Rainier Tower

1301 5th Ave. at University St.
Seattle, Washington


Architect:
Minoru Yamasaki
Construction: 1972-1977
Style: InternationalNew Formalism
Name history:
Construction of the Rainier Tower completed in 1977. The building and the plaza are named after Rainier Bank, its original tenant. Rainier Bank later merged into Security Pacific in the 1980s, and eventually into BankAmerica. In 1989, the name of the tower was changed after Security Pacific until UW chose to rename it back to the more familiar "Rainier Tower" in 1995.
Height: 121 foot concrete base is equivalent to eleven stories.  32 stories above. (40 stories?, 42 stories?)
Exterior: Aluminum-clad office tower on steel framing
Interior:
830,000 SF  (635,824 gross square feet, 538,529 net?)
Neighbor:  IBM Building, which is on the corner across the street from Rainier Tower to the southeast.
Rainier Square:
Beneath the tower is Rainier Square, an underground shopping mall connecting with One Union Square, which is owned by the University of Washington
Neighbor: Rainier Square Tower:  In 2015, the University of Washington proposed an 850 ft office tower to occupy space next door to the Rainier Tower. The project also includes a twelve-story hotel. Construction began in September of 2017 with completion projected in 2019.

Photos taken March 1, 2019


View from University St. - back of the building   ...
"... the most bizarre thing he [Minoru Yamasaki] ever created was the Rainier Bank Tower. This twenty-nine-story office block is hoisted atop an upwardly flaring, windowless eleven-story concrete pedestal that at its base is only half the width of the superstructure it supports. Although a tour de force of engineering, the precarious-looking building remains deeply unsettling, especially in the earthquake-prone Pacific Northwest." - Martin Filler, Review of Minoru Yamasaki: Humanist Architecture for a Modernist World (online March 2019)   ...

LeftRainier Square Tower:  In 2015, the University of Washington proposed an 850 ft office tower to occupy space next door to the Rainier Tower. The project also includes a twelve-story hotel. Construction began in September of 2017 with completion projected in 2019.



View from Yamasaki's kitty-corner IBM Building   ..   Details below, starting at the top:


Aluminum spandrel panels  ...   Detail below:


Aluminum spandrel panels






View from Yamasaki's kitty-corner IIBM Building    ...   "...upwardly flaring, windowless eleven-story concrete pedestal that at its base is only half the width of the superstructure it supports."


Rainier Square:  In 2015, the University of Washington proposed an 850 ft office tower to occupy space next door to the Rainier Tower. The project also includes a twelve-story hotel. Construction began in September of 2017 with completion projected in 2019.




Retail space on University St. (left) and 5th Avenue (right)



Entrance   ...   Left of entrance:  Attached retail space   ...   Right: Rainier Square:  In 2015, the University of Washington proposed an 850 ft office tower to occupy space next door to the Rainier Tower. The project also includes a twelve-story hotel. Construction began in September of 2017 with completion projected in 2019.












Minoru Yamasaki designed the complex with the primary intent of retaining as much of the site for outdoor public use as possible. Positioning the building on a pedestal located at the corner of the site achieved maximum land area for low rise commercial development and open green area. Appearing to taper toward the ground like an inverted pyramid, the skyscraper’s 121 foot concrete base is equivalent to eleven stories. Reminiscent of a felled tree, the building has attained the nickname of “the beaver building”. The base carries the thirty two story aluminum-clad office tower on steel framing.

The tower’s perimeter acts as a Vierendeel truss, transferring wind loads to the pedestal while also making the building earthquake resistant. Results of the successful completion of 3 environmental tests prior to construction proved Rainier Tower as one of Seattle’s safest buildings. Rainier Square underground shopping mall ...
- Yamasaki, Inc. - official website (online March 2019; Yamasaki and Associates continued to operate until closing business on December 31, 2009.)
The unusual tapered base was selected for multiple reasons. First, its form proved highly effective in resisting huge seismic jolts that could affect Seattle. Second, Yamasaki wanted to preserve the "green" character of Downtown Seattle, and therefore wanted to minimize the building's footprint on the site. Third, he wanted to devote much of the ground space to a retail shopping plaza. Fourth, clearly, Yamasaki also was enamored of the base's soaring, curved form.
- PCAD (online March 2019)
Downtown two Minoru Yamasaki high-rises face off across Fifth Avenue and University Street, each with a gigantic gesture at its base that tries to solve the problem of how to make a skyscraper hit the street with something other than a colossal thud and also humanize the plaza space around it.

He encircled the 1964 Union Bank Building (originally the IBM Building) with a loggia of gigantic arches, and in 1977 positioned the Rainier Tower atop a concrete base tapering like a wineglass stem, seemingly defying gravity and the quakes of our future. But, in both cases, the towers themselves are so routinely ordinary, and the public spaces under their grand gestures so oppressively bleak, that the buildings are difficult to like.
- Lawrence W. Cheek, What modern architecture is worth saving in Seattle?  (online March 2019)
See also:


M&T, Buffalo


Photos and their arrangement 2019 Chuck LaChiusa
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