Independent radio station KEXP welcomes the public into its 28,000-square-foot New Home at Seattle Center in downtown Seattle, Washington.
SkB Architects, in conjunction with Walters-Storyk Design Group, designed KEXP’s new home to reach an ever-expanding audience of music lovers, break down barriers between listeners and their favorite artists, and make it even easier to share new music and experiences with KEXP’s global community.
Located in what was originally conceived as a temporary exhibition hall for the 1962 World’s Fair, the now landmarked building has been reborn as a light-filled global music hub, complete with music library, live performance spaces, DJ booths, open office workstations and the first-ever coffee retail concept for noted Italian espresso machine maker La Marzocco.
According to Kyle Gaffney, co-lead designer and co-founder of SkB Architects, “As a longtime fan and supporter, it was such an honor to work with KEXP on their new headquarters. KEXP connects people through music. Our goal as architects and designers was to see that connection translated and amplified through physical space. Now, they not only connect with people over the airwaves, but in person via the public gathering space and at a community level by physically connecting the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood with Seattle Center. We felt this was a perfect expression of their ambitions to be not just a radio station but a worldwide community music hub.”
“Connecting people through music also means introducing people to new music and supporting up-and-coming artists at a very grassroots level. To that end, we included amenities in KEXP’s new home that road-weary musicians would welcome. They can come to KEXP, play a live show and then relax, take a shower and get some laundry done. When you’re living in a van for a few months at a time, these can be sorely missed moments of luxury,” added Shannon Gaffney, co-lead designer and co-founder of SkB Architects.
KEXP’s extensive music library of 50,000+ albums is showcased behind large glass windows at the corner of 1st Ave N and Republican St. Passersby can watch as DJs curate songs and prepare for their next show. “Opening up and activating this corner was a key design goal. Basically, we were hoping to overcome ‘The Great Wall of the Seattle Center’ that effectively blocks street energy from the retail corridor on Mercer Street from filtering towards Denny Way.” explained Kyle Gaffney. “Now, KEXP’s library serves as a glowing lantern at night and extends that energetic street presence evendeeper into the block.” A new mid-block public entrance opens the studio to the street, bringing people into the KEXP gathering space, which in turn opens to the Seattle Center campus through roll-up doors. “It’s almost impossible to describe,” says John Richards of ‘The Morning Show’ on KEXP, “it feels like the grownups are going to show up and take it away from us.”
KEXP’s new complex features a 400-square-foot, on-air studio; a 1,090-square-foot Live Room; (2) production studios; (2) audio booths; (2) DJ booths; (2) video edit rooms; a video control room; (2) DJ isolation rooms; a Green Room; Production/Mastering and open office areas; a library and conference rooms. To support the stations’ commitment to airing live performances, a 4,500-square-foot Gathering Space was created, which includes a the station’s reception area, a stage for live performances and seating / open space for audiences.
WSDG Project Manager Joshua Morris reports that the design mandate was, “To enhance the synergy between the studios’ function and aesthetics by making it accessible to the public while concurrently maintaining the comfort and security of the station’s personnel and guest artists. We also focused on the need to enable bands of every conceivable format to set up and breakdown quickly between 30-minute sets,” Morris adds. “Because the original structure was created as exhibit space for the 1962 World’s Fair, we were fortunate to have sufficient room for KEXP’s extensive wish list.”
“We were pleased to have been invited by SkB Architects’ co-lead designer/cofounders, Kyle and Shannon Gaffney, to participate in this significant project,” WSDG Co-founder John Storyk remarked. “Our collaboration was smooth, efficient and totally supportive. SkB’s level of understanding and appreciation for acoustic requirements, and the myriad of related concerns was outstanding."
The La Marzocco coffee experience, also designed by SkB Architects, is just inside the newly created entrance. Coupled with casual seating, this area provides a relaxed atmosphere in which to hang out, listen to music and watch as the DJs broadcast their live shows from the glass-walled studio that adjoins the space. The open, 1,100-square-foot cafe and showroom takes its design inspiration from La Marzocco’s Florentine factory and espresso machines, merging Italian heritage, meticulous craftsmanship, and thoughtful attention to detail and material. This immersive experience captures the essence of the La Marzocco brand. Prior to World War II, radio stations often had theaters to accommodate an audience and full orchestras. “In many ways,” notes Shannon Gaffney, “KEXP is pulling from radio’s past. Introducing live music and audience participation into the fabric of the building and program creates a rich experience for everyone, from DJs to musicians to the public. Helping KEXP challenge expectations and continue to innovate is incredibly exciting; we couldn’t be happier to be involved with a project like this.”
The project team includes SkB Architects (lead designer), Walters-Storyk Design Group (technical/studio design), Sellen Construction (general contractor), Costigan Integrated (project management) McKinstry (mechanical/plumbing), Nelson Electric (electrical), Coughlin Porter Lundeen (structural), and Signal Architecture + Design (LEED consultant). The project is pursuing LEED Silver.
About SkB Architects SkB Architects create meaningful, sensory-rich environments for individuals, corporate clients, retailers, developers and culturally-connected communities. Based in Seattle and with projects located throughout the United States, the diversity of the firm’s practice allows ideas from different project types to cross-pollinate and influence one another, ultimately leading to more comprehensive and informed design solutions. The firm is driven by the idea that thoughtful, insightful, and creative design has the power to enrich people’s lives. Most recently, SkB was honored with a 2015 American Institute of Architects Award of Merit for their work on 400 Fairview, an innovative 13-story office and retail building in Seattle’s rapidly evolving South Lake Union neighborhood. www.skbarchitects.com
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