Taking in the Seattle skyline is a favorite pastime for many residents and visitors to the city, thanks in large part to the unique vantage points located in various neighborhoods. Whether it’s from Kerry Park in Queen Anne or across Elliott Bay from Alki, Seattle is nothing if not pretty to look at.
But as we’ve been learning for years, especially during the city’s most recent tech-fueled boom, the views they are a-changin’. A viral video capturing just three years of Seattle’s transformation in time-lapse form — created with 360-degree photographs taken by a Space Needle camera — touched a nerve a few weeks ago.
And now a Seattle architectural designer is sharing images he created using 3D modeling over Google Earth to further illustrate what is happening in Seattle as more and more buildings rise and take their place in the skyline. Most dramatically, the images show what’s still to come as buildings that are under construction or still-rumored projects are squeezed into assorted views from across the city.
David Boynton posted the images on Monday in a discussion thread on the website skyscrapercity.com, as well as on his own Flickr account. With Boynton’s permission, GeekWire assembled the images into the video above.
A junior designer with Hoedemaker Pfeiffer, a firm located in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood, Boynton is originally from Orlando, Fla. He went to school in Gainesville and St. Louis and moved to Seattle in 2015.
He responded to GeekWire’s questions via email on Tuesday:
GeekWire: What was the inspiration for this particular project? How long did it take to complete?
David Boynton: I originally made a simple extruded rhino model a few years ago while watching a tower get built in front of an old apartment, I had wanted to see how much of my view was going to be blocked (as it turns out, it was all of the it). I had also been browsing the new proposals and wanted track them and see how the skyline was changing so fast. I’ve been updating that rhino model with new proposals and information for a few years just on my own interest, and over the weekend finally got around to exporting it into Google Earth! Mixing the proposals in with Google’s Lidar 3D model makes it really pop! I took several days to import the model into Google Earth, and the source file is probably hundreds of hours of little updates and changes over the years.
GW: Explain a little bit about the data or info you’re using to create these models. Where does rumors and massing information come from? Is there a timeframe, in your opinion, when some or much of this could be realized? Will Seattle look like “Bladerunner 2049”? Also, to be clear, some or many rumors may never work out and other stuff could be out there in secret, right?
DB: I get most of the general info from the Seattle Skyscrapercity page, “shaping seattle” and seattleinprogress.com. Anything more detailed I’ve gathered from the city’s public design review process. I really think the public nature of what’s lovingly called “the seattle process” actually makes for a populace more connected to how the city is changing, and hopefully making a city that is very livable while being dense!
The massing models are technically estimates on the massing/form, though they are accurate heights where I can find them. I do base the forms on the plans and renderings available in the design review and MUP packets that are public record in Seattle. The projects that are yellow are actually under construction, there are a few projects that have permits but haven’t started construction. The pink models are proposals in the design review process with details taken from design review packets.
Red projects are early in the “Early Design Guidance” process that only include maybe number of floors and a site plan or sometimes more of only rumors. The rumors are pretty few, like a company that purchased a property saying they’d like to build a midrise or highrise at that location (usually through press releases or commerce journal information).
I think quite a bit of the projects will be realized, perhaps not in its current form exactly, but Seattle is massively growing and many of the projects stopped during the last recession have ended up completed or with new proposals! I’m not so sure about “Bladerunner” levels of urbanity, and Seattle would take a lot to look dystopic, but we sure did start to during the summer fires this year!
GW: Do you have a particular viewpoint on growth and development in Seattle and where the city is headed? Hopes and fears?
DB: I’m very much for smart, dense growth, especially the kind of density that these skyscrapers and mid-rise projects represent. I think if you don’t build fast enough and increase density quick enough you end up with the kind of housing crisis that Seattle and many other cities are dealing with, or alternately with sprawl that many American cities are known for. I think its a pretty common thought that “I can’t afford to live in these new buildings, so it must be the source of the housing crisis” but really new buildings are one of the few ways to increase supply that can help a housing crisis! In addition, other cities that have successfully fought development and density end up sort of hollow investment properties rather than lively places that people live, work and play.
GW: Is there one view that strikes you as particularly dramatic — as in, “Wow, Seattle is going to look so much different someday?”
DB: The craziest change is in the Denny Triangle. It’s where most of these proposed skyscrapers are, just a few years ago it was completely lowrise and in the next few years it’ll be completely filled with towers. A true extension of the downtown skyline, with so much more housing!