Years ago, I used to feel like I had a handle on America's most recognizable city skylines. Almost entirely across the country, although construction did happen, almost never did any city get record-breaking heights on new skyscrapers. The basic silhouette of most skylines remained unchained since pretty much the eighties. That was certainly the case here in Seattle, where the city's tallest buildings -- Columbia Center (1985, 937 ft, 76 floors); 1201 Third Avenue / formerly known as Washington Mutual Tower (1988, 772 ft, 55 floors); Two Union Square (1989, 740 ft, 56 floors); Seattle Municipal Tower (1990; 722 ft; 57 floors) -- dominated the skyline for decades. When I spent a fantastic weekend joyriding skyscraper elevators with Auntie Rose (who worked at the Columbia Center), Grandma and Grandpa McQuilkin in 1992, those were the four tallest buildings in the city; they all four staked that claim between 1990 and 2002.
But in 2002, when the 40-story Fourth and Madison Building -- then called IDX Tower -- was built, I was pretty excited the city was getting its tallest building in twelve years. But, it was also erected in the southern end of downtown where all those other buildings already were, and it was dwarfed even by Safeco Plaza, which is right next door and has been standing at 630 ft and 50 floors since 1969. (Back then, Safeco Plaza towered high over all other Seattle buildings except for the Space Needle, the first office building in town to surpass the Space Needle's height, albeit barely -- by 25 feet. Since Safeco Plaza is a straightforward, black rectangular shape, that's why people called it "The Box the Space Needle Came In.")
Four years after 2002, though, Seattle got what was then called Wamu Center, and is now called Russel Investments Center -- at 598 ft and 42 floors, its shape and location more than anything reshaped the silhouette of the Seattle skyline, for instance as seen from the water on Puget Sound: it has a slab shape, its flat side facing the water, and is closer to the middle of downtown, making it far more noticeable. This is especially the case when they use its flat side for lighting graphics, like a heart for Valentine's Day. It remains even more noticeable than, say, the tallest building currently under construction, F5 Tower (it used to be called The Mark; it's increasingly difficult to stay abreast of all these name changes), which is 660 ft and 43 floors, but stands across the street from the 76-story Columbia Center and is therefore very much dwarfed by it, as well as Seattle Municipal Tower, which is also across the street.
The most recent five years or so have seen by far the most skyline-changing construction, though, and although most of the new buildings have been nowhere near as tall as our tallest, most of the tallest are on the south end of downtown, and most of the new construction, a whole lot of which has been above 40 floors or 400 ft, has been in the middle or especially the north end of downtown. Denny Triangle is seeing so much residential high-rise construction that the area is becoming indistinguishable from Vancouver, B.C. The buildings look very similar.
There are notable exceptions, especially the new Amazon towers, Doppler (2015, 524 ft, 37 floors) and Day One (2016, 521 ft, 37 floors), between which are the still-under-construction and increasingly iconic trio of 5-story glass spheres slated to serve as greenhouse gardens. I can't wait to tour them myself, hopefully someday soon. Anyway, these towers are closer to the Denny Triangle area -- technically in Belltown -- and themselves tower over most of the nearby buildings, with the exception of the Space Needle. These more than any other buildings create a new anchor of eye catching buildings on the north end of downtown, and they were finished only in the past couple of years. There's another set of twin towers very nearby there that come close, though: The Insignia caught my eye while under construction a few years ago; its two 440-ft, 41-story towers were themselves also completed in 2015 and 2016. And this doesn't even account for the several other (but shorter) high-rises currently under construction in that neighborhood, probably the biggest neighborhood contributor to Seattle having the highest number of cranes of any city in the country two years in a row. These other buildings are the ones that generally remind me of Vancouver, though -- which even The Insignia fits in with; only the Amazon Towers stand with any visible architectural distinction, and even then only barely. (The Amazon Towers are very similarly shaped to Russel Investments Center, twin slabs, only black rather than blue, and their wide sides facing north and south rather than west and east.)
In any case, with Seattle in particular, recent changes in the cityscape have been practically whiplash-inducing -- the likes of which I have never seen, and which has really not occurred since those tallest buildings were erected in the eighties. This is only set to continue for the foreseeable future, and when looking at the Wikipedia page of Seattle's tallest buildings this morning, I was startled to discover for the first time the proposal of a tower called "4/C," which could stand as tall as 1,029 feet and 93 stories by 2020! I mean, one should never truly trust the plans for a building still in "proposal" status; this one has already undergone several design changes. At least I know that Rainier Square Tower, with its delightful boot shape, is actually planned to go ahead. That one will be on the same block as, and now dwarf, Rainier Tower -- which, incidentally, is where Tommy, my last roommate, now works. I wanted so badly to visit him on his high floor sometime, which he always acted open to, but I had to give up on Tommy so, so much for that.
But this is the thing. Although almost none of them are nearly to the degree as Seattle, the same sorts of changes are happening all over the country. Consider this rather stark contrast of the Austin skyline 2010 vs. 2017. Whenever I look at photos of the Manhattan skyline anymore, I find supertall buildings I don't recognize. (2015's 432 Park Avenue, at 1,398 ft and 96 floors, may have six fewer floors but is now the second building in New York taller than the Empire State Building, by 148 ft. And given One World Trade Center cheats to its 1,776 feet with the user of a spire, its roof height of 1,368 ft means 432 Park Avenue actually has the highest rooftop in the city, by 30 feet.) Even Los Angeles's skyline is changing relatively rapidly, what with the 1,099-ft Wilshire Grand Center being finished this year and finally overtaking the height of the 1,018-ft US Bank Tower (1989), although they have the same number of floors: 73. Wilshire Grand pulled a One World Trade Center by cheating with a spire too, though; its roof height is 928 ft whereas US Bank Tower's is still 1,018 ft.
I've been fairly familiar with Wilshire Grand Tower in L.A. for a while, though. What I didn't know about, until this morning, was San Francisco's Salesforce Tower -- which is set to be completed in 2018 and will stand at 1,070 ft and 61 stories, making it the first building in San Francisco to stand taller than the TransAmerica Pyramid since 1972. How the hell did I not know about this? According to that San Francisco Chronicle article, the city itself welcomed it, and finally wanted something to transform the city's skyline. I guess they had enough of the TransAmerica Pyramic being their defining iconic structure -- other than the Golden Gate Bridge -- for 45 years.
By the way, even when Shobhit and I visited Vancouver, B.C. last month for our anniversary, the 616-ft, 59-story Trump [barf] International Hotel & Tower - Vancouver was new since I had last been there in 2015. Finished in 2016, that and 2008's Living Shangri-La (659 ft, 62 floors) stand very close together and thus together anchor the center of the city skyline.
It's beginning to feel like it no longer matters what city I return to to visit, their skylines will be increasingly unrecognizable. Except for Spokane, of course. That skyline definitely never changes, but then, it's a small city. And maybe Phoenix. I bet the next time I go to Las Vegas it will have tons of new buildings; that's one city that has undergone massive changes -- at last on the Strip, anyway -- over the past ten years, and it was especially noticeable when I was there with Jennifer in 2013, for the first time since 2008. I'm already hankering to go back there -- it's been another two and a half years now -- even though I've never been a gambler. I just love exploring the Strip, there's so much spectacle and things to see and do.
We're in the middle of a five-week promotion period here at work and thus in the middle of one of those extra weeks, during which time my work load is pretty light. I killed a lot of time this morning looking up links used in the above section of this very entry. I can't even remember now how I got onto that subject, except to say that I saw a news article about the election of India's president who from the caste once called "Untouchables," and when I started trying to look up tall buildings in Delhi -- always a challenge; people online aren't as on it for South Asian cities -- I somehow stumbled upon the discovery of San Francisco's Salesforce Tower. So that gave me lots to discuss about both Seattle's and other cities' rapidly changing skylines. But expecially Seattle's. Have I mentioned we have all the construction cranes?
People love to bitch and whine and moan and complain about rapid changes like these: it's no longer the city it once was! The city I fell in love with! Oh, shut the fuck up. How is economic stagnation the preferred course? I will always acknowledge the inherent challenges in rapid growth, but I refuse to agree that rapid growth necessarily makes a city worse. I have never stopped loving Seattle and I truly believe I never will. A lot of these changes are delightful. Consider Seattle's famous Cenral Library, its new building open since 2004, and consider what the library on that same site used to look like. Bleh! That 1960 building was still there when I moved to Seattle in 1998; I actually used it a few times -- it was that building when I first started looking for work. The closed it down in 2001 and opened the new one in 2004, making the whole of downtown all the better for it.
But I'm digressing again. I wasn't intending to keep writing about downtown buildings here. I suppose it is relevant, though, to note that I now spend a lot more time passing through, by and among many of these buildings, in my commute to and from work: I go from home on Capitol Hill down Pine to the retail core, then up through Belltown to where I work, in the far northwest corner of the neighborhood, barely not being Lower Queen Anne. My bike route home does a lot more zigzagging in order to get the best bike paths on streets with the least traffic, so that direction I go through much more of the heart of Belltown, and thus see a lot more of the mostly residential high-rises under construction. And by the way, this Stratus building under construction, which I ride right past every day at 9th and Lenora -- occasionally forcing me to ride on the sidewalk due to all the construction shit they've got in the street -- will eventually closely hold its own against the Amazon and Insignia towers, as once done it will be 41 floors and 440 ft tall -- the exact same numbers as the Insignia towers, actually.
Anyway! I rode my bike home from work! And then I spent the rest of the evening at home. I helped Shobhit make egg and veggie and feta quesadillas which turned out super tasty. We watched a couple of episodes of The Golden Girls on Hulu. We attempted the New York Times crossword puzzle but both got frustrated and gave up after about twenty minutes. Some days are harder than others with that thing. Also, I was getting tired for some reason.
But then, not long after that, Ivan and I watched a movie. He had the day off again, and when I asked if he wanted to watch my library DVD copy of Shaun of the Dead -- which I had checked out with the intent of watching with him -- he said, "Maybe." And then he left to go work out, and I went into the bedroom briefly to create my revised Katy Perry playlist, with tracks from her new album added. Shobhit brought his laptop into the bedroom to watch his political shows using his headphones. But then I decided I would go back into the living room to watch an episode of Bloodline, which allowed Shobhit to take his headphones off in the bedroom.
Ivan came home when I was maybe fifteen minutes into the episode. He was all sweaty from having gone on a jog, and as he keeps doing lately when getting back all sweaty, asked if I wanted a hug. Nope. Then he said, "Maybe we can watch something." I suggested Sean of the Dead. He said, "I don't like zombies." I said, "I don't either but this is actually good." He just repeated that he doesn't like zombies and asked if we could watch something else and if I had any other suggestions. Thelma & Louise? I haven't watched that one in a while and had been thinking about it. "How about Harold and Maude?" he asked. Yes! "I love that movie!" I said.
I mentioned later that I saw that movie for the first time probably 20 years ago this year -- it was when Gabriel and his then-girlfriend Suzy and I all lived together. It was Suzy's favorite movie, and its uber-dark comic sensibility really appealed to me. I bought it on DVD ages ago, back when actually buying DVDs was still a logical thing to do. I've seen it many times now, and years into our relationship I introduced it to Shobhit. I can still remember how hard he laughed at the scenes with Tom Skerrit as the motorcycle cop.
Ivan said he'd only seen it once before, a long time ago. "A long time ago" might be shorter than I would mean if I said the same thing; he's nearly a decade younger that I am, after all (in 1997, Ivan was all of . . . fuck, twelve -- well, isn't that repressing?). He said he actually pulled it out to watch once when he lived with me the first time, but then never got around to watching it. I've actually seen the movie too many times now to laugh as hard at it as I used to, but it's still entertaining. At least it's fairly short, at 91 minutes, so starting it as late as 8:30 wasn't much of a big deal. When it was finished, Ivan actually said, "Well it was nice watching that with you, Matthew," which was complimentary in a sort of unusual way for him.
Shobhit was just finishing up with his political talk shows when I then retired to the bedroom, and we both went to bed at pretty much the same time -- unusual for him, but he got up at 3:15 this morning for a 4:30 shift. Sometimes he doesn't wake me up when he does that; sometimes he does. He did this morning -- no fault of his, mind you. He wasn't noisy or anything, although his alarm woke me up. I got up to pee, and since I was up, I decided to do this morning's pushups and planks, which I do every other day and have been doing for at least four years now I think, since I knew that once I got back to sleep after that, my own alarm would probably not wake me up again until 5:45, the end of the half-hour window it's set to pull me out of sleep when it hears me stirring. It took me a while to get back to sleep, and then I slept like a log. So I was smartly strategic with my exercises.
These are the kinds of things that occupy my mind. Countless people I know have far heavier things weighing on their minds. Considering his employment situation, even Shobhit would qualify there. It could be said that I have fewer things to worry about than anyone I know, except maybe for Laney -- a huge part of the appeal and reason I hang out with her more than any other friend these days. Well, that and she lives so close and that makes it super easy. I've been spending more steadily regular time with Danielle lately too, and she seems to be doing all right. She has two kids though and that alone gives her way more to worry about than I can even fathom. Even having one kid would do that. That said, I think I may be more aware now than I've ever been of how many people I know are legitimately depressed, or at the very least are going through tough times. I worry about them a little, think about them a lot, and always maintain a hope that they can somehow find peace in their lives. I should maybe think harder about ways I can at least attempt to facilitate that.