From Knives to Lasers: Shaping the Future at ZGF Architects

Posted on

CREDIT: ZGF Architects

For decades, architects painstakingly shaped models using Balsa Wood and X-Acto knives. Even for steady hands, slips were inevitable.

“I still have scars from the old days,” ZGF Architects Principal and DSA Board member Patrick Gordon says.

Today, Gordon notes, 3D printing and lasers dominate, enabling unprecedented levels of intricacy and detail on models.

The new technological era is showcased in ZGF’s downtown office lobby. In the model courtyard of a proposed 450,000-square-foot office and residential tower, an intricate, 3D-printed lattice sculpture floats over tiny workers and residents.

Like the models, ZGF started small. Founded in Portland, the firm opened in Seattle on First Hill 30 years ago after securing work on the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The next three decades brought innovative projects, awards and expansion. Throughout its growth, ZGF’s philosophy to elevate stewardship of natural and built environments endured.

“We want buildings that contribute to the community,” Gordon says. “Our projects are more than objects on a site. We think about how they engage the street, their presence and how they increase the quality of the public realm.”

Intuitively, most people consider architecture from the outside, but Gordon says the key is to start inside.

“You figure out ‘who do I want to attract and what do they want to do? Where are they going and where do they want to be?’”

It turns out a lot of people want to be downtown, including ZGF. The firm has been retained by DSA to consult on our Third Avenue Design Vision. ZGF has also been hired by the City of Seattle to work on the Pike Pine Renaissance: Act One, an effort in partnership with the  DSA.

“If you want to be engaged in a community, you want to be downtown,” Gordon says. “It’s exciting, it’s interesting. Downtowns have it all. To know the city, you have to be here.”

Gordon believes the downtown experience is markedly improved by DSA’s Ambassador programs.

“There’s a real need for Outreach, especially,” he says. “There’s jobs and opportunities, lives are being changed.”

Gordon believes big changes are coming to downtown — and he’s looking forward to it.

“We’re on our way to doing amazing things. Today’s Seattle will be unrecognizable from the Seattle 10 years from now. But by embracing change, we avoid stagnation. That growth will bring the city together.”