First Thursday, August 1: So Close. So Far. by Per Farny

Join us for the opening reception of “So close. So far.”, a collection of landscape photography of the Pacific Northwest by Per Farny. The event will be hosted by b9 architects, as part of the Pioneer Square First Thursday Art Walk. The reception will be open to friends, family, and art walk participants on August 1st from 5:30PM-7:30PM. Light refreshments and bites will be provided. We hope to see you there!

Follow this link to find our Facebook event.

“So Close. So Far.” explores the artist’s continued journey of connection. The dichotomy of presence / escape, solitude / isolation, empathy / apathy, all daily elements of his journey, surfaces across alternating perspectives: intimate scenes giving the viewer little leeway to remain removed, and more distant viewpoints challenging a familiar choice. The choice to glance from afar, to feign appreciation, to stroll and scroll on by, to take the visual for granted. Or, the choice to realize that everything has had a remarkable journey of its own to get to where it is. Every single pebble, blade of grass, drop of water, and the combination of their history, perseverance, endurance and placement in the frame in front of you is nothing short of magic worthy of pause, acknowledgement, and presence.

Project Spotlight: 11th and Aloha

In mid-April, Principal, Bradley Khouri, and Project Architect, Brian Johnson, sat down with our Administrative Lead, Michael From, to have an in-depth conversation about 11th and Aloha, our latest completed project in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. The 4-story, b9-designed apartment structure, consists of 34 1-bedroom and studio units and a network of exterior spaces.  These vary in privacy and include street-level private patios, exterior walkways connecting to units, a multi-leveled courtyard, and a communal roof deck. It sits on a sloped corner lot, appearing to transition from a 4-story structure to 2-stories. The exterior facades consist a modern composition of red brick, Swiss Pearl siding, steel balconies, and stepped concrete planters. An open breezeway from E Aloha Street cuts through the massing and connects to the external circulation and multi-leveled courtyard.


This project is particularly special to us, due to its contextually responsive design and location at a transition from Single Family to Lowrise Multi-family zoning. This is a stark difference in density, height and parking requirements, and it is at the edge of a highly established and historic part of the neighborhood. With proactive engagement from the design team and neighboring residents, and investment from our client, what could have been a highly contentious design process became an adaptive and collaborative effort. Bradley and Brian reflected on this particular stage, and how it embodied our values, ultimately leading to the success of the final design.


When a project in the city of Seattle goes through the full Design Review process, it is presented at a minimum of two public meetings. First at an Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting, where multiple massing alternatives are reviewed, and second, months later, at a Recommendation meeting, where a more developed design is presented. A board of volunteers, consisting of design professionals, development professionals, local business owners, and neighborhood representatives makes comments and suggestions to the design team to ensure that new developments meet the intent of the City’s and Neighborhood-specific Design Guidelines. At these meetings, members of the public are encouraged to provide feedback regarding the design proposal through public comment. Bradley presented the initial design for 11th and Aloha to the East Design Review Board of the City of Seattle, providing 3 design alternatives based on extensive site and context analysis. “At the time, we thought we were going to present alternative three and they’d say go for it,” Brian reflected. Fortunately for the now completed project, the presentation was not as straightforward as Johnson anticipated.

While the Board gave the project team guidance typical for a project of this type, several members of the Single Family neighborhood to the north and east of the site were vocal about their concerns, centered particularly around height, bulk, density and parking. After the meeting ended, the team from b9 architects and self-selected members of the neighborhood decided to schedule a meeting to discuss how to move forward with a design that met everyone’s goals.


The proposed building changed significantly between the first two meetings. The massing, originally bold, anchored at the corner of 11th Avenue E and E Aloha Street reduced significantly, particularly at that corner. At the first meeting with the neighborhood team, b9’s client made a pledge to the group that the building would have a high-quality cladding. “Having that pledged opened up things that we had never explored before in the practice,” Brian recalled. To complement the context of the neighborhood, the team chose to clad a significant portion of the building, notably the frontage to E Aloha Street with Inca colored, Mission brick from local Mutual Materials. Two volumes, one clad in high-quality white Swiss Pearl panel, and the other in gray corrugated metal panel rise above the brick volume. The materials help indicate the change in scale as the building moves away from E Aloha street and articulate variation in the building massing.


Another significant change was that the main entry was relocated from E Aloha Street to the southernmost edge of the building on 11th Avenue E. “We had to think of 11th Avenue E as a front. When it became the more prominent facade, we were able to shift the entire building away from the street and create a strong brick base with landscaping buffering it from the street,” Bradley said. By placing the entry on 11th Avenue E, a flat street at a lower elevation, the design team was able to maintain the project’s unit count, while lowering the overall height of the building. 11th and Aloha, in its finished state, rests under the allowed height limit by almost a full story. Even though the move created a few basement units, b9’s signature courtyard community space (in this instance with multiple levels) hollowed out the southeast corner of the structure allowing an additional light source to all units adjacent to it.


After the three weeks of intensive redesign, b9 invited the neighborhood team into their office to see a newly revised project, designed around the feedback shared. The neighborhood group stood behind and celebrated the changes made. They became advocates for the new design, recommending it to the full group. In the end, they endorsed the project with a letter to the city, and their support played a significant part in the final approval by the Design Review Board at the Recommendation meeting.

The core of 11th and Aloha is a story of a collaboration between the design/development team and the neighborhood community group surrounding the project. “This group of neighbors knew what they could do, and they actually wanted to work toward a solution,” Brian remembers of the process, “a lot of the success can be attributed to both groups acting proactively”. What resulted is an elegant solution to a specific zoning condition, one that is both unique to the site and also prevalent throughout other Seattle neighborhoods. The final design reconciles the contrast between an established Single Family neighborhood with the necessity of increased density, and a development boom happening in Seattle’s Lowrise and other multifamily zones.

“My proudest moment was winning over the group in that first meeting in our office”, Brian said, “feeling the camaraderie after we showed them that brick building. From that moment on, they were 100% behind it.”

“They became part of our team,” Bradley attested.

Urban + : Zoning

As a part of this year’s Seattle Design Festival and in contribution to our hosted panel discussion called “Urban +: Adding Density while Retaining Character, b9 architects progressed on our research on Urban + by examining Seattle’s current zoning, explicitly looking at opportunities in Single-Family zones with Wallingford Residential Urban Village as our case study area.

Visit this page for updates post-panel discussion.

Seattle’s zoning code governs the use and development of land in Seattle.* It determines not only what and where types of structures can be built, but also the density of dwelling units and businesses throughout the city. Areas of more intensive development are focused in designated Urban Centers, Hub Urban Villages, and Residential Urban Villages.  Wallingford and South Lake Union are two examples of these areas and generally walkable communities that are well served by amenities.



Using data from the City of Seattle data portal, we examined Seattle’s current distribution of zoning by land area and dwelling units. In addition, we compared the current density, measured by number of units per acre of land, to the density assumptions determined by the city by zoning.*

*All data is derived form the City Of Seattle data portal at Specific files used for these calculations are; “City Of Seattle Zoning” (Updated 2018), “Zoning Density Assumptions For Zoned Development Capacity Model” (Updated 2017), and “Capacity For All Parcels 2015” (Updated 2017).



Currently, nearly 65% of Seattle’s land area is reserved for Single-Family zoning. The next largest zone is Industrial at 12.0% of land area.  These two zones present the lowest development potential for new dwelling units based on the Seattle’s zoning code.*



While over 75% of Seattle’s land area is dedicated to Single-Family and Industrial zoning, the majority of dwelling units (just over 60%) currently reside in other zones throughout the city, primarily Lowrise, Midrise, Highrise, and Neighborhood Commercial.*


With this information in mind, we then examined development opportunities in Single-Family zones, choosing the Wallingford neighborhood as a case study, due to the significant amount of Single-Family zoning in the neighborhood’s Residential Urban Village. Though a key goal of Seattle’s Urban Village Strategy is to “Increase residential and employment densities...” within its villages, Wallingford’s Residential Urban Village remains predominantly comprised of single-family homes, which accounts for between 50-75% of its total land use. 

This research explores the possible densification benefits of re-thinking the ends of blocks.  Examples here introduce a variety of block-end development solutions to the portions of the Wallingford Residential Urban Village currently zoned Single-Family Residential. This strategy suggests that units can be added to corner lots while the interior of residential blocks are allowed to retain their current residential fabric. Moreover, this strategy presents a possible incremental approach to densification upon implementation of MHA or similar up-zoning in the area. Precedents such as this, set in a neighborhood like Wallingford, can provide examples for strategic densification in other predominantly Single-Family neighborhoods throughout Seattle. 


The following iterations to the right are feasible strategies for adding units based on lot conditions and zoning.

The major factors in land use code that determine building footprint* are lot coverage and yards for Single-Family zones, and FAR (floor area ratio) and setbacks for Lowrise zones.

*The building footprints represent general potential building area on the lot. They do not factor in design and modulation.
**In land use code, the distance between building structure and property line is called a yard in Single-Family zones and setback in Lowrise zones.

SDF 2018 - Urban +: Adding Density while Retaining Character
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As a part of Seattle Design Festival, b9 architects is excited to host a panel discussion, exploring alternative development strategies to preserve Seattle’s existing physical and cultural character while meeting the city’s growing density needs. With an esteemed panel, we will be examining strategies in design, municipal code, and policy in Seattle that balance future growth with current physical and cultural character. Our panelists include -


Rick Mohler, UW Architecture & Mohler + Ghillino Architects

Rick is an Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Washington where he strives to leverage his design studio teaching as a vehicle for urban research and social advocacy.  He is a principal of Mohler + Ghillino Architects, a 2016 Affiliate Fellow of the UW Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies, chair of the AIA Seattle Public Policy Board and member of its Board of Directors and a member of the Seattle Planning Commission.


Jessica Clawson, McCullough Hill Leary, PS

Jessie is a land use attorney with the law firm of McCullough hill leary.  She assists developers throughout the state of Washington.

Brian Heather, SolTerra

Brian is Founder and CEO of SolTerra, a development company.  His passion is to bring elements from nature into our urban living environment.  He lives his passion through designing, constructing and building integrated environmental technologies and incorporating those systems into real estate development projects that are connecting people to nature and creating amazing community in urban environments.

Quanlin Hu, City of Seattle

Quanlin is a strategic advisor with the Office of Planning and Community Development. In her 6 years at the city, Quanlin has focused on community capacity building and placemaking in historically underserved community such as the Central Area. She is keen on making projects happen through creative solutions and strong partnerships across city departments and with community partners and stakeholders. Quanlin has a Masters in City and Regional Planning from the Ohio State University. She holds certificates in urban planning, commercial real estate development and finance, project management and LEED Neighborhood Development.

Matt Hutchins, CAST Architecture

Matt Hutchins is a partner at CAST Architecture designing residential infill, affordable housing, and backyard cottages. As a housing advocate, he has been working on making housing more abundant by flexible and pragmatic zoning reform. He is co-chair of AIA Seattle’s Housing Task Force, serves on the Southwest Design Review Board, and cofounded More Options for Accessory Residences (MOAR).

Maiko Winkler-Chin, SCIDpda (Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority)

Maiko Winkler-Chin is the Executive Director of the Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority, whose mission is to preserve, promote, and develop the CID as a vibrant community and unique ethnic neighborhood.  She has a 20+ year history in community and economic development.

The event is free and open to the public. It will take place 6-8pm on Thursday, Sept 13 at our storefront studio.

Click here to our facebook event and to RSVP

We hope to see you there!


To learn more about our continuing research regarding this topic,
please click on the image below!  ↴

First Thursday, August 2 : Autotelic by Jacy Stewart



Summer is in full swing here at b9 architects, which means we are getting ready to host our second Pioneer Square First Thursday Artwalk this summer! We are excited to welcome local artist Jacy Stewart to display his abstract artwork in our storefront space for an exhibition entitled Autotelic.

Please join us for the opening show of Autotelic at b9 architects on Thursday, August 2nd from 5:30-7:30 PM. Light refreshments and bites will be provided. We hope to see you there!

Jacy Stewart uses water as a base wherein traditional fabric dyeing materials interact. Spontaneous in nature, each work is a unique reaction of color, texture, and form. Part chemistry, the reactions presented are found throughexperimentation, trial and error. Working in multiples Jacy seeks well balanced compositions, interactive colors, and variable dimensions. Pushing the boundries of 2-D art his work transforms paper into petri dish, visual portals through which new abstracted worlds may form. Jacy correlates his work to jazz music, viewing the materials and colors as instruments engaged in conversation with one another. Every piece then holds its own improvisational tone, finding specific rhythms, waves, and patterns. Strong lines and clear negative space are a natural byproduct of drawing with water giving his pieces a Rorschach quality through abstraction.

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