American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2007 Professional Awards
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Site Plan. (Photo: Joseph Fry (PFS))

Elevations. (Photo: Joseph Fry (PFS))

Although virtually invisible from the street below, the garden has panoramic western views to Elliott Bay. Spring, summer, and fall flowering plants create bold swathes of colors and patterns at various times in the year. (Photo: George White Photography, Lara Swimmer Photography)

Although virtually invisible from the street below, the garden has panoramic western views to Elliott Bay. Spring, summer, and fall flowering plants create bold swathes of colors and patterns at various times in the year. (Photo: George White Photography, Lara Swimmer Photography)

The viewing deck (top right) is connected to the amenity deck with a concrete deck that slopes up to reveal the panoramic view to the west. The Change Garden abuts the bridge.(Photo: Joseph Fry (PFS))

A strong Pacific Northwest aesthetic was desired by the client to recognize their roots in the region. Planting and screen wall design were heavily influenced by the contrast between contemporary architecture and a bold landscape planting style. (Photo: Joseph Fry (PFS))

Seasonal and flowering plants create bold patterns and textures that play against the architectural and linear forms of steel, glass, and wood. Reflective surfaces visually expand the space and create alternative views. (Photo: Joseph Fry (PFS))

Landscape planting includes drought-tolerant species such as feather grass and shore pine, which evoke the windswept plateaus and shorelines of Washington State. (Photo: Joseph Fry (PFS))

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Washington Mutual Center Roof Garden, Seattle, Washington
Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg, Vancouver British Columbia, Canada
client: Washington Mutual Bank, Kent Wiegel, Lane Premo

"The balance of textures is really remarkable--you lose sight of the fact that it's on a roof. We love the reflective surface and elegant plant materials. The screen is a stroke of genius."

— 2007 Professional Awards Jury Comments

Project Statement

The 17th-floor Washington Mutual Bank roof garden is a green roof that is also the vital social space and civic heart of the bank’s downtown campus. Rather than meet the City of Seattle’s minimum open space requirements, the garden’s usable area was enlarged threefold to provide decks and pathways that showcase views across Elliott Bay while integrating elements that tell a story about the bank, its local origins, and the community it serves.

The landscape architect was commissioned to develop designs for the 17th-floor roof garden at the new Washington Mutual Bank Tower. The design philosophy addressed four major principles:

Genus Loci: Landscape design that references the site in an abstract – not literal – manner, adds a level of profoundness to a place. This roof garden offers an opportunity to interpret a regional ‘sense of place’, and to offer a narrative of the Bank’s history and role in the community.

Edges: Inside / Outside: The adjacency between indoor and outdoor space is crucial. Strong connections provide places of prospect and refuge, mediate extremes of climate, and create a social energy at the edge. The success of the roof terrace is a result of studying connections through that edge.

Views: Intimate / Grand: This roof garden is experienced from the greater scale of views to and from the cityscape, and from the more personal interaction of those using the space. Attention was paid to materials and pattern viewed from above while providing comfort.

Program: Event / Everyday: Our role was to prove that the garden could be an extension of the work place while also being an formal event space. The roof deck becomes the physical heart of the building and social soul of the bank.

Landscape Architect’s Role

The landscape architect for the project developed design concepts for the roof 17th floor roof deck in close collaboration with the architect and project engineers. Curtain walls and seating at the building edge further connect the garden to the interior lounge creating a seamless indoor-outdoor experience. Key collaborative efforts included working with architects, interior designers, and structural engineers to develop an outdoor fireplace, boulder outcroppings, and windscreens into a fully integrated landscape and building design.

As a result the garden has already become the most vital social and event space for the client’s central downtown campus. Planting, pathways, and wood decking were designed to symbolically represent the diverse landscapes of Washington State. As almost two-thirds of the deck is planted with predominantly drought-tolerant and native plants, the 17th floor garden has already gained the reputation as one of Seattle’s largest green roofs.

Local / Regional Significance

This project demonstrates landscape architecture’s contribution to the greening of the urban environment, particularly in a city that boasts a reputation for a somewhat subversive roof garden movement. These ‘Secret Gardens of Seattle’ can be glimpsed throughout the city especially in the Pioneer Square and Belltown districts where planting often cascades down building walls or rises out of roof cloisters. This roof garden is a nod to a local vernacular while observing the unique geography, climate, and contrarian spirit of Seattleites that fostered this reputation.

As this project has already resulted in the development of another roof garden for a large Seattle insurance corporation, this garden has actually catalyzed a friendly competition between corporate citizens for the best roof garden in a city of roof gardens.

Special Factors

An understated feature of the roof garden is how it combines usable public space for human enjoyment with many broader ecological green roof attributes, including urban heat island effect reduction, stormwater retention, and native and drought-tolerant planting. This project demonstrates that sustainable landscape roof design need not be limited to extensive low-maintenance green roofs, but that it can also be practical, social, symbolic, and contemporary.

Two unique features in the garden symbolize the bank and its history: a glass-beaded abacus screen wall is a whimsical and interactive version of an ancient tool of counting, and ‘The Change Garden’ - a repository for spare change that will be donated to Seattle’s charitable organizations - demonstrate the Bank’s ongoing role as a leading corporate citizen.

Challenges faced during construction of the project included a short window for installation of roof elements including boulder placement, screen and deck installation, and collaboration with interior finishes. The boulder outcrop was particularly challenging from a weight and handling perspective. Extensive planning to select and mockup the boulder composition off-site resulted in a swift re-assembly on the deck with limited impact on overall building construction schedules, crane time, or other adjacent trade work.

Project Resources

Landscape Architect:
Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg

Landscape Architect Project Team:
Chris Phillips, Partner-in-Charge
Joseph Fry, Project Manager
Wayne Turner
Kelty McKinnon
Matthew Thomson
Stephanie Redlich
Kirsten Jones
Sandra Moore, Principal, Birmingham Wood
Annabel Vaughn, Birmingham Wood
Rod Turkington, Turkington Associates

Architect: NBBJ
David Yuan, Principal
Randy Benedict
Robert Lane
John Adkins
Dave Leptich
Mindy Levine
Daniel Ayers
Melanie Taylor
Megan Strawn






Client: Washington Mutual Bank
Kent Wiegel
Matt Griffin
Lane Premo

General Contractor: Sellen Construction
Dave Ritter
Jaret Johnson
Jamie Miller

Landscape Contractor: Teufel Nursery
Randy Harp
Frank Faoro

Stone Mason: Star Masonry
Ed Lockett

Glass Abacus: Joel Berman Glass
Karen Lesarge

Structural Engineering:
Magnusson Klemencic Associates

Civil Engineering:
Coughlin Porter Lundeen

Mechanical Engineering:
Abacus Engineering

Electrical Engineering:
Coffman Engineers


The boulder outcropping was mocked-up offsite, numbered and craned into place with minimal disruption to construction schedules. Actual installation occurred over one day with minor adjustments over one week. (Photo: Joseph Fry (PFS))

The outcropping evokes the windswept rocky headlands of the Pacific shoreline while serving as a bench for lunches and an informal podium for evening social events.(Photo: Joseph Fry (PFS))

A turquoise-beaded abacus - an ancient tool of counting and currency - is integrated into the screen wall as an interactive and whimsical symbol of the bank. (Photo: Joseph Fry (PFS))

A nod to Seattle's artisan glaziers, the solid glass beads were individually fabricated and tinted blue, with slight variations in dimensions that lend a handcrafted charm to the piece. The beads slide on stainless steel rods and are fully interactive. (Photo: Joseph Fry (PFS))

The main amenity deck is the central gathering place at lunch hour and functions as an extension of the workplace throughout the day. The roof garden has indeed become the civic heart of the bank's downtown campus.(Photo: Lara Swimmer Photography)

Integrated wall seating and curtain wall glazing blur the line between interior lounges and the amenity deck, while the buildings columns frame the boulder outcropping, one of the first views from the elevator core. (Photo: Lara Swimmer Photography)

The Change Garden is a receptacle for spare change that is collected for donation to charity to change people's lives. The garden represents the bank's role as a prominent corporate citizen in the local community. (Photo: Lara Swimmer Photography)

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