Industrial Design student show a huge hit

Last week, several dozen third-year industrial design students from the University of Washington, Western Washington University, and the Art Institute of Seattle descended on our office space to transform our office lobby, conference rooms and common areas into a pop-up gallery. The occasion was the end-of-year showcase of Junior Students’ industrial designs, and the second year in a row they used our office for this purpose.

As a firm offering integrated services – that is, landscape, interior design and architecture – we believe that spending time with other designers and artists is a form of creative cross-pollination. It pushes the boundaries of design and keeps our wheels turning. This event offered us the opportunity to observe young minds at work. We hope the students gained something by showing their work in the office of a firm offering creative services.

Student work ran the gamut – from doormats made from cut-up garden hoses to drones designed to deliver first aid supplies to remote villages in need of humanitarian aid. The exhibit was hosted by the Northwest Chapter of IDSA – the Industrial Design Society of America – but was coordinated almost entirely by the students themselves. The show was held at our offices because it provided a neutral location where students from all schools could display their work and celebrate their accomplishments with friends and family. It also offered them a chance to think creatively about space planning and exhibit design, and the challenges of setting up a gallery in a working office space. Continue reading “Industrial Design student show a huge hit”

A temporary fix of caffeine and kebab

Milstead & Co.

As a busy and successful coffee shop or restaurant owner, the thought of temporarily moving your business is unthinkable. However, when presented with the opportunity to come back to the same location (but in a brand new, energy-efficient building), you might think about it. This is the case with two local Fremont favorites, Milstead & Co. Coffee and Café Turko. Both businesses have temporarily relocated across Troll Ave N. into the old Titan Electric Building. The reason? A new office building is under development for Tableau on the site of their old home. This highly sustainable building will house 106,000 square feet of Class A office space and 11,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. The client is dedicated to incorporating these two beloved businesses back into the new building.

To make it work, Milstead & Co. and Café Turko relocated to a space that supports their needs and stays close to their customer base with very little downtime. The Titan Building, just across Troll Ave N, was the logical choice for this temporary home, keeping them close to the neighborhood. Its location had been used over the years as a dance studio, lighting design company, glass art studio, construction company offices and as a warehouse. Now coffee shop and Turkish restaurant are also on that list. Continue reading “A temporary fix of caffeine and kebab”

Growth in Seattle: Is a downturn coming?

Photo by Flickr user Seattle Municipal Archives.
Photo by Flickr user Seattle Municipal Archives.

When you walk into a hotel conference lobby filled with 500 plus people at 8:00 in the morning, it’s hard not to get caught up in the buzz and excitement. Everyone is here for the same thing, to gain insight on “Seattle’s State of the Market”. Is Seattle overbuilding? How much room do we have to grow? Is there a downturn coming?

Here’s what I learned at the Bisnow Seattle State of the Market Event on September 30th:

Seattle is making its mark. Seattle is taking its place as a global city and is being recognized as a start-up economy. One major driver for growth is the hot topic of EB5. The PNW is a hot bed of EB5 money and Seattle is one of the leaders in EB5 funding.

Workplace culture matters. Current Seattleites and first time employees entering Seattle’s workforce want to feel connected to the mission and values of the company where they work. Going to a “grand” office everyday is losing its appeal. People care more about the company’s culture and the people creating that culture. Collaboration, activity, and environments that promote creativity are the driving factors to attract talent. Employees want to be in an activated area (anyone noticing the revival of Seattle’s business district and downtown?) and they have options, driving office trends and locations with employers. Smaller workplaces are a common development, related to factors such as cost of retaining employees and real estate prices, but many feel the pendulum has swung too far with the “open” office. Employees still need privacy and workplace options to accommodate the varied tasks they complete throughout the day. The headphone culture may not cut it anymore. Flexible office spaces and designing for public and private working options are important design trends moving forward. Continue reading “Growth in Seattle: Is a downturn coming?”

Saving Salmon One Building at a Time

Image courtesy Bureau of Land Management on Flickr.
Image by Flickr user Bureau of Land Management.

Above the fold on the front page of The Seattle Times last Friday, Mark Siegel reported on the harm done by highway runoff to our local wildlife, specifically Coho salmon. Researchers from WSU Puyallup found that two and a half hours was all it took to kill adult salmon in water captured from State Route 520. Furthermore, the unique combination of chemicals was difficult to replicate in a lab. To anyone concerned with human impact on the natural world, this highlights the importance of mitigating toxins through new urban development.

Thankfully, the article also proposed a solution. Biofiltration using soil as a medium can have a dramatic effect on salmon’s wellbeing. Early in the design of the Fremont Office Building, the project owner made their intentions clear to Weber Thompson: do what we can to minimize the impact to nearby waterways (both the Fremont Canal and Lake Union are within a stone’s throw of the project site at North 34th Street and Troll Avenue).


As we started to work with our civil engineer, KPFF and better understand the site conditions, we realized that road stormwater runoff – both from Troll Ave and from the Aurora Bridge towering overhead – currently end up in a dedicated storm drain piped to an outfall on Lake Union. It seems hard to believe: brake dust, motor oil, gasoline, heavy metals and who-knows-what-else are getting deposited directly into Lake Union in every major rain event. This is the same lake we all enjoy from water and land – in our sailboats and kayaks; from Eastlake pocket parks and Gas Works Park. More importantly, this is the same lake we share with the salmon on their annual spawning route. This is the reason for the Ballard locks fish ladder – Steelhead, Sockeye, Coho, and Chinook salmon make their way through the locks to Lake Union and then to Lake Washington every year. Continue reading “Saving Salmon One Building at a Time”

Recapturing Wasted Office Space

The board room at TalkingRain’s National Headquarters near Seattle, WA. Rachael Bauer helped design the company’s office space which includes flexible work stations that accommodate small meetings as well as larger meeting rooms.


What an intriguing, innovative concept for all – taking advantage of the existing office space and using it to its maximum potential. As we work with our clients to plan new offices, or renovate their existing spaces, this information is a powerful design tool.

We recently heard about a leading-edge service to help in this work. Rifiniti is a company that offers a software analytics service to help companies better understand how their spaces are being used, and then makes suggestions for spatial efficiencies.

Clearly, space utilization has changed – and the design of the workplace must follow suit. The traditional offices generally run 80/20* – 80% individual stations; 20% meeting spaces. As Allsteel, a commercial office furniture manufacturer, points out, “For many organizations…the percentage of individual workspaces being used at any given time – is 40%”. Technology is a key factor in this underutilization due to remote work options, break out spaces and flexible hours. Continue reading “Recapturing Wasted Office Space”

The Terry Thomas has a new tenant: Northeastern University

Northeastern University Seattle campus and office at Weber Thompson designed Terry Thomas buildingSouth Lake Union, home to tech giants, biomedical research institutions and Weber Thompson’s offices is also home to a satellite campus for Northeastern University.

Based in Boston, the top-tier global research university is renowned as a leader in experiential learning. The university utilizes a unique internship-based approach to learning, partnering with global educational and research partners to place students in a series of internships while in school. Typically, this means they have three or more job offers lined up upon graduation. The Seattle campus opened in 2013 and chose SLU as its home base because it’s a hotbed of “new jobs of the future,” says campus Dean, Tayloe Washburn.   Continue reading “The Terry Thomas has a new tenant: Northeastern University”

The Terry Thomas engages tenants to reduce energy use

Entrance wall at The Terry Thomas

The green building movement has been learning a valuable lesson in recent years – regardless of plaques and certifications, a sustainable building requires participation and engagement from tenants, visitors and management.

This lesson is being put to work at The Terry Thomas. While the building has historically used about 50% less energy than a comparable building, in its sixth birthday Stephen Grey & Assoc., the property manager, and Weber Thompson are launching an awareness campaign aimed at engaging tenants and visitors, with a goal of decreasing the building’s energy usage another 17% between 2013 and 2015.

There are two key components to this new campaign. The first is tracking utility data (electricity and natural gas aggregated with EPA’s online tool EnergyStar Portfolio Manager, normalized for weather) and sharing this data in a public place with the tenants of the building each quarter. Continue reading “The Terry Thomas engages tenants to reduce energy use”

Innovation leads the way at TalkingRain

Constantly innovating, TalkingRain Beverage Company struck gold when they took one of their product lines, Sparkling ICE, to the national level in 2010. Until then, this Northwest company had been operating out of traditional offices which were enlarged as the company grew, but lacked a clear design vision. In 2012, they decided it was time to upgrade their digs, and Weber Thompson’s Interior Design team was called in for the job.

Carefully considering the location of each interior element during the design process, our team introduced some innovative space planning tactics. Formerly located in a temporary mobile unit, the new research and development office is now housed in a gleaming glass pod that’s on display but still fully functional. The board room is adjacent to the lab and has sliding barn doors, allowing meetings to happen in privacy without the feeling of being “behind closed doors.” The office has a sense of open airiness, while also being sensitive to the proprietary needs of this R&D-based company.

Responding to TalkingRain’s culture of collaboration, our designers located communal layout tables and breakout meeting rooms centrally to encourage impromptu meetings among staff; since moving in, these have been in use almost every hour of the day. The board room includes a custom table with pop-up technology towers that provide telephone, power, and internet connections, and surrounding walls are available for brainstorming, sketching or pin-ups with their white boards, glass walls, and tackable surfaces. The room also features a touch-screen monitor with video and audio conferencing capabilities, giving staff the ability to connect, design, and innovate in any medium they wish.

For more information on this project, visit our website.

The Terry Thomas featured in two new books

Weber Thompson was recently featured in two new publications from The University of Washington Press, Daylighting Design in the Pacific Northwest and The Carbon Efficient City. Both books feature The Terry Thomas, praising it for being filled with great natural light, and for using passive cooling and other sustainable design strategies.

Daylighting Design in the Pacific Northwest

Studies have shown that natural light boosts morale and significantly affects circadian rhythm, mood, and mental performance. In Daylighting Design in the Pacific Northwest, The Terry Thomas is featured for using daylight as a sustainable design feature that also happens to create a pleasant working environment. In an interview with UW Today, Christopher Meek, one of the book’s authors, states that “The Pacific Northwest overcast is ideal for daylighting buildings. In most commercial and institutional spaces such as classrooms or offices the goal is to provide diffuse daylight for working illumination and our overcast sky is ideal for that. Continue reading “The Terry Thomas featured in two new books”