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Prosecco corks and craft beer tops popped amid the sawhorses and pallets. Hardhats glinted in the light cast by the construction lights dangling from drop cords. It was Block 41’s first party ever and the building’s top-to-bottom refurbishing wasn’t even finished yet. But that was okay. It was a party for architects and they like to see the bones of a building. In fact, it is a prerequisite for events held by ARCADE, a Seattle-based non-profit focused on architecture and design. All ARCADE events are held in buildings that are works-in-progress preferably with one of their members as the lead architect.
Seattle metal and glass master Stephen Hirt whose pieces can be found in museums, hospitals, churches and public parks was commissioned to create the courtyard gate and entry chandelier for Block 41. Yet Stephen feared as a kid in college that he would never be able to achieve his dream of being an artist because he did not think he could draw well enough. But encouraged by an insightful professor, Hirt continued in art.
Block 41 lighting designer Tom Sturge realized as a stage-struck kid watching the Broadway debut of “Pippin” that here was magic to do. Determined to get closer to the magic he’d witnessed, young Sturge waited until the theater emptied and made his way to the stage. All he saw was a bare wood floor with bits of tape and string. Turning around he noticed an array of powerful light fixtures aimed at the stage. Instead of being disappointed, Sturge felt a surge of elation.
Structural beauty in all its forms has always been compelling to Susan Tillack, Block 41’s managing architect for the Seattle architecture firm Graham Baba. As a former assistant editor at the prestigious Oxford University Press and Grove Press, she helped enhance the structural beauty of language. With Block 41, she helped transform the structural beauty of a 1927 former ice warehouse into a chic contemporary event venue.
Block 41’s lead architect Jim Graham of the firm Graham Baba credits a trifecta of influences for shaping his design vision. As an architecture student, studying abroad in both Paris and Copenhagen allowed him to soak up the best of elegant old and edgy new architecture. And oh yes, his father was an architect.
But it is in Graham’s work on Seattle projects – notably the St. Ignatius Chapel at Seattle University, when he was part of Olson Sundberg, and the 2015 Starbuck’s Reserve Roastery® and Tasting Room with his own firm– that his style has reached its full fruition. Graham’s bold vernacular choices infuse a crisp new energy into the pedigreed patina of tradition.