Rising from a multilayered podium of tiered public plazas, a pair of residential high-rises, known as Soma Towers, establish a design benchmark at the south edge of Bellevue, Washington's downtown district. The 18- and 21-story towers comprise 432,000-gross-square-feet, and include 273 one- and two-bedroom living units and five levels of below-grade parking. A third-floor amenity level provides residents with activity areas, a media room, fitness studio, and lap pool, all of which open to a communal exterior terrace for gardening and grilling. Shared residential rooms at the tower's upper levels offer views of the Cascade Mountains to the east, and Lake Washington and the Seattle skyline to the west.
The lower two levels of the podium enliven the neighborhood with local retailers and public areas. The street level enclosure, designed to invite pedestrians within, is marked and protected by two signature elements, known as the 'cone' and 'leaf.' The 70-foot-tall vertical circulation 'cone' of backlit metal fins connect the podium levels, anchoring the project's organic forms and act as a counterpoint to the tower's glass skin. Suspended from the 'cone' is an 80-foot-long 'leaf' canopy of glass, aluminum, and steel, floating adjacent to the walkways and offering shelter from the Pacific Northwest mist.
The podium's street-level storefront opens to the adjoining plaza, providing additional covered areas for farmer's markets, bazaars, and events concentrated on local foods and crafts. Wide circulation paths welcome pedestrians to an upper level of restaurants, cafés, and outdoor spaces for additional dining seating, pre-function setup, or see-and-be-seen perches. The northwest corner houses Resonance, a double-height concert and gallery space whose west-facing portal opens full height to bring music to the city.
The residential towers are sited to allow sunlight to shift between the forms and create sunny pockets in the plaza throughout the day. The forms derive from the inherent rules of a post-tensioned concrete slab system, maximizing structural spans that radiate and extend from cylindrical columns. The subtle form-shifts mask the size of the towers, creating the illusion of thinner, softer volumes. The undulating lines converge to acute edges that hover above the public plazas, accentuating the visual perspective. At these edges, the glass enclosure is selectively peeled back, creating balconies with sharply angled forms that yield a dramatic silhouette against the sky.
The building's glass and metal skin is a mosaic of clear, translucent, and opaque glass specifically selected to maximize the aesthetic potential of the soft and shifting nature of the Pacific Northwest skies. Overcast evenings and misty winter mornings render the towers in subtle, pearlescent gray tones, while bright summer afternoons bring a reflective sheen and achieve the full, crisp potential of the bright white spandrels.
Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, founded in 1965, is a national architecture practice noted for elegant and humane design, ranging from modest houses to large academic, civic, cultural and corporate buildings. To date, the firm has received more than 675 regional, national and international awards for design, including three AIA Top Ten Green Project Awards and the AIA Architecture Firm Award. Founding Principal Peter Bohlin was also awarded the AIA Gold Medal, the highest honor an individual architect can receive. The firm is well known for its work with Apple, designing stores such as the iconic Fifth Avenue cube in New York City and flagship stores worldwide. The practice has also created headquarters for Pixar, Adobe and Square, and city halls in Seattle and Newport Beach, CA. To learn more, visit www.bcj.com.