Amazon, South Lake Union: Tech, Business and Art, Too

By Jim Demetre


January 6, 2017

This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of Seattle Magazine.

The transformation of Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood from a quiet area of light industry and wholesale florists to a neighborhood of high-rise office buildings housing Amazon’s global empire has not been all business. Set among its many walkways and plazas are 20 site-specific public artworks by some of Seattle’s leading artists, commissioned by developer Vulcan Real Estate. While some loom large, others announce themselves more discreetly to the blue-badge-wearing workers venturing out for lunch or another meeting. Although privately funded, the pieces are available for all to experience. These are a few of our favorites.

Image by Benjamin Benschneider

1. “There Is Another Sky,” 2014, by Spencer Finch 515 Westlake Ave. N (in the public plaza at Westlake Avenue and Ninth Avenue N) » This glass canopy, positioned above stairs and lush plantings, is printed with abstract patterns in yellow and green that filter light like the leaves of tall trees. Finch augments the understory with LED lights whose sequences mimic the flights of fireflies.

Image by Benjamin Benschneider

2. “Woodpile,” 2012, by Jenny Heishman 207 Boren Ave. N (at Boren Avenue N and Thomas St.) » A stack of logs and a blue tarp draped haphazardly over a plank, rendered in painted steel and bronze, appears at first glance to be a pile of forgotten construction debris. Its permanence reflects the continuous rebuilding of Seattle, from pioneer days to the present.

Image by Vulcan Real Estate

3. “The Laundry Strike,” 2014, by Whiting Tennis Stack House, 1280 Harrison St. » This painted bronze colossus suggests the wicker hampers that once held clothes cleaned by female laundry workers, and is near the site where 700 of them went on strike in 1917.

Image by Vulcan Real Estate

4. “Re-Stack,” 2015, by Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo of Lead Pencil Studios 325 Ninth Ave. N (in the public plaza at Ninth Avenue N and Thomas Street) » This tall, stainless steel triumphant arch of horizontal and vertical panels resembles stacked shipping containers or cardboard boxes awaiting delivery. The sketch-like sculpture also suggests the half-built structures that appear throughout this and many other Seattle neighborhoods.

Image by Vulcan Real Estate

5. “Ping Pong Plaza,” 2004, by Buster Simpson ISB Building, 401 Terry Ave. N (in the public plaza off Harrison Street) » A metal ping pong table surrounded by bamboo and fitted with wide, diagonal legs that reveal the profiles of famed scientists. Players mix sport and creative endeavor by hitting the ball back and forth, just as the great minds of those scientists once bounced ideas between one another. 


We also like:

Image by Vulcan Real Estate
“Cabin Corners,” by Jenny Heishman

Image by Vulcan Real Estate
“Nebulous,” 2015, by Dan Corson

Image by Vulcan Real Estate
“Placeholders,” by Claudia Fitch

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