I was going to save this post for a lean week later on, but Marni was eager to see this photo on the blog, and I admit that this post is merely an excuse to display the photo, so I’m posting it now.
One of my favorite things, photographically, is that moment in a day when it is not yet dark but lights have begun to come on in homes and businesses, and there is a rich blueness to the whole atmosphere even though the sky may actually be cloudy. I remember a photo in an issue of National Geographic — or perhaps my brain fuses several photos into a single visual memory — of some rural general store out in Wyoming or one of the Dakotas with a warm yellow glow in its windows and the blueness of evening all around it. I suppose, now that I think about it, that I have seen many hundreds of images like that in my life. Farmhouses at dusk. Such images always mesmerize me and make me instantly want to be at that place. There is something in me wired to respond to that collection of cool blue dark and warm yellow light.
Last weekend after our tryst with Marni at Island Books on Mercer Island, we all walked over to Starbucks on SE 27th Street. For several reasons (overroasted beans/burnt flavor being one and the operational tendencies of large corporations being the other) I’m not a fan of Starbucks and don’t patronize them if there is a smaller alternative nearby, so it chagrins me that I’m doing even backhanded advertising for the behemoth of beans. Nevertheless, I love this building. What drew my eye when we walked up was the hefty exposed beams and the lovely wood exterior “ceiling”, and the fact that the building is in the form of a shed with its tallest wall facing south to capture the precious northwest daylight through the tall windows beyond the fireplace. And, yes, the fireplace, which can be enjoyed both inside and outside.
It reminded me of something I read shortly after the downtown Seattle REI building opened, comparing it and some other building. The point was that the architects REI contracted had created a building that suited and seemed to be in harmony with the space it occupied — not only the space on its block but also the space in its city and the space in its region, the Pacific Northwest. It was open and woodsy and it capitalized on daylight and elevated spaces. In other words it was a lot like us. The other building, whose identity I now forget, was just some swanky modern box dumped among its neighboring buildings without any relation to or consideration of its neighborhood, a reflection of the cookie-cutter mindset of the boardmembers of the multinational corporation whose outlet it was.
As we approached this sturdy lean-to of a coffee shack, I wondered out loud if it was the work of the same architectural firm that had done the REI store. It turns out that’s not the case. REI’s Seattle store was designed by Mithun. This Starbucks was designed by MulvannyG2 Architecture of Bellevue. It opened in October 2004. Still, it looks to me that the same ethos was at work in both cases, and it’s one I applaud. Ironic that a company that has pretty much conquered the world with with the cookie-cutter approach would be the instigators of such a worthy and quintessentially local design. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio…
We spent a half-hour inside (Darby had to wait outside but she could see us through the big windows), during which time the light of day started to fade, and as we left I turned around and saw this. Part of me said, you don’t need a photo of a Starbucks, and another part of me said, what an amazing thing it is to live on this planet at this hour of the day.