A LOOK SO VERY HQ: The Headquarters of Fast Food & Food Processing Companies

DSCN5923Growing up in a town where the base of operations of a major-player in the Food Processing Industry sprawled downtown on a large lakeside campus, and working at one time not too far from the shimmering curves of the multi-story Taco Bell command center in Irvine, CA,  with the colorful signature logo placed high on the silvery glass curtain wall, I had wondered a little before regarding exactly where all the major fast food & food processing companies’ headquarters were located.   Later in life, driving by the architecturally pleasant Burger King Headquarters, surrounded by palms & water, just west of the Miami International Airport, and also recently,  just happening to come across a picture online of the architecturally striking Kelloggs’ Headquarters in Battle Creek, Michigan, I became curious and interested what the home-sweet-home of each of these companies looked like.   Turns out what I figured:  They all look very different.  Some are downright interesting.  Some maybe disappointing.  Some even amazing.  The postcard perfect setting of the headquarters of Nestle is what took me back the most, although the country this particular setting is in is not all that surprising, an appropriate fit for a company known for chocolate.  Besides Nestle, all the other headquarters listed here are located on U.S. soil.

Here is the compiled list of them all, including links with pictures.  If interested, enjoy.



Burger King’s Headquarters,  near Miami, Florida


McDonalds’ Headquarters, Des Plaines, Illinois


Taco Bell’s Headquarters, Irvine, California 


Wendys’ International Headquarters, Dublin, Ohio


Dunkin’ Donuts’ Headquarters, Canton, Massachusetts


Arbys’ Headquarters, Sandy Springs, Georgia 


Panera Bread’s Headquarters, Richmond Heights, Missouri


Jack in the Box’s Headquarters, San Diego, California


Pizza Hut’s Headquarters, Plano, Texas


Starbucks’ Headquarters, Seattle, Washington


Popeyes’ Headquarters, Atlanta, Georgia

(Cannot locate an exterior shot)


Sonic’s Headquarters, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma


Domino’s Pizza’s Headquarters, Ann Arbor, Michigan


Chick-fil-a’s Headquarters, College Park, Georgia


Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Headquarters, Louisville, Kentucky


Little Caesars’ Headquarters, Detroit, Michigan  

(In the Fox Theater Building in Detroit, but currently building a new HQ)


Dairy Queen’s Headquarters, Edina, Minnesota


Subway’s Headquarters, Milford, Connecticut


Hardees’/Carl’s Jr.’s Headquarters (CKE Restaurants), suburban Nashville, Tennessee 

(Currently moving offices from St. Louis, MO and Carpinteria, CA to the Nashville, TN area):




Kelloggs’ Headquarters, Battle Creek, Michigan:


General Mills’ Headquarters, Golden Valley, Minnesota:


Kraft Food Headquarters, Northfield, Illinois


Post Foods Headquarters, St. Louis, Missouri:

(Cannot locate picture or address)


Quaker Oats Headquarters, Chicago, Illinois:


Nestle’s Headquarters, Vevay, Vaud, Switzerland


Malt-O-Meal Headquarters, Minneapolis, Minnesota:


Tyson Foods’ Headquarters, Springdale, Arkansas


Smithfield Foods’ Headquarters, Smithfield, Virginia


Hershey’s Headquarters, Hershey, Pennsylvania


Con Agra’s Headquarters, Omaha, Nebraska

(Currently in the process of moving operations)


Hormel Food’s Headquarters, Austin, Minnesota


GOLDIE BOX: The Use of Gold (and Pink) Glass on High-rises

DSC_0889Starting from the Lever House and Seagram Buildings of New York, both boxy, International-Style skyscrapers that came into being last mid-Century, and both adorned with unique shades of glass, the use of tinted glass became a new fad in American architecture that persisted into the 1970’s — and even into today.  The Seagram Building was furnished in pink-gray-bronze glass (which looked different depending on the light of the day) and the Lever House furnished with green-blue.  The Seagram Building’s design, especially, had significant influence on American architecture that followed afterward.  (Note: The Lever House, built first before the Seagram and designed by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, borrowed principles from architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe of Chicago.  The Seagram Building itself, however, was actually by designed by the well-respected Illinois architect himself.)

The Seagram Building:


The Lever House Building:


Fast forDSC_0539 (2)_edited-1ward all these many years, and most buildings around us are decked in the usual:  Glass tints of black, grays, or blues.  Mirrored-glass (or silver) is of frequent use, too, and of course, there’s always good old-fashioned clear.   Like the Lever House featured so many years ago, green-tinted (or green-blue-tinted) glass is still around and  being used today — used fairly frequently, actually, as there is the popular trend of “going green.”   And, like the embellishment seen on the Seagram Building of New York, pink-gray-bronze glass still was found in-demand many decades later.  Yet, in the 1970’s, an even more garish glass shade for buildings came along and was used widely, introduced not surprisingly within that certain decade known for its stylish-yet-tacky way about it, and the very use of this color everywhere:  Gold.

Certainly one of the most daring of any architects’ choice for glass tints, gold has been used much across the globe, and probably every major U.S. city has at least one show of it.   An even rarer, bolder choice of glass shade:  Pink.  (Not a pink-gray, or a pink-gray-bronze, I mean straight, authentic pink.)  I’m taken back by the look of it, by the choice of it.  And, I’m also intrigued by the choice of it, too.    Gold is garish enough as it is, but pink really pushes the envelope, in my opinion.  Why would the architect choose such a shade?

Beyond pink, purple, orange, and red-tinted glass are all the rarest of choices in this department.  There’s hardly an example around anywhere.  I’ve questioned why.  Why is black, silver, gray, blue, green, gold, and pink-tinted glass the most acceptable, and not the others?   I’m not sure technically why, and it cannot come down to colors of the sky.  The sky can be purple and orange, too.  The sky is not usually a shade of green.

First, I want to focus on gold.   In my viewpoint, gold-tinted glass used in architectural design seems a purposeful choice of showiness, and almost a taste in gaudiness.  Some may consider it tacky.  Or, very, very stylish.  In a way, it sits right on a line between those four words I used — it can be all at once, in my opinion.  Also, tinted glass (such as gold) is said to save on energy, keeping a building cooler in summer.  Yet, in cold northern climates, tinted glass can keep out the natural warmth of the sun as well.   So, that summer efficiency is something to keep in mind as well when you see gold glass used.  Here are some gold building examples:DSC_0761

Market Square Center, Indianapolis, 1975.

Seeing the picture above, it is probably no surprise that Market Square Center is known mostly by its gold glass facade in Indianapolis; called the “Gold Building” locally.   That nickname is all too common across America.  What city has citizens that don’t dub their local gold-glass building that same nickname?  So, that speaks in and of itself.  There’s instant recognition, there’s advertisement, in such a choice of glass.  (i.e.  A company can say to a customer or client: “We’re in the gold building downtown.”  Could there be any easier way to identify a location than that?)

Something to point out about the hour & weather’s lighting effect on a structure using gold glass:  On a sunny day, the building can look more bronze-gold.  On a cloudy day, the curtain wall looks more a solid, bright gold.  So, clouds bring out the gold tint in the glass more so.


Here’s the “gold building” in my hometown — and that’s exactly what many would/do call it.  Also built in the 1970’s, notice, like Indianapolis’ Market Square building, our building is also rectangular and boxy?  Gold-tinted glass works best with boxes, I notice, I feel.   Thinking on it,  I’ve concluded it is likely because gold is such a modern, bold, intense choice of glass, so the simpler the architect keeps the form & the geometry of the building, the better it all looks, in my opinion.


Here’s a building in midtown Denver.  Again, the form is rectangular and boxy.   There’s the same grid of lines in the facade.  Probably built in the 1970’s also.  The reflective, tinted glass looks bright gold on a cloudy day.

Here are many more examples of gold buildings to look at, if interested:

Distinct gold box office buildings (with uniquely smooth & rounded corners) in suburban Dallas:  http://tinyurl.com/jc46q5l

A gold box in the Nashville, Tennessee area:  http://farm1.staticflickr.com/43/120202844_1e47e2a1f2.jpg

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee:  http://tinyurl.com/hmgvrwc

Shopping Center in Malmo:  http://tinyurl.com/z7g8d8n

Toronto’s Royal Bank Plaza:  http://41.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lxe2tiUNLm1r2a51zo3_1280.jpg

A gold skyscraper Jiangsu:  http://gold.gucheng.com/201406/2738955.shtml

A gold skyscraper in Seoul, Korea:  http://tinyurl.com/zlqdzxt

A gold skyscraper in Hong Kong:

Golden building in Hong Kong.

If you search images on Google, you will see that most gold buildings out there are boxy or rectangular, or at least have very simplistic geometric forms.  Again, there’s something about gold-tinted glass that seems to require a simplicity in design from the creativity of the architects that choose to use it.  (One link I shared here used the term “gold bar” in describing their local  gold building.  Maybe that plays a role in choosing gold glass to adorn a simple rectangle or box:  It becomes the like-image of a gold bar.  People often affiliate gold with that shape.)

Is there any symbolic meaning to gold glass being used in architecture?   Some may say there is.  (There’s an article about that subject linked just below.)   One thing that comes to mind:  The feeling & impression gold commonly gives.  Of course, who universally doesn’t know gold is a very valuable, precious metal?   It has been that way since ancient times.  So, of course, that particular tint used in a building’s glass is likely going to give off a similar impression in which gold gives off from anything made of itself, including jewelry.  What do you think, what do you feel, when you see gold?

Gold Used In Architecture article:    http://info.goldavenue.com/Info_site/in_arts/in_civ/in_architect.html

Interesting to note:  Dallas, Texas’ tallest building was almost adorned with gold, too.  The 72-story Bank of America Plaza, the city’s skyline-defining, tall, slender skyscraper outlined in neon at night, was originally designed with two matching towers striped of gold & silver — just like a Rolex watch.  However, the design was changed to just be silver & gray stripes before construction, and the second tower was never built.   It is interesting seeing what was originally proposed, and what could have been.

Downtown Dallas tallest skyscraper’s original proposal:  


Now, on to pink-tinted glass:  To me, this is one of the strangest choices of glass tints to use on a building — if it is not mixed with any other tint(s) to tone it down, that is.  But still, there’s a certain bewilderment & intrigue & excitement in me generated when I encounter a unique architectural choice made, such as pink-tinted glass.  For just the right building, I think it really can work.  But, that type of building is few & far between, in my opinion.  Here are some examples:


The Arlington, Charlotte:  A mixed-used skyscraper of Charlotte, North Carolina, much of the average-height building is residential space, and the high-rise has earned the local nicknames of “Big Pink” and “The Pink Building” and “Pepto Bismol.”  Of course, local nicknames would naturally land on a structure with that choice of glass.   Passing by it often, who wouldn’t notice it, or think about it, and wonder why about it?  I’m not sure I like it, personally, to be honest — while, at the same time, I like seeing something architecturally very risky & different used for a change.   It gives me a mixed bag of feelings.

What I do feel about pink glass is that it is the most disruptive & insensitive of glass tints to the surrounding cityscape — maybe even more so than gold.  It just is very unusual.   Here, in this Charlotte example’s case, it certainly is one of the main things an architect can choose material-wise to make just a regular & plain, squarish structure boldly stand out instead of just blending in, and demanding attention instead of just sitting quiet and unnoticed.  Maybe that’s the motive & reason in using pink glass.   Marketing the building mustn’t be challenging.   In online ads or in print ads, it would jump right out, and draw interest.  Finding those new residents & clientele in the region who want to live or work in the town’s new, stylish “Pink Building” wouldn’t be a challenge, I would think.  People like landmarks.

The Arlington:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Arlington

Unlike gold, I find I like pink glass used better in architecture when it is not used like gold often is used, as just a curtain wall to cover a simple box or rectangle.  Instead, I feel it looks better being involved with more complex geometry, buildings with sloping areas and sections, and architectural touches such as beveling.

Here’s an example of a building using pink glass in Edmonton, Canada, I find very likable:  


Moscow is getting a new pink skyscraper (or maybe pink-bronze):


As you can see, there is a time & place for pink glass used in architecture — along with gold, green, blue, silver, gray, and black.  However, again:  Pink and gold are the most daring, the most controversial, the most upsetting.

However:  If pink glass is just toned down a bit, and added a little gray and bronze tint, then we have created one of the most beautiful & fully acceptable glass shades around (and one of my favorite tints): The pink-gray-bronze tint — same tri-mixing of tints used on the glass of the 1950’s Seagram Building.  This is a shade that became popular in 80’s construction, three decades after the Seagram came along.  This pink-gray-bronze shade helps create a warm, prestigious look on some of the most gorgeous U.S. suburban office projects built of that decade following the ’70’s.  Here are two examples in suburban Minneapolis & Kansas City:

The Carlson Towers, Minnetonka, Minnesota

DSCN9784 DSCN9790 DSCN9791

Lighton Plaza, Overland Park, Kansas

2012-04-18 19.33.182012-04-18 19.31.192013-12-29 16.16.40

Suburban Chicago also has a beautiful, similar style tower, bedecked with pink-gray-bronze glass:

The Ghallagher Center in Itasca, Illinois:  http://imgtechnologies.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/2-Pierce1.jpg

In closing, the subject of glass tint and its history did not have a lot written on it that I could find online, however, I was glad to learn (and now pass along) that it all started with the 1950’s Seagram and Lever House buildings of New York.  So what little history there is, doesn’t even go that far back.  And, it is easy to simply conclude that unique & unusual glass tint, such as gold or pink, is stylish & wanted & fashionable for a season, like anything else in design, and has its time & place, and then goes out of style like everything else  — and later it may just come around to be used again.   That is, unless we’re talking somewhere like Las Vegas, where gold is often a choice shade of glass,  no matter what decade or era we are in, and pink glass, or probably any shade, would go just fine in that town.  It’s Vegas.


Source:  http://tinyurl.com/hcyffo9

HAPPY LOOKS THIS HOME: The Choice Of Bright Color On Small Houses

Every decent-sized town seems to have at least one — somewhere.  A little house painted pink.   Or, one painted purple.  Or, bright orange, or yellow.   Or…you fill in the blank.  I’m sure you can think of at least one.   And, if one does happen to come to mind,  this particular house likely wouldn’t be stored in any file in your head, if merely painted white or cream.  You probably wouldn’t have even noticed it.

Bold, bright color obviously has impact anywhere it used, indoors or outdoors, even on the tiniest of things.  With this affect on people, exterior or interior color is always important to think about and consider carefully before putting the brush to the wall.DSC_0167 (2)

Some may think the choice of a bold & bright color on the exterior of a residence is distasteful and insensitive to everyone around it — first being the neighbors next door.  Others may feel otherwise, understanding there’s an appropriate & stylish use for bold & bright color on the right house, on the right block, in the right town.

I guess the question is:  Why does the choice of a bold, bright color work just right on a house sometimes, and why does it sometimes not?    With the right color chosen, I feel a little house can come alive in a way, and seem much bigger & more special than it is.

Here are some examples of bright, colorful smaller houses.

Small pink house:  http://tinyurl.com/hwhbwfy

Small purple house:  http://tinyurl.com/j3howdh

The little pink house has a lot of character.  The color makes it way more interesting, than if it were just a white, small house, in my opinion.  As you can see as well, the little purple home is very eye-catching.  The color offsets wonderfully against the flowers & greenery.  Many would feel that purple is the perfect color for that house, yet that same shade would be considered outrageous in some neighborhoods.
DSC_0772 (2)

As you can see, this little, bright orange house (located in the Midwest) makes quite a statement, too.   Some may hate it.  I find myself liking — maybe even loving it.  I feel that unique choice of orange with white trim makes the little residence pop.  (Again, I’m sure there are people around it that would entirely object, and that’s understandable.)  I feel, for one, the house can pull that intense orange off because the house has very simple lines.  Like almost a cottage, it is simply a square box shape topped with one open A-gable.  It couldn’t be more basic.   Now, imagine a mansion painted that same orange with white trim.  It likely wouldn’t work; it could be downright repulsive, in fact.  There’s way more square footage of exterior walls on a mansion, therefore way too much orange would be projecting back the eye.  So, I can conclude that smaller houses (and tiny houses & cottages) with very basic, simple lines, and very small facades, are suited better for bold, bright color.

There are exceptions to the rule.  For example, if a large house or estate is of Victorian-style, than use of bolder, brighter colors on the house can be justified, as the architecture is more whimsical.  I think of all the colorful, candy-colored Victorians of San Francisco & the West Coast — actually, all over the country.  Yet, even with Victorians, if bright colors are used, the color is often limited to accenting trim, gingerbread, and gables — while the rest of the house is painted a more basic, soothing color.   Again, there are exceptions out there, of course.

These Victorian homes on the coast of Oregon are very bold & colorful, and it works well with more whimsical-looking architecture in my viewpoint.

A colorful little Victorian:  http://tinyurl.com/zhk2jtk

A pink Victorian farm house:  http://tinyurl.com/jtyv6at

I’ve touched on the fact that Victorians can be justifiably painted colorful, but I’m not talking about Victorians here.  Those are of a different category altogether.  Also, certain places in the U.S., such as South Florida,  are exceptions to much of the mainland on this subject of exterior color.  Bright citrus colors of yellow, orange, and lime green are commonly used on exteriors down in South Florida, especially on small, older residences, as well as different shades of pink.  Even amidst the new housing developments, there’s a lot of construction colored in tones found in the pink, yellow, and orange family.  To offset that color nicely, roofs are often covered with white shakes or terracotta tiles, and the green, tropical greenery & blues of the sea also helps offset the color. Therefore, bright exterior colors are more acceptable in that environment.   Same thing for other tropical places like Mexico, the Caribbean, and Hawaii.

A pink exterior wall in Mexico:  http://tinyurl.com/jsw2bwy

Orange & yellow exterior walls in Mexico:  


Blog on the use of color on Florida homes:


Example of a little pink house in tropical area, such as Florida:


From thesDSCN0952e examples, and pointing out how bright color naturally works in the tropical areas of Florida and Hawaii, and as well as places like Western Oregon, it is easy to conclude how important vivid, lush greenery is around a house, if it is going to work with a bright, bold color.  In the western, inland, drier states, where there is much xeriscaping used (landscaping suited for drier climates, with the use of rock and drought-resistant plants), and greenery is found less, bright & bolder colors generally don’t quite work as well, in my opinion.  In semi-tropical places like Phoenix and Southern California, one may get by with a brighter exterior color of mustard yellow, or sienna brown, or a color in that family.   In desert landscaping in Phoenix & Tuscon, I’ve seen bright orange & purple exterior landscaping walls used to offset striking cacti & other desert plants, and the effect is great.  But still, that color is not seen as a color used on the entire exterior of a house usually.  You don’t generally see many bright orange, yellow, lime green, pink or purple houses in Phoenix or Los Angeles — like you would in Florida, Hawaii, Western Washington or Western Oregon.  Again, they just aren’t green enough places.

So, the greener & more vivid the place, the better bold, bright color works on a local house, I feel.  And, that’s why you see crazy-colorful houses often in some of the most year-round green, lushest places.  In the summer months, the East and Midwest are green enough places, too, but are also places less eccentric and more conservative than Florida, Hawaii, Washington & Oregon.  And, of course, there are the winters.  So, that’s why I conclude bolder colors are used less in the Midwest, though still found around.

Here’s an example of another house:


This house is in Western Washington State.  Again, this house is small, with very basic, simple lines.  It has horizontal siding.  It has big rectangular windows.  A brighter, bold blue color on this house is used, and it works, I feel.  There is plenty of greenery around, and the sea is nearby.  Here is another house nearby:

Now, of course this double-story house isn’t an example of a small house.  I’m simply showing how vivid greenery is a key ingredient once again, and how it inspires the use of brighter exterior colors.  Again, Western Washington & Western Oregon are very green states, so it is not uncommon to see these bright tones on exteriors up there — more so than places like the Midwest.  Here’s another house in the same neighborhood with a purple exterior:

And then, when repainting, there’s always that risk of entirely choosing the wrong color for a house altogether — even when going with a normal, safe color.   So, how do folks know what color is really right for their place?  First off, a homeowner should first determine what their own tastes are.  (For example, somebody may love a particular house painted white, but another may not.)  Like the color car you drive, the color you choose for your home can speak something about you.  Of course, a general rule of thumb is always picking a color(s) that compliment the shingles and other existing materials on the facade, such as bricks.  You usually can’t go wrong with that rule.  Thankfully, there are professionals (such as at the local paint store) to consult to help decide which color (or colors) are best, and even computer software available to help aid in these homeowner decisions.  If decided to go with one of these bold, bright colors talked about here, there are still cautions taken, in my opinion — including maybe even  having a talk with the neighbors first.  Yes, these bright shades have a time & place to be used, but still, exterior-wise, in general, these type shades are considered “unsafe colors” for a reason.

THE NEO-MANSARD ROOF: Widely-Used In The Late 1960’s & 1970’s Decade

DSC_0156Born in the 1970’s,  a child of suburbia, I grew up within easy view of the many sights of these, especially on apartment buildings and complexes.   Sometimes, I noticed them on businesses and strip centers.  In ritzier neighborhoods in the area, I occasionally saw they were even used architecturally on nicer, larger homes.   They were roofs of a funkier, more boxier quality, had sunken square windows peaking through them, and they were always covered with thoDSC_0153se wood shingles.  Naturally, that’s all I thought about and noticed at the time.  (This was before I even knew the simple difference between an open gable and a hip.)  I’ve since learned as an adult through traveling, and by living elsewhere, that these unique roofs weren’t some localized, commonly-used design, repeated over & over one-too-many times in my hometown.  No, they literally are repeated over & over throughout the suburban landscape of much of the United States. IMG_20150820_165506 Upon learning this saturation exists almost everywhere of this very distinct style, especially used on apartment complexes, I feel these were maybe a tad bit overused.  Ya think?

Learning the different architectural gables as an adult, I categorized these houses and apartments I speak of as having a mansard roof — or at least a type of one.  I had caught something was slightly different from the traditional French mansard roofs of Europe, however.  The roofs from the other side of the Atlantic look more elegant, these looked more basic & contemporary.

I also grew curious how they are technically defined & labeled — architecturally.  With some quick, basic research, I found my answers.  Turns out, I wasn’t too far off.  I do find they are a type of mansard roof, but are defined as neo-mansard.  (The word “neo” in architecture always indicates a later architecture movement from the original, of one borrowing from the old, but creating something new.)  One source I read called them a faux mansard roof.  Make sense.

There are some differences between the original and this style we see in 60’s/70’s American suburbia.  To understand what those differences are, you have to first understand the original, true definition of a mansard roof.

The traditional mansard roof is from France, and it is simply a four-sided, gambrel-style hip roof.   A hip roof simply leaves no room for a gable to exist, the roof slopeDSC_0539 (2)s upward on all four sides of a house (almost pyramidal).  A gambrel-style roof, on the other hand, is another popular style borrowed from Europe and used throughout America on residential homes as well.  (Furthermore, many American barns, especially in states like Wisconsin, have these style roofs. ) The gambrel-style roof consists of two different same pitches found on either side of the top ridge, the lower pitch being steeper than the upper pitch, and the sides of the roof ending to form a gambrel gable on both ends.   With this style roof, it makes it easier to fit living space on the upper story (called a garret, in Europe) than with an open gable roof, and dormer windows don’t result very deep.

A gambrel roof:  


So again, the traditional mansard roof is a four-sided DSC_0360 (2)gambrel-style hip roof.  And, just as the gambrel roof has two different pitches on the roof, and gets steeper as you get lower, so does the mansard.  But, instead of ending with a gable on each side like the gambrel style, the mansard roof consists of a roof portion on all four sides, leaving no space for any sort of gable to exist — just like the hip.   Get it?  And, just like dormer windows are usually used on the gambrel-style roof, so dormer windows are frequently used on the mDSC_0541 (2)ansard-style roof, too, therefore being a feature that largely characterizes both of them.   On a traditional mansard roof, the upper pitch of the roof can be such a gradual slope that it may not even be able to be viewed if standing too close to the house or building it is on.

Diagram of roof styles:


A true mansard roof:


Some quick history facts I’ve learned on the mansard roof:

  1.   Also called a French roof or curb roof
  2. The earliest known example is used on the Louvre in Paris
  3. The roof style dates back to around 1550
  4. The roof was popularized in the early 17th Century
  5. The roof became very popular during the Second French Empire

Although the American revival of these mansard roof styles partially has to do with a shift in design that took place in the late 1960’s from modern & contemporary styles back to traditional & classic styles, much of the time they were used simply because they helped reduce the DSC_0159IMG_20150820_174102bulk of boxy apartment & commercial buildings in a new, stylish way.  Also, these roofs could be designed to rise high enough to create a lip around the entire perimeter of the flat roof of a structure, a lip easily able to hide the unsightly roofing equipment from view — making this type design attractive to commercial developers.

Now that the original, traditional mansard roof is defined, it is now easier to spot the differences between those and the neo-mansard.   A main characteristic of these later roofs is they often lack the two pitches found on the classic mansard roof (and gambrel roof).  On many of the examples from the 60’s/70’s, just one sloping pitch is often found.  Also, many of these roofs were sometimes designed in a way to cover two (or more) stacked floors on the largest apartment complexes, rather than covering just one floor as the traditional roof usually does.   (In fact, I’ve seen designs where the roof reaches all the way to just above the ground, and covers all floors — even the first.)  Furthermore, on these neo-mansard roofs, windows are usually recessed within the roof, not projecting outward like the dorm windows found on the classic version.  Lastly, the traditional classic mansard roof isn’t usually covered with wood shakes like these neo-mansard roofs typically are.

With these designs built four-to-five decades back now, many of these roofs have deteriorated enough that their cedar wood shake shingles are in need of replacement.  Therefore, on manyIMG_20150816_171550 apartment complexes and businesses you see them replaced, or in the process of being replaced.  I’ve seen everything from asphalt shingles (of varying quality) used, to vinyl siding, to metal roofing, to mimic-shake shingles, to actual wood shakes used once again.   Although I realize money is often a major factor in remodeling or replacing anything, I personally find a greater value in aesthetics.  I’ve seen plenty of examples out there that show me the farther the replacement product strays from the look of those traditional wood shingles, the resulting effect is less & less appealing, in my opinion.  These roofs just look their best with the appearance & textures & lines of wood shakes —  the designers knew that then, and we should still know that now.  Thankfully, there are several options nowadays to retain that shaker look while replacing the old roof, if authentic wood cedar shakes are unwanted (i.e. a good quality faux cedar shake tile, see link just below).

Example of faux shake shingle products:

Faux Cedar Shake Tile






Sometimes a new building changes everything — DSC_0103for the better.

That’s what I exactly feel 801 Grand, also called the Principal Building locally, did for Des Moines, Iowa’s largest & Capitol City, when completed in 1991.   Designed by HOK, the handsome octa-pointed star-shaped tower, capped with a peaked apex of the same pointy star shape, and an inwardly progressing, stair-stepping feature of geometry repeated on four corners with a pleasing contrast created by a checkering of windows mixing with solid curtains of glass, ones projecting outward on four, directly polar-opposite star-spikes of the building’s main perimeter, granted greater credence towards Des Moines in having big city status.   With Minneapolis and Chicago the next biggesDSCN8953_edited-1t towns on two directions out of Des Moines, and both noted cities of top architecture & design, the place seems well-inspired by its neighbors towards requiring fine, tasteful architecture.  Other downtown buildings give that impression as well.

Standing at a height of 630 feet, and considerably taller than other downtown structures, the tower has an unparalleled impact on the Des DSC_0956_edited-1DSC_0689Moines skyline in the last several decades.   Until that time, the city’s tallest building, the Ruan Tower, a black rectangular tower built in 1974 in the popular International Style, was the main, modern trophy tower on the skyline.   Out of the medium-size big cities on the American Plains (which would include Omaha, Des Moines, Wichita, Lincoln, Sioux Falls, Cedar Rapids, and Topeka, not Minneapolis, Kansas City, or Oklahoma City), I want to say Des Moines was the first one of this group of cities who broke-out of having a mere box as the tallest on their skyline.  But, that credit actually belongs to Wichita, with both their top-heavy 250 Douglas Place completed in 1969, and slanting, angled-roofed Epic Center built a step ahead of 801 Grand in 1989.

Wichita’s Epic Center:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epic_Center

The Principal Financial Group Headquarters has an inviting & warm. rich-feeling, multi-story lobby carved and hollowed-out within, and the signature eight-pointed star shape continues to be themed here, such as displayed in marble in the center of the lobby flooring, and printed on double glass doors within the building.  (This star shape is also featured on the building’s website.  Link provided at the bottom.)  Most of the building is occupied by Principal Financial Group, as this address is their headquarters, but some office spaced is leased-out also DSCN0670_edited-1to law firms, and the building even contains a steak & chop restaurant.  The building is also conveniently linked with the rest of downtown via the skywalk system.  When night rolls around, the tower is fantastically lit, highlighting the building’s pointy cap and spotlighting its indented sections & squarish ledges.

Interesting to note:  The skyscraper’s top cap is made out of copper sheeting that was intended to eventually display the lovely green color (called verdigris) that results from oxidation, but the usual process of nature didn’t pan-out, as Des Moines does not have a high enough salt content.   The result was the copper turning a dark brown instead.  After some consideration, it was decided to be just left alone.  Looks good to me.

Although I don’t find it mentioned anywhere (yet), I also feel the architect of 801 Grand possibly drew inspiration from the nearby Equitable BuilDSC_0180 (3)ding completed in 1924.  The lovely, graceful historic building, at one time the tallest downtown in eras gone by, has a capped architectural feature at the top that I notice is similar in look & form to Des Moines’s now tallest.  Coincidence?  I doubt it.  Architects commonly design the new in town to compliment the old in town.  It’s a great, safe practice & theory, called Architectural Contexualism.   I always felt the 801 Grand Skyscraper worked so well in Des Moines, but I couldn’t really pinpoint why — that is, until I connected those dots.

The Equitable Building: 


Around June 1990, passing through Des Moines on the way to Chicago on a family trip, I can remember seeing the skeletal frame of 801 Grand standing tall on the city skyline, likely the only individual in our cruising minivan even taking notice.  Captivation & surprise of this new tower was instant, and in the following year,  I clipped a picture and article out of my hometown newspaper on 801 Grand’s completion.   Although entirely loving the design and happy for Des DSC_0939
Moines, it also caused discontentment within me regarding my own city’s skyline, especially since it seemed unfair as we had a larger city & metro population to our urban area — and they now had the much taller building.   And, it wasn’t until ten years later, an entire decade of time passing by, that we finally got our turn, too, with a new prized skyscraper of our own, of similar height.  And, it was a grand moment for our city, too.

801 Grand:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/801_Grand

801 Grand website:  http://801grand.com/the-building

Iowa’s Tallest Buildings:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tallest_buildings_in_IowaDSC_0193 (2)

EXQUISITE TERMINAL & SPLENDID CAPITOL: A Close Race Between Two Architectural Jewels In Cheyenne

Even witDSCN5003h the always-pleasant-to-view domed State Capitol Building in town, the Cheyenne Depot Museum (also called the Wyoming Transportation Museum) still easily can win local hearts completely over, in my opinion, and be considered the most beautiful historic structure by some in Cheyenne.   However, the Capitol is usually king in any capitol city, and if it doesn’t win that type contest, than there’s no other building that can be insulted more, I would think.  So, maybe the train station is, and should be, considered always number two in town (even by me, an outsider)  —  just out of respect.  Yes, the Capitol Building of Wyoming is something to behold, too, and probably wins between the two.  But, oh, that train depot!  What a beauty.

A summary of quick facts on the Wyoming State Capitol:  Built between 1886 and 1890, and designed in Renaissance Revival style, with sandDSCN5032stone imported from within the state itself and Colorado, the building is set so it can be viewed unobstructed straight down Capitol Avenue in Downtown Cheyenne, centered so the front steps of the entrance and dome is perfectly in-line with the street leading up to it.  The 146-foot-tall dome that crowns the structure, noticeably smaller than most domes you see on capitols across the United States,  is covered with copper.  Because of severe tarnishing, gold leaf has been used on the dome since 1900, needing always applied by a highly skilled individual.   The dome also has stain glass imported from England.  Within the Capitol, in the rotunda area, there are checkerboard marble floors, columns, and a notable cherry wood staircase made with wood brought from Ohio.  Many more architectural details are found through the link provided just below.

Wyoming State Capitol:


Now, some DSCN5010quick facts on the Cheyenne Depot Museum:  Currently a railroad museum in Downtown Cheyenne, the gallery is located inside the historic Union Pacific Railroad depot, a train terminal built in 1886 to 1887 with blocks of sandstone transported from Colorado.  The building has had numerous renovations between 1922 and 2006, the first one in which the building was lengthened.  Very long in length, with two very broad, twin, gables topping a second story, a stately strong tower standing tall offset from center, and an abundance of big arching windows and doorways, all in a sturdy-looking Romanesque style, the building painted in a unique color combo of a pumpkin orange and french gray, the design could DSCN5013easily be considered an architectural masterpiece.  The current non-profit museum within the prized structure was established with an agreement between The Old West Museum and Cheyenne Frontier Days, and leases the space from the city of Cheyenne.

The Cheyenne Depot Museum:



I can’t recall any other U.S. capitol city in which I have this sort of tug-o-war between the capitol building and their historic train depot (or any other historic gem, for that matter).   Simply, the train station is steps grander than most I see, while the Wyoming State Capitol is, I feel, steps back in magnificence than what domed state capitols usually are in appearance, while still very, very beautiful.  So, the scales are more so balanced evenly here.  In researching them both, I was reminded they, in fact, face each other in Downtown Cheyenne, down the same street, and I learned those orientations are purposeful and of historical significance to Cheyenne — and, obviously not intended for a constant showdown.   So, I’ve just come to a conclusion:  The contest stops here.DSCN5005

A STRING OF TURQUOISE BEADS: California’s Desert Cities

When desiring a relaxing getaway to the sunny Desert Southwest, there really are options to think about.  Phoenix, Tuscon, Las Vegas, and Palm Springs all quickly DSCN6233spring to mind.  If your aim is the higher desert, than there’s Santa Fe, Taos, Albuquerque, and Las Cruces.  All have their own special perks and each have their own special charms — without argument.  California’s desert cities, however, are the destination I want to solely discuss in this entry.

Anchored by the largest town of Palm Springs on the northwest side of the broad Coachella Valley, the primary cities of Cathedral City, Palm Desert, and Indio all branch diagonally off to the southeast, strung along the major interstate artery of I-10, including smaller enclaves with promising-etopia-sounding names, like ThDSCN6475ousand Palms, Rancho Mirage, La Quinta,  Indian Wells, Bermuda Dunes,  Coachella, and Vista Santa Rosa.  Among this body of municipalities, an adequate choice of food & entertainment, recreation, resorts & lodging exists.  Like in Phoenix, the sport of golfing is a huge draw of the area; the Coachella Valley is so characterized by green courses itDSCN6504 is almost difficult, outside of a view of Downtown Palm Springs or their tram, to find a local picture or postcard that doesn’t involve one.  For one looking for an experience in the arts, Palm Springs has Palm Canyon Theater in town that holds musicals & plays, and the large, nearby Coachella Music & Arts Festival takes place annually in the spring before temps get too hot.

As far as wanting a jaunt in nature, the wide-ranging Joshua Tree National Park just to the east offers back road adventures and unforgettable, one-of-a-kind desert scenes mixed of smooth boulder & rock, joshua trees, yuccas, cactus, and desert brush.  This is very localized scenery that many artists and photographers constantly attempt to capture just right.  (And, even rock musicians, too.  U2’s “Streets Have No Name” smash hit off their 1987 Joshua Tree album sung about dirt-bikin’ it throughout this yucca tree-studded, arid stretch.)

Joshua Tree National Park scenery:


Palm Springs, the long-established & most famous
of the California desert cities, one which fits snuDSCN6264gly in a sort of palmy, desert mountain corner nook, offers a busy downtown strip lined on both sides with linear rows of picturesque, stately, old California fan palm trees.  Tourism-orientated businesses — hotels of all sizes, touristy shops, shopping and retail stores, and restaurants — are all found around here in plenty.   The setting of Palm Springs has a unique configuration I notice between mountain, valley, and sky.  With the bone-dry mountains immediately on the south & west edges of the resort town, the sprouting, green heads of the city’s tall & skinny aged fan palms are instantly given a brown background looking several directions, and this coloring shiftsDSCN6330 by hour throughout the day, until the sun sets and slips behind Mt. San Jacinto, and in twilight light, palms began to appear almost black in color, now backdropped by tones of purples.  This affords the opportunity for some pleasant pictures, images of a place looking serene & sheltered, like one to cool off, a desert oasis.  Just try and get pictures like this in Phoenix, Tuscon or Vegas.

If you’re looking for the black & white history in this valley of mostly new, orange-tile-roofed sprawl, Palms Springs is the place where you’ll mainly find it.  One of the most loved historic architectural pieces of the city — and entire area — is the 40-foot Spanish-style tower of the historic El Mirador Hotel, which opened on New Years Eve 1927.   DSCN6402_edited-1Rising considerably higher than the tree line and town’s low-rise buildings, painted bright pink, and awash with light after dark,  the tower is an enchanting element of the area in a starry desert night.  Night time ambiance is delightfully seen all over Palm Springs and the rest of the valley,  and is one of my favorite, memorable features of the area.   (In all low desert cities, it is common to see lighting set in place to highlight subjects at night, things such as gurgling fountains and the stark forms of architectural desert plants, such as yucca, agave, cacti, and the ribbedDSCN6386 and cross-hatched trunks of mexican and desert date palms — all symbols of the desert.  With beams set on landscaping features, surrounding architectural touches, such as Spanish-style arches & gates or projecting adobe-style roof supports, are often spotlighted along the way.  The result is a warm, romantic mood and air created in late hours.  Simply gorgeous.)

The El Mirador Hotel:


Palm Springs is also  well-noted worldwide for its thorough collection of Mid-Century modern architectural design, having a signature look & style called “Desert Modernism”, which embraced desert living with the use of clean, simple lines and much glass, a trend of the past that is celebrated & featured now in many coffee-table books & publications.  Tours of these homes are available.

More here:  http://www.visitpalmsprings.com/page/mid-century-modern-architecture/8185

If you’re wanting to take in a good view of the area, the nearby Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, claiming the title as the largest rotating aerial tramway in the world and running since 1963, dangles tourists through Chino Canyon and swoops them on up to the evergreens & rocky crags of lofty San Jacinto Peak for quite a look over Palm Springs and the adjacent cities below.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway:


With local tourism mainly driven by and summed-up by three leading things — golf, pool, and sun  –that “keep ’em comin'” to this Coachella Valley, there really isn’t much more to touch on, unless I go into details of things like popular, high-rated local restaurants or where to shop .  (I’m not a cover-every-detail travel guide, though — not even close.)  Since the area is known for its luxury hotel resorts and offers many of them, I find it most interesting looking at their ratings and learning of their individuality.  If also interested, these links below are good places to start.

The 11 Best Luxury Hotels In Palms Springs Area:


Best Hotel List By U.S. News Travel:




If you’re American, you have a taste for all things GIMGP8603erman, and you don’t think you’ll ever make it to Munich or Berlin or the Black Forest, maybe you should just consider making it to Milwaukee instead.    Wisconsin is a lot cheaper ticket.

Given a name
originating from the Native American language (as a lot of Midwestern cities have), and not a German one, it might be surprising to learn that Milwaukee is considered the most German-American city.  This deeply-roDSC_0882 (2)oted heritage was birthed here by an in-pouring of German immigrants in the decades following the 1840’s. Because of this heritage, German influence is architecturally displayed locally, literally everywhere, from old house to old building to suburban strip center to new skyscraper (two modern Milwaukee skyscrapers have German architectural influence seen in their designs).   Milwaukee also has a definiDSC_0839 (2)te gem, one that any American city would want to have in its box of jewels:  A restaurant called Maders.  Often voted the finest German restaurant in America, and dating all the way back to DSC_0801 (2)1902, it is a place of magnificence in food & atmosphere.  While in Milwaukee, I had the pleasure of dining there, and now have the pleasure of sharing with others.  No need to describe it, their website does the job.  I’m just passing it along.

Maders:  http://www.maders.com/

Traditionally known for its famous old brewerieIMGP8206s, like some towns are known for their stockyards, the city now has the typical modern-day emergence in industry & venues more cleaner, high-tech & trendy.  A murmur of excitement was made in the world of architecture with its new lakefront art museum, an instantly lovable white & winged structure looking almost as a bird in flight, designed by the world-renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

The city’s skyline oDSC_0661 (2)f modern & historic buildings all stand high on a bluff overlooking
Lake Michigan, many wearing those German architectural accents mentioned, including even a row of repeated German gables set one-after-one on the long lines of the city’s modern convention center.  The city’s breathtaking historic City Hall, a German-influenced masterpiece of design completed in 1895, is a must-see for any architectural enthusiast.  If you find yourself absolutely loving this structure (as I do), please take the time to check out Milwaukee’s first skyscraper, the Pabst Building (per the link just below).   It no longer stands, demolished in 1981.

Pabst Building:  http://tinyurl.com/hbznj32

Milwaukee City Hall:  http://tinyurl.com/jydn9hb

Milwaukee Art Museum:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milwaukee_Art_Museum

Another example of noteworthy historic architecture in the area is the Northwestern Branch, National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers Historic District.   Sitting a top a high hill southwest of the downtown district, I’ve learned the structure waIMGP8727s designed in Victorian Second Empire Style by E. Townsend Mix, a Milwaukee architect, and completed in 1869.  Literally giving my a gasp when I first saw it, I’ve hardly laid eyes on such a dramatic old beauty in the Midwest before.   With a striking collection of multi-height towers, steep mansard roofs, and dormer windows, and shingles laid in multi-colored zigzag patterns, it almost looks something out of a child’s storybook.

Northwestern Branch, National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers Historic District:


As far as new high-rises go, the city isn’t one to change shape & form too quickly.   Since 1973, Milwaukee’s U.S. Bank Center has remained  the tallest in the city.  Yet, scheduled for completion in 2017, a new addition, the Northwestern MutIMGP8739ual Tower, will greatly enhance the Milwaukee skyline in a way any local skyscraper-enthusiast has likely long waited for.  Very sharp & sleek, featuring a curving curtain of glass its entire height of 550 feetDSC_0684, the tower will become the city’s second tallest building.   As far as any Milwaukee architecture by the hand of world-renowned architects, the U.S. Bank Center was designed by Chicago’s Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill firm.  And, an office complex consisting of twin geometric towers, called 330 Kilbourn, was designed by German-American architect, Halmut Jahn.

Northwestern Mutual Tower:  http://tinyurl.com/zqu7jh8

Milwaukee skyscrapers:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tallest_buildings_in_Milwaukee

Adding to thIMGP8624e city’s lakefront density, warm & inviting-looking, tall luxury condo towers trail off to the north from downtown, all following a main, north-south IMGP8629avenue along the bluff,  giving residents spectacular, uninterrupted views of the seemingly
endless blue expanse of Lake Michigan to their east.  Along the city’s shore, a parkway winds its way along, and large willows line the water.  Beyond that, spacious parks with picnic areas extend out toward the sea-looking lake, and beyond the green lawns, a large boat marina adds even more to the scene.  Are we still in the Midwest here?

Some feel Milwaukee exists eclipsed and sits in a shadow, as this town lies an hour or so northIMGP8277DSC_0697 (2) of Chicago.  Yet, because of this proximity to the mighty Illinois city,  yet a step outside of the wearing hustle & bustle of it,  I feel Milwaukeeans have the best of both worlds.  World-class shopping and entertainment can be easily done in a day, in a weekend.  Woods & lakes & ponds are located right outside the metropolitan area, along with the Great Lake right on their front door step.  Therefore, big-time hunting, fishing, and boating are all only steps away.  Summers are beautiful, fairly temperate.  For some, the only drawback for the region might be gloomy, long, damp winters.  And, much snow.  Lots of it.

Milwaukee Wallpaper:  http://feelgrafix.com/data_images/out/23/943277-milwaukee.jpg


LINCHPINS OF A LOVED TEXAS SKYLINE: Fountain Place & Reunion Tower, Dallas

If Houston and Dallas were Brady sisters, I feel Dallas would be Marsha and Houston would be Jan.   As Jan sometimes moaned “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!”, I can almost picture Houston moaning three names in the same exact way — but, just insert “DSC_0487Dallas” where “Marsha” was said.  At least that’s my perception, anyways.   (For the record, I felt Jan had plenty going for her, too, and Marsha wasn’t anything to obsess over.)

Both cities are very large (Houston is the largest city, Dallas-Fort Worth is the largest metropolitan area), and both have showcase skylines that are counted among the biggest & best in the country.   Each city has its own splendor of commercial real estate,  a jagged line of buildings towerDSC_0468ing in the center of each city, tall enough to be glimpsed at far distant points of each metro.  Houston has both the tallest downtown skyscraper and tallest suburban skyscraper of the two, and technically, the larger collection of skyscrapers to boast.   This is enough of evidence that Houston should have the Big D beat.  However, although the Houston skyline has its definite fans,  Dallas’s skyline seems the one that dazzles even more per group tally.

Houston skyline:

Dallas skyline:  http://tinyurl.com/zgzu68t

I’ve examined thDSC_0426 (2)e factors of this fierce debate among those who love city, skyline, and architecture.   First off,  between Dallas’ & Houston’s collection of high rises, Dallas has two gutsier, showier designs incorporated than what we see in the Bayou City:  The Fountain Place and Reunion Tower.  Both structures were frequently pictured in the long-running soap opera “Dallas.”  Although Houston has wondrous skyscrapers in its own right, the only one that is truly a flashcard on their skyline (imo) is the 1983 tri-gabled Bank of America Center designed by Phillip Johnson.  The Williams Tower is another possibly, but it stands somewhat far outside of downtown.

The free-standing Reunion Tower,  topped with a geodesic, aluminum globe in which a cylindrical restaurant with unmatched city views rotates within, and lit-up at night with hundreds of points of light, is the true recognizable Dallas landmark — the form remarked in a National Geographic article as resembling the stem & head of an old, fuzzy dandelion. 00005 Attached conveniently to the Hyatt Regency, and built in 1978,  the complex of tower & restaurant & hotel were a commercial success and immediately praiseful.  (Something to point out:  Although I can’t find it verified by another soul elsewhere, I still feel like the stair-stepping top of the Hyatt Regency seems to vaguely follow the same coarse as the northern border of Texas as seen on a road map, therefore giving a subtle impression of the city’s home state on the skyline.  I always felt something looked familiar for a long time, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.)  Modern & glassy, prism-like Fountain Place is also a real showstopper, a prolific skyscraper a graphic artist would be sure to include in a basic silhouette of Dallas,  jutting up sharpDSC_0066 (2)ly on the west side of downtown with its tall triangular peak.  The geometry repeated on each side, but flipped the opposite direction, the modern sculpture changes form depending on how it is viewed.   Originally, when designed by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, and completed in 1986, a second 60-story twin tower was planned to stand with it, but rotated 90-degrees.  Economic changes didn’t allow that to happen.  On the side catching the final rays at sundown, one angling section is brightly reflected gold while the other main section does not and remains dark, diviDSC_0450 (2)ded by a sharply-angling line.   Pretty bold move on the skyline — but it works and fits for several reasons.  For one, skyscrapers with slanting portions aren’t strangers to Dallas.  There’s several older ones standing on streets nearby.  Two, the downtown street grid is twisted two notches off the main one, ultimately creating three different commonly-used alignments in the greater immediate vicinity that buildings are fit & ordered squarely to, adding further impression that any type of angle is entirely welcome here.

Second, there’s another advantage Dallas has over Houston:  The southwest orientation of the skyline.  Consisting of mostly towers of reflective, gleaming glass, the front face of the Dallas skyline catches the low evening rays of the Texas sun nicely with this orientation, shimmering with golds & oranges at sunset, standing boldly contrasted against a backdrop of purplish twilight skies.   Third, neon green glowing strips trace the squarish lines of the city’s tallest, outlining the sleek & slim skyscraper and all its angles — a unique feature making quite a memorable statement not seen also in Houston.

With these factors added up, simply:  The postcard shots of Dallas are a bit more vivid & impressionable than Houston’s.  And, if aesthetics are or are not enough to give Dallas the blue ribbon, we haven’t even touched on another possible key ingredient here, such as the further advantages Dallas must/may have with much DSC_0301 (2)wider recognition and likely inspired admiration generated by the long-running, popular TV soap opera involving the dysfunctional, power-hungry Ewing family.  Living high off the hog just outside of the city within their white, plantation-style mansion surrounded by horse, fence, and pasture, and large sparkling swimming pool out back circled by cheery, bright umbrellas, the perception was reinforced to the public that Dallas — already credited as the Southwest’s leading financial center and most cosmopolitan city — is the sDSC_0315 (3)tar city of Texas.  Not only top in urbanity and culture, and worthy of an evening T.V. series, but one surrounded by cattle & ranchland & oak, and of tan beautiful people of oil & wealth, all quintessential elements that largely define the great Lonestar State to the rest of the nation.  Even hotter & muggier Houston, on the other hand, has the space program, and is characterized by the nearby Gulf, pine forests, and swamps.  And, it doesn’t have that T.V. show.

There’s plenty to love about Houston.  In ways, I may like it a lot better than Dallas.  The city having the ocean & beaches of Galveston nearby, warmer winter temps, and more tropical vegetation are all attractive things that come to mind.  (Although I hear the traffic is nightmarish.)  But, I’m not the type to root for the underdog simply because.  And, I always give credit where I feel credit is due.  So, at the end of this show, I crown Dallas the winner of the Texas beauty pageant.   DSC_1481 (2)_edited-1


If the monarch of some far-off kingdom were visiting America, and was to be shown the ten finest cities of the U.S., you know Seattle would have to be on the list.  Located in green Western Washington, squeezed between the sapphire blue Puget Sound and Lake Washidscn4255_0291_2334ngton, just west of the Cascade Mountain chain and east of the Olympic, and not too far northwest of the snowy-white mounded volcanic peak of Mt. Rainier,  the city isn’t exactly hurting any in the scenery department.  In continued favor, the city is reputed nationwide as a beckoning hot spot of business &  art & culture, the city that spawned Microsoft & Starbucks and Grunge music, chosen as thedscn3112_0287_1303_edited-1 setting for popular T.V. sitcoms and the backdrop for many movies in the film industry.    Downtown Seattle, now a dashing set of glistening skyscrapers, glassy residential buildings, and an abundance of thriving business, including tourist attractions like the bustling Pikes Place Market, is the true centerpiece of the region.   A bulk of buildings and towers cascade upward on a hill sloping steeply from the waterfront, as ferry boats glide in and out of the Sound, and seagulls flutter on cool breezes off the water.

The hype wasn’t always there; Until its coming of age in the 1990’s, Seattle was thought of more as a rainy & misty & mossy dominion, far up in the Pacific Northwest, and much like Alaska, a place only so many woulddscn3156_0300_1316 consider moving-off to.  Warmer, drier places on the West Coast were more the aim & destination of the common stampede trail of the 70’s & 80’s, such as San Diego, Orange County, or the Bay Arimgp4635-2-_0357_1449ea of California.  Although the gray & gloomy weather keeps many persons at bay (including myself), compared to earlier times, there still seems to be more now that are willing to pack-up and move to Washington, and endure in jacket & umbrella, for the sake of experiencing life in this great city.

Now, getting to the good stuff.  About Seattle architecture:  Of course, you have the iconic Space Needle.   In terms of  a structure having far-reaching recognizable quality, no other sdscn4311_0316_2359tructure in town compares.   Overall, the town is not noteworthy because of its architecture.  Even so, award-winning additions are there.  1201 Third Adscn4269_0300_2343venue, Seattle’s second-tallest building, is one.   Not only is it voted as one of the favorite buildings of the city by Seattlites, the New York Times named it as one of the best three new office buildings in the United States in 1988, and a remark in a 1989 issue of Architecture Magazine said of the tower “perhaps the best recent addition to any U.S. skyline.”  For Seattle, it was a good move.  When I first laid eyes on the tower as a youngster, I instantly approved along with critics.  Standing tall on the city’s shore, it is almost an image of a beaconing lighthouse to me, its form complimenting the shapes of sailboats passing on by.  Also to note:  The tower’s apex is capped with a small pyramid just as the city’s beloved historic skyscraper, the Smith Tower, is.  (The Smith Tower was the tallest building west of the Mississippi until 1931, and tallest building on West Coast until the Space Needle was erected for the Worlds Fair in 1962.)

The Smith Tower:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith_Tower

Although Seattle has several towers I adore, I know 1201 Third Avenue is the one that ultimately perks me up.  I also very much appreciate the 20dscn3104_0435_130006 addition of the Russell Investments Center.  Although not raved about that I can see, I personally find satisfaction in this strong & sharp new building of Seattle.  On all sides, a succession of rigid, horizontal & vertical lines are hard at work, and large boxy shapes overlay and slide & push into each other, creating a myriad of corners & edges, the different sections clothed in soft tones of gray and blue glass.  As far as towers go, it was the first of its kind in Seattle, one looking of restrained design, one that helps lighten-up the somewhat dark-colored skyline, anchored by the slender, black Columbia Tower.

Russell Investment Center:



The Seattle Central Library is another structure to talk & think about.  Bold, stark, and ultra-modern, wrapped in a pattern of small diamonds created from the facade’s criss-crossing lines, having high-up sections jutting-out over the street, overall an unconventional form protrudinimgp4638_0360_1452g & withdrawing, said to look of a frog about to leap, the library has been a focus of architectural awards, praise & admiration and even scorn.  In 2007, it was voted among the American Institute of Architects 150 favorite structures in the U.S.  In 2005, it received a national AIA Honor Award for Architecture, also earning a Pldscn4251_0287_2330dscn3089_0434_1294atinum Award for innovation & engineering from the American Council of Engineering Companies of Washington.  It has also been hit with criticism.  An architectural critic for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Lawrence Cheek, who originally praised the design upon its opening in May 2004, later recanted his viewpoint, and declared his displeasure with it.  The library also received unfavorable reviews from the Project For Public Spaces.  Regardless if loved or hated, Seattle’s controversial library started a trend among American cities, a newly-desired taste in what the downtown library should look & be like  — just as sports stadium design has evolved.  That aspect is summed-up well in what the New Yorker said of the take-notice-of structure:  “the most important new library to be built in a generation, and the most exhilarating.”

The Seattle Central Library:


Seattle Skyscrapers: