Architecture of Seattle: Iconic Structures, Architectural Styles and Influences in Seattle 

Seattle has a variety of architectural influences and styles which can be seen across the city. It gathers inspiration from the industrial boom in the 1900s and the tech boom in the 2000s. From the elegant residential homes in Queen Anne and Pioneer Square to futuristic buildings like the downtown library and the Space Needle, Seattle is a myriad of dynamic architectural structures. While the city’s design and architecture are unique to its culture and history, it fundamentally draws inspiration from wood and steel. Visit Seattle and marvel at the brilliance of architects like Elmer H. Fisher, John Graham, and Frank Gehry who defined the city’s stunning architecture. 

Architectural Style of Seattle 

Architecture  of Seattle

The Architecture of Seattle is unique and draws inspiration from the environment. With Victorian, Asian, Greek, and Dutch styles coming and going, Seattle’s ‘Northwest Style’ has remained consistent. Seattle’s dull grey and rainy climate are captured in the northwest architecture to allow natural light. Open floors, exposed beams, and large windows are predominant features of this style. The architecture of Seattle has also expanded to include ‘green buildings’ and focus more on wooden and steel structures. Seattle’s architectural trends have changed over time but its roots remain firmly grounded in simple and authentic architectural styles. 
Buildings: Northeast Branch Library, University Unitarian Church, Dexter Horton Building, and Bullitt Center. 

Types of Structures in Seattle 

Seattle’s architecture is broadly represented by five types of structures. They cover all forms of designs and styles from all eras. Since few homes survived the fire and world wars, most of the structures are post-1940s. 


Architecture  of Seattle

Residential houses, apartment buildings, and floating houses have many architectural styles mainly Victorian, Art Deco, Bungalows, Prairie Box, and Contemporary. From Capitol Hill to the International District, buildings from various eras stand testament to Sealltle’s rich history.  

1. Residential Houses

Architecture  of Seattle

The Queen Anne neighbourhood and Magnolia neighbourhood are prime examples of Tudor and Victorian architecture with a gabled roof, decorative half-timbering, and covered porches. Postmodern, minimalist and Mid-century Modern houses are common in West Seattle.
Buildings: Italianate Ward House, Wilson-Franklin House, Satterlee House, Samuel Hill

2. Apartments 


The 1910s and 1920s saw a rise in apartment condominiums on Capitol Hill and downtown Seattle. These were affordable housing for low-income families during the Great Depression and World Wars. Today new apartments along Ballard and South Lake Union neighborhoods are luxury housing due to their proximity to the city center. 
Buildings: The Chelsea, The Wayne Apartments, Thornton Place

3. Floating homes

Floating homes

Floating homes are a European addition to the Seattle architecture scene. Recognizable for the movie “Sleeping in Seattle”, floating homes are built like regular houses and dot the Lake Union shore. Many of these houses are now homestays and AirBnBs. They range from sprung roofs and simple open window houses to sleek modern high-end homes. 
Buildings: Houses at Portage Bay and Lake Union.

Commercial and Public Structures in Seattle

4. Skyscrapers and Malls


Most old structures like the Pike Place Market, Seattle Tower, and the Exchange Building were built pre-world war and underwent significant renovations in the 1970s. Throughout the next three decades, Seattle’s large influx of migrants saw new buildings like the Pacific Place, Rainier Tower, and Westlake Center built. These generally have two distinct features - suburban style and skyscrapers. They are open galleries generally made of glass and are high raised buildings. 
Buildings: Seattle Tower, Northgate Mall, Pacific Place shopping mall, and Arizona Building

5. Libraries and Museums

Libraries and Museums

Libraries and Museums in Seattle come in all architectural styles. The older buildings are characterized by high ceilings, wooden interiors, and rustic designs. The newer structures have transparent glass exteriors, minimalist and sleek interiors with cafes, a children’s play area, and a terrace all within the library. Museums are unique in Seattle. Some are refurbished banks, naval armoury reserves, and offices, while others are futuristic and postmodern art and music museums.
Buildings: Seattle Public LibraryCentral Library Carnegie Library Museum of Pop Culture and the Seattle Art Museum's

Architectural influences 

6. Native American

Native American architecture

The entire Puget Sound area was once inhabited by Native Americans. While no architecture from that era has survived, efforts to revive Native American history have been made. Structures like the Daybreak Star Cultural Center, Intellectual House, and  Ivar's Salmon House represent a culture lost. 
Buildings:  Duwamish Longhouse, Suquamish Museum, and Tulalip Tribes’ Hibulb Cultural Center.

7. Asian 

Asian influence

Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese people make up most of Seattle’s immigration population and with them, they brought their rich culture and heritage. Many buildings in the Chinatown International district are pagodas made of clay, bamboo, and wood. With dragons on light posts, ornamental balconies on Chinese association buildings, and Japanese style gardening in public parks, Asian architectural styles are well preserved in Seattle. 
Buildings: Craftsman bungalow,  Jodo Shinshu Buddhist temple, Paifang archway and Kobe Bell in Seattle Center. 

8. Scandanavian 


The Puget Sound region and Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood has some of the most Scandanavian and Nordic influences with Swedish, Norwegian, and Finnish. They are representative of mid-century-modern architecture and design. This style is known for its light-enhancing elements like glass roofs, cozy spaces that can be easily heated, sleek interiors, and connection with nature. The Architecture of Seattle is heavily, albeit indirectly, inspired by nordic designs. 
Buildings: Norway Hall, First Covenant Church, and Swedish Hall. 

Iconic Monuments in Seattle 

1. Space Needle 

Space Needle

The Seattle Space Needle is a major Landmark drawing tens of thousands of tourists per year. Its Observation deck is 160m above ground level and houses two restaurants with stunning birds-eye views of the city. It is the brainchild of two architects Edward E. Carlson and John Graham, Jr, who designed its unique halo and sloping base structure. It also has a Skybeam which is a powerful light display. 
Address: 400 Broad St, Seattle, WA 98109, United States
Timings: Monday – Thursday: 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Friday: 12:00PM – 6:00PM
Saturday: 11:00AM – 6:00PM
Sunday: 11:00AM – 5:00PM

2. Suzzallo Library 

Suzzallo library

Located on the University of Washington campus, the Suzzallo Library is a  Collegiate Gothic architectural style in Seattle. It is largely similar to European designs with high ceilings, church style reading spaces, stone wall blocks, and oak bookcases. Tall oriel windows, paintings of European explorers, and terra cotta structures give an impression of Western European libraries. 
Address: 4000 15th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98195, United States
: 7:30 AM - 10:00 PM Monday to Friday 
Saturday: 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Sunday: 1:00 PM - 10:00 PM

3. Museum of Pop Culture 

Museum of Pop Culture

Founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the Museum of Pop Culture is a non-profit museum in Seattle. It hosts various music and art festivals and conferences throughout the year. Designed by Frank Gehry, the museum is a futuristic structure with concert venues, state-of-the-art music systems, and huge LEDs. The structure is often compared to a smashed guitar hold memorabilia of some of the most popular American rock artists in history. 
Address: 325 5th Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109, United States
Timings: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM 
Tickets: USD 23 - 28 

4. Biltmore Apartments

Biltmore apartments

Located in the E Loretta PI neighborhood in Seattle, this vintage apartment complex represents city architecture. It is easily accessible and has a beautiful brick layered exterior covered in decorated plants. It has a charming Tudor-Gothic style design and a terra cotta facade which make it one of the oldest occupied structures in the city. 
Address: 418 E Loretta Pl # 305, Seattle, WA 98102, United States

5. King Street Station

King Street Station

Built-in 1906 by the Great Northern Railway and Northern Pacific Railway, the King Street Station is one of the busiest railway stations in the NorthWest. The architectural style is Railroad Italianate and Beaux-Arts. Large suspended chandeliers, terra cotta decorations, marble tiles, glass walls, and a clock tower are all distinct features. Amtrak trains go through this station to various other states in the Northwest. 
Address: 303 S Jackson St, Seattle, WA 98104, United States
Timings: Open 24 hours 
The Architecture of Seattle is the perfect mix of traditional and modern. The emphasis on environmentally friendly buildings, mahogany woodwork, and huge open spaces has pioneered a new style of architecture. Visit Seattle’s iconic monuments and add some history and culture to your travel itinerary!

This post was published by Anupama Manjunath

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