It’s the reason steam irons have sleek curves, cars are candy apple red, and tissue is available in decorative boxes. The wonderful marriage of functionality and aesthetics has been appreciated for decades. It’s time to make an addendum to this list of form-follows-function marriages. Fisher Plaza, the two-building complex neighboring Seattle’s Space Needle, deserves similar recognition with its mission-critical functionality and timeless design.
In 1996, Fisher Broadcasting and its parent company, Fisher Communications, recognized the need to update the 50-year-old facility currently being occupied by KOMO-TV. Once the opportunity was considered further, the company recognized that even a $60 million renovation would still not result in the kind of future-ready facility needed today. “What we learned was that we’d spend close to $60 million renovating the facility and that KOMO would need approximately 20,000 additional square feet for broadcasting operations that, by the time we were done, we just couldn’t accommodate. And we felt that we’d be off the air on and off for about two years. Those things were just not acceptable,” explains Kirk Anderson, president, Fisher Media Services Co. (operator of all non-broadcast operations for Fisher Communications), Seattle.
Considering KOMO-TV’s needs, government regulations for digital broadcasting, and research that supported the need for mission-critical space, the company decided to double its investment and began planning for a two-building complex that would provide every business advantage. “What we learned through our research was that there were a number of other businesses that had mission-critical needs and we felt that it made a lot of sense for us to build,” Anderson explains. Creating a speculative office complex that could meet the demands of high-tech media and telecomm companies, as well as other businesses looking for reliability and quality, would generate revenues and fulfill the current and future needs of the company’s television and radio stations. Once the decision was made to build, it wasn’t long before construction commenced. “A lot of [the organization’s] requirements drove the design. We needed to stay flexible and [build] something that would change as technology changed. That was really key,” says Michael Galbraith of Lance Mueller and Associates/Architects, Seattle, WA.
With prime real estate surrounding the existing KOMO-TV studio in the form of an L-shaped parking lot, the company decided that it was time Seattle’s Space Needle welcomed two new buildings to the neighborhood. Ideal seismic conditions contributed to this decision. Fisher Properties, the company’s real estate developer and manager, was pulled into the project to assist with the complexities of placing the first of the two buildings – Fisher Plaza East, totaling 200,000 square feet – in the television station parking lot without disrupting air time. “Literally, it was 10 feet from the original building,” says Anderson. “We even had to make some modifications to the northeast corner of the existing building because we had to build a portion of the new building right over [the] top of it.”
Once Phase I (consisting of Fisher Plaza East) was completed and KOMO-TV had moved in during June 2000, the existing building was demolished to make room for Phase II. The six-story Fisher Plaza West was completed and opened its doors to occupants in April 2003. Additionally, the lobby in Fisher Plaza East was recently completed and community space was landscaped between the two facilities.
For those businesses in need of uptime all the time, Fisher Plaza delivers. The large expanses of column-free space are ideal for flexible, high-tech, and reliable operations. The buildings contain vertical risers large enough to climb through on ladders, as well as 18-inch raised flooring. “It’s effectively got big, huge wiring chases throughout the building that make movement of cable and technology quite simple,” says Galbraith. Two water wells provide emergency water to cooling towers and chillers and a combination of six generators provide power backup (up to 200 watts per square foot where needed). With state-of-the-art building management, environmental control, fire detection and suppression, and security systems, the buildings put safety, security, and reliability first.
Fisher Plaza was built to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow – and the design of the two-building complex supports this mission as well. The curtainwall exterior is sleek and will keep the buildings clean despite Seattle’s numerous rainy days. “[The project team] cared about long-term maintenance. They cared about durability. It’s a pretty techy building, but at the same time, I think it’s timeless,” says Galbraith.
Fisher Broadcasting’s Anderson agrees, “I believe this will be one of the more successful real estate developments in the city when you judge it 10 to 20 years from now. Even by today’s standards, it’s successful.”
Jana J. Madsen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is senior editor at Buildings magazine.