seattle’s sleek new $209 million substation in South Lake Union today. Its construction has been three years in the making – and its planning much longer than that. Seattle City Light purchased the site from the Greyhound bus company in October 2008.

The work inside the substation is basically done, and the equipment has been energized. The walkways on its perimeter and the little public park are not yet open, though. There is also ongoing work done for building out an underground distribution network, scheduled to be completed in 2020.

Here’s a diagram that shows the incoming transmission lines (green), as well as the power distribution lines (lime green and orange). As substations go, this one is a decent size in terms of capacity, but not as big as a national grid substation. For now its capacity is 50 MVA (Megavolt-Ampere), but this could be increased up to 405 MVA to meet future power demands. The gas-insulated switchgear allowed for a smaller footprint for the substation.
Here’s the ground view from John St, looking toward Denny Way. I believe there is still some artwork that will be installed in the little public park: a 110 ft tall transmission tower-morphed-into-a-tree!
‘Seattle City Light Denny Substation’ says the lettering. This is looking west along John St. Space Needle on the right edge of the picture. The two trucks are parked in front of garage doors that allow maintenance vehicles to go into the substation.
And this will be the entrance to the information kiosk on Denny Way.

Sunday/ the Nexus tower tops out

I walked by the Nexus condominium tower today, to check on its progress from November.
The tower’s construction is about to be officially topped off,  with occupancy expected by late 2019.  Some 28 (of the 389) units are still available.

The Nexus condominium tower at 1200 Howell St now has its four stacked ‘cubes’ with their 8° offsets in place. The building has 41 storeys.
The view from the north side. The building’s appearance seems more mundane than the gleaming depictions of it on the Nexus website! .. but maybe I should reserve judgement until its construction has been completed.

Tuesday/ Rainier Square Tower rising .. sans Amazon

Here is what the Rainier Square Tower in downtown Seattle looks like now. (See this post from November).

Amazon was to lease all 722,000 square feet (30 floors) in the new building, but announced last week that it would not do so anymore.  It will look to sub-lease the space to other companies instead.  This announcement came 10 months after Amazon had threatened to pull out of the building if the city were to impose a new business tax (which the city then backed away from).

Looking north, from Fifth Avenue. The shape of the base floors of the new Rainier Square Tower, shows behind the white pedestal of the 1977 Rainier Tower.
Here’s the view from Fifth Ave, looking south. The Rainier Tower (41 floors) and the new Rainier Square Tower (58 floors) are right next to each other. The profile of the tall new tower will keep it from obscuring the older tower.

Thursday/ Delft & Den Haag (The Hague)

I took the short train ride out to Delft and The Hague today. The sun and the balmy weather of Wednesday were gone, and it was foggy and cold until early afternoon.

Here is Delft train station building as I look back at it, with its 2015 remodeling. I am walking towards the Markt, the main square in Delft. (Note: That’s a streetcar on the left of the picture, not a train).
It was foggy and barely 10 am by the time I got to the Markt square, and the stall owners that sold food and souvenirs were still getting everything ready. ‘Lekkere Thee’ (tasty tea), says the banner in the middle. That’s the Delft Town Hall in the distance.
The Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) towers over the Markt town square at 108 m (356 ft). It is not new, of course! Its construction in the Gothic style was completed in 1496.
I took a look at the famous blue Royal Delft porcelain ware, but did not buy anything new. (I already have some). These hand painted pieces are much more expensive than the mass-produced ones.
Now on to The Hague. I was determined to get a glimpse of the North Sea, and found it at the beach and promenade at Scheveningen. There is also a pier with a Ferris wheel, and all the businesses are getting ready for the summer season’s visitors.
Nearby is the Kurhaus Hotel, with the flag of the Netherlands on its main dome, itself undergoing renovations for the summer.
The Vredespaleis (Peace Palace) was marked on my map, and I went out to check it out. Only the little museum was open though, and this is the closest I could get. The building (opened 1913) houses the International Court of Justice, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, The Hague Academy of International Law and the Peace Palace Library.
Here’s the entrance to the modern city hall of The Hague. The stork on the city’s coat of arms has a black eel in its beak. The words ‘Vrede en Recht’ (Peace and Justice) was added in 2012 – a nod to the city’s global recognition as the home of international justice and accountability.
In the foyer of The Hague City Hall building, there are pictures of several human rights activists.
The facade of the Grandcafé Haagsche Bluf in the city center. I love the art deco styling of the building.
Here’s the main entrance to Den Haag Centraal station, its 2015 renovation showing nice blue glass panels and a diamond pattern in the roof.

Wednesday/ exploring Rotterdam

It was a gorgeous day here in Rotterdam, with the day temperature reaching 17°C/ 62°F. Here is a selection of sights from today.

This bike path & foot path is next to Het Park (‘The Park’), on the way to the Euromast.
Euromast is an observation tower (185 m/ 606 ft), built for the 1960 Floriade (an international exhibition). The tower is a concrete structure. It was built on a concrete block weighing some 2,000 metric tons, so that the center of gravity is below ground.
Here’s a view of the Erasmus Bridge (139 m/456 ft high, 802 m/ 0.5 mi long), from the panorama platform at 85 m (278 ft), drawn a little closer with my camera’s zoom lens. The bridge is a combined cable-stayed and bascule bridge over the Niewe Maas river. The bridge was named after Desiderius Erasmus, a prominent Christian Renaissance humanist. It opened in 1996.
Another view from the panorama platform. Look for the flat barge with the blue containers. It first entered the lock at the top (middle right of the picture), then water was pumped in to raise the barge by some 6 ft, and right now it is making its way under the second drawn bridge, into the canal.
This Egyptian goose (‘Kolgans’) is native to Southern Africa, but I guess one finds them in many other places in the world, as well. This is at a little lake in Het Park (‘The Park).
This eye-catching apartment building is close to Eendrachtsplein. I still have to look up its name and construction date.
This is the Metro train at Beurs station, a suburban train that runs to the outer suburbs of Rotterdam. It took me to Leuvehaven by the waters of the Niewe Maas river.
Here’s the Rotterdam Water Taxi, coming to pick up a couple at a stop on a canal close to Leuvenhaven station. The Niewe Maas river is on the other side of the buildings.
I started at the Erasmus Bridge (seen earlier from the Euromast), and then walked to the red Willemsbrug (Willem’s Bridge, named after named after King Willem III of the Netherlands, and of course, after ME too). Opened: 1981 | Height: 65 m 213 ft | Length: 318 m / 0.2 mi.
The gorgeous Witte Huis (‘White House’) is near Willemsbrug. It was built in 1898 in the art nouveau style, and was for long the tallest office building in Europe (the first ‘hoogbouw’ = tall build, at the time, with 10 floors).
This is the little Spanjaardsbrug (‘Spanish Bridge’) in the Oude Haven (‘Old Harbor’). The bridge was built in 1886, and I just love the art elements of the Victorian age, that went into it.
The crazy Cube houses at the Oude Haven is a set of innovative houses designed by architect Piet Blom. Yes, there are actually people living in them, and the design’s main purpose is said to optimize the space inside (hmm, OK). I was surprised to find out they had been built in 1977, already.
The Markthal (Market Hall) nearby, is a new residential and office building (2014) with a market hall underneath.
Beautiful and enormous mural artwork inside the Markthal. This depiction of a caterpillar might just be the largest in the world.
.. and finally, Willem says: Come to Willemswerf (Willem’s Yard) to park your car in Rotterdam!

Tuesday/ arrival in Rotterdam

It’s a 32 min ride on the Intercity Direct from Schiphol airport down to Rotterdam Centraal station. The Sprinter is a little bit cheaper but takes quite a bit longer since it stops at 5 or 6 stations on the way.

I arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport at about 11.15 am this morning.
I had to spend a little time at Schiphol to figure out how to use my OV-chipkaart* for the train ride down to Rotterdam, but that’s OK. Now I know how to use it in Rotterdam, as well.

*Cannot load money onto it at the ticketing machine with an American credit card! (USA cards do not have PIN numbers). No need to buy a fare ahead of time, but if you travel 1st class, you tap the card once at the station/ platform entrance as usual, and then a second time on the platform next to the train, for the 1st class surcharge.

Here is KLM Airlines’ Boeing 777 at the gate at Cape Town International airport. It took 11 hrs 20 mins to reach Schiphol in Amsterdam. It feels SO GOOD to walk off the plane and stretch one’s legs after all that time.
Here are the train tracks at Rotterdam Centraal Station, after I had arrived on the Intercity Direct from Schiphol (32 mins).
Inside Rotterdam Centraal Station. That’s a giant oblong strip of LCD TV screen at the top.
The main entrance to Rotterdam Centraal Station with its sweeping, metal-clad entrance.  This station building was designed by a team of Dutch architects and officially opened in March 2014.
Here’s a view from the 12th floor of the Marriott Hotel across from the train station, where I stay. Look to the right of the picture for the street cars that stop at Rotterdam Centraal. Watch out for them! they do not stop at smaller intersections. Another hazard when crossing intersections are the bike lanes with cyclists and moped riders.

Friday/ Stellenbosch buildings

Here are some of my favorite buildings in Stellenbosch, from my visit there yesterday.

These giant ficus trees are behind the main administration buildings of the University of Stellenbosch.
The Moederkerk (Mother Church) on Drostdy St has a neo-gothic tower designed by Carl Otto Hager from Dresden, Germany. The building was completed in 1863.
Erfurt House, named after the town Erfurt in Germany. Johan Marthinus (Jan) Beyers built the imposing double story residence in 1876 with a wood and cast iron balcony on all sides of the building.
The Old Main Building (‘Ou Hoofgebou’) of the University of Stellenbosch. This building was also designed by Carl Otto Hager. It was completed in 1883 for what was named Stellenbosch College at the time. The flag on the flagpole indicates that the University oF Stellenbosch celebrated its centenary in 2018.
The building for the Bloemhof Girls’ High School on Andringa Street now houses Stellenbosch University Museum. It was built in the Flemish Renaissance Revival style and completed in 1907.

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.