Seattle skyscraper fans frequently note this building as Seattle's most famous, to the general public it is somewhat less significant. Certainly the Smith Tower and Pike Place Market are more historically and culturally visible through postcards and tourist materials sent around the world. Still, the Columbia Center is worthy of a significant amount of praise.
The architecture is based on the simple black glass block so popular in the 1970's and 1980's. But in this case, the simple form was made graceful and elegant through the use of three sweeping arcs of multiple elevations. The Columbia Center manages to break out of the monotony and stand out among the world's great towers. This would have been possible even if it had adhered to conventional design forms. Clocking in at a massive 997 feet, this is a building that demands attention.
Still, its position in the skyline is unfortunate. In picture post cards it is frequently the tall kid in the back of the class on the right who doesn't get noticed as much as the one in the center like the Washington Mutual Tower. Although the tower is tall it doesn't receive the notoriety that the other skyscrapers do.
It was the Federal Aviation Administration that first took the building down a notch, reducing its design height from 1,005 feet. Whether the eight foot reduction really makes a difference to pilots coming into SeaTac airport is a matter for speculation. The developers weren't going to lose any money on the deal by reducing the number of floors available for rent. They simply reduced the ceiling height on each floor by six inches. The fix is perhaps not the most elegant solution, but at least the most practical.
The observation deck at the top of Columbia Center or Bank of America Tower offers a panoramic view from its 73rd floor. The view is not completely panoramic because the deck doesn't wrap around the building completely. It's best to call ahead as security concerns occasionally may close the observation deck. Admission rates are $5, $3 for seniors and students. The women's restroom on the 76th floor, with views of the Cascades, was named the second best restroom in the U.S. in 2005 by Cintas.
There is a lot of discussion of the obscenity and obstruction of the skyscraper but the dispute has come to an end but in little or no agreement. Onlookers either believe the tower to add to the skyline or take away. The architecture remains unique and modern but can pose an eyesore if trying to photograph nearby design work.
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