Pike & Virginia Building

Location Seattle, Washington
Design Principal Jim Olson

This mixed-use project was the first contemporary building to be built in the Pike Place Market historic district in 50 years. As such, the building was designed to meet the strict urban design guidelines prescribed by the Pike Place Market Historical Commission and the Preservation Development Authority. The massing is composed of two primary elements, a six-story primarily residential block, and a three-story residential block with street-level retail space. The taller block contains nine residential condominiums, ranging in size from 500 to 3,000 square-feet and one commercial office space, while the lower block contains four residential units and two retail spaces.

Conceptually, the building is designed to engage the city through visual connections to the skyline and the waterfront, as well as material references to the sympathetically modern early twentieth-century farmer’s market and industrial buildings surrounding it. Formally, the building is conceived as a concrete frame within which a series of glass boxes is set. The distinctions between the two materials are intentional and direct. Recessed floor-to-ceiling glass window walls on the primary street facade reinforce the predominance of this simple, yet strong formal arrangement. Large, floor-to-ceiling sliding doors connect the interior spaces directly to the exterior. This connection is especially clear on the top floors of each block where gardens bring the rich Northwest landscape into the interiors.

The Pike and Virginia building integrated architecture into the urban fabric the way my earlier work had integrated with nature. I became devoted to urban life and have lived in downtown Seattle for over 40 years.

Jim Olson Design Principal

Straightforward construction systems are used throughout and allowed to express their means of construction. The floor system is a concrete waffle slab, used for its ability to free the interiors from columns and the strong formal expression that is revealed on its underside as a direct result of the construction process. Concrete block is used for wall infill when glass window panels are not used.  Chimney stacks are allowed to exit the roof unconcealed. Simple in the use of materials, the building strives to fit into its context while making aesthetic connections to its surroundings and exploiting interior/exterior relationships.



Design Principal

Jim Olson



AIA Seattle Honor Awards, Honor Award



BUILDERnews, May 2009, cover. Print.


Barnes, Rebecca. “Downtown Seattle Waterfront: The Infill.” Arts + Architecture Vol. 4 No. 1, May 1985, 46-49. Print.

Gelles, George. “Urbane Planning.” Arts Line, Jan. 1985, 10-11, 22-23. Print.

“Pike & Virginia Building, Hillclimb Court.” Global Architecture – GA Houses #17, April 1985, 150-159. Print.


Walker, Michael. “Big news in Seattle.” Metropolitan Home, April 1984, 49-57. Print.


Gordon, B. F. “Urban Housing, Pike and Virginia Building.” Architectural Record, Feb. 1981, 94-107. Print.


Hunt, William R., and Dale Douglas Mills. “Pike Place.” Alaska Fest, March 1980, 18-19. Print.

Mills, Dale Douglas. “High Above the Market.” The Seattle Times: Pacific NW Magazine, 26 Oct. 1980, 40-45. Print.

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