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KCTS explores why so much new Seattle construction looks the same

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Inside Hardie panels and investment models


It’s hard to miss among all the new construction in Seattle that there isn’t a whole lot of variety there. But what’s causing so many of these buildings to have that similar—and much-maligned—aesthetic?

UW associate professor and architect Rick Mohler has become a go-to source on not just architecture itself, but Seattle history, building standards, and zoning. KCTS and Cascade Public Media produced this video short where Mohler explains how we got to this point where a certain type of building looks instantly familiar: the “larger-scale, mixed-use, multifamily buildings.”

A lot of it is the building material itself, with a recent overuse of Hardie panels, a type of neutral, fiber-cement siding—which aren’t too bad on their own, but their overuse and lack of visual complexity compared to Seattle’s older brick buildings contributes to the anonymous look of many a new building, according to Mohler.

But it’s also no accident that these buildings copy many of the same elements. Part of the issue is that easily-replicated buildings allows financers to get a more reliable return on their investments.

“We need to be building better buildings,” Mohler acknowledges at the end.

Watch the full video below, or read the full story on Crosscut.