Two Union Square Repositioning

Architect: NBBJ

Owner:  Washington Holdings

Location: Seattle

Now 30 years old, Two Union Square remains a unique and significant icon in Seattle’s skyline. This project addresses the rapidly evolving needs of the city’s most innovative commercial tenants and the future of work by repositioning all of the building’s public spaces. Boldly current and reflective of complex fabrication techniques, the spaces are now centered on the human experience and are ready to support the city’s meteoric growth as a high-tech hub.

While the building’s original design helped define the region’s architecture, a series of incremental and disparate modifications resulted in a lack of spatial continuity and underused public spaces. This project echoes what the Northwest has come to represent, the dynamic intersection of natural beauty, technological innovation, and a community-focused ethos that speaks to new ways of working. The design elements directly reference motifs found in and around Seattle, from wood ceilings that emulate the motion of wind and waves to a fractal travertine wall inspired by the region’s tectonic activity. They all work in harmony to shape a series of calming spaces for tenants and visitors to work, recharge, and connect.

Advanced technologies, such as VR modeling, were at the core of a design process through which the team developed a highly tactile and emotional experience for the spaces. The fractal wall was computationally designed and engineered, and each of the 1,400 stone pieces used in its construction was optimized to significantly reduce material waste. That same approach was used to develop the wood wave ceiling, which comprises 3,000 curved planks. The team shared 3D files and worked closely with craftspeople and stonemasons to improve their fabrication techniques and map out the intricate installations.

Throughout, every detail has been executed with a high level of care to ensure each space is welcoming and uplifting. They provide a range of experiences, from quiet and contemplative to highly collaborative, to support a wide range of tenants and visitors. A restrained palette of elemental materials—wood, stone, bronze, and terrazzo—help strengthen the project concept, while concealed lighting animates each space.

This repositioning project demonstrates the importance of reimagining public spaces in high rises, ensuring they can remain relevant for users for decades to come. An agile response to social trends, this project supports greater choices and flexible spaces for an increasingly untethered workforce.

Additional information

Interior Architect: NBBJ

Lighting Design: NBBJ

Environmental Graphic Design: NBBJ

General Contractor: GLY Construction

Engineer and Structural Consultant: Magnusson Klemencic Associates

Engineer - Electrical: McKinstry

Stone Supplier: Architectural Stone and Tile

Architectural Woodwork and Custom Furniture Fabricators: Custom Interiors

ACT/Wood Ceiling and GWB Systems Installation: Firstline Systems

Stone Fabricator: Poggi Bros.

Flooring: Rubenstein's

Custom Wood Ceiling: Rulon International


Janani Kanna, AIA, Chair, Corgan, Los Angeles

Marlene Imirzian, FAIA, Marlene Imirzian & Associates Architects, Phoenix, AZ; Escondido, Calif.

Taal Safdie, AIA, Safdie Rabines Architects, San Diego

Mark Bacon, AIA, BVH Architects, Ltd., Lincoln, Neb.

Jodi Ernst, AIA, Architect of the Capitol, Bethesda, Md.

Image credits

Two Union Square Repositioning-03

Kevin Scott

Two Union Square Repositioning-04

Kevin Scott

Two Union Square Repositioning-05

NBBJ/Sean Airhart

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NBBJ/Sean Airhart

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Kevin Scott