By Maureen R. Elenga
University of Washington Press, 2008
336pp, 415 illustrations, 358 in color, glossary, bibliography, index, 5x8 in
ISBN 978-0-615-14129-9 $20.00
Seattle Architecture: A Walking Guide to Downtown is a user-friendly book that weaves together fun historical facts with architectural terms and descriptions, appealing to the architecture buff, the historian, and the tourist alike. Elenga starts off the book with a timeline of major Seattle historical events, focusing on events relevant to architecture, beginning with British explorers surveying Puget Sound in 1792 and ending in 2006 with the Seattle City Council lifting height restrictions on downtown buildings. The juxtaposition of events such as the beginning of the "Underground Seattle" tour in 1964 and a 6.5- 7- magnitude earthquake in 1965 helps the reader see the important role that history has played in shaping the built environment that we see every day.
Elenga follows this overview with a district-by-district focus, beginning in Pioneer Square, where Seattle began, and moving north through downtown to Seattle Center. Each chapter begins with a short history of the district and then moves on to describe individual buildings within that district, each accompanied by a picture, date of construction, architect information, and address. The detailed architectural information that accompanies each building will likely only interest the architect or architecture buff, but there is enough history to hold the historian's attention, and there are enough easily accessible tidbits that anyone with an interest in Seattle could enjoy using this book to learn more about the city, whether from an armchair in Kansas or as a guide to walking the streets of the Emerald City.
By Elise Fogel, May 7, 2009