Moses Building

  • Location
    Seattle, WA
  • Square Footage
  • Contractor
  • Shell & Core Architect
  • Structural Engineer
  • Photography
  • Certifications
    U.S. Department of the Interior - National Park Service Historical Preservation Pioneer Square Preservation Board

The redesign of an iconic early 1900’s Pioneer Square building into an office and retail space.

By following the cues of the building, and observing the Preservation guidelines, we arrived at a design approach that carried us through each design decision.

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Design Challenge

This iconic early 1900’s Pioneer Square building was in bad shape in 2003 when it came into the hands of a new owner.   The structural brick and heavy-timber frame had been covered up or painted over by numerous remodels, the original wood windows and storefront glazing were deteriorated beyond repair, and the steel fire escapes were rusted through.  Nonetheless, the bones of the building were strong. The owner wanted a complete shell and core upgrade, as well as an additional floor of office space, and a penthouse unit for himself.


Our involvement in this project began in the early stages of the seismic retrofit process.  Since we were tasked with designing a 2-story addition, we became deeply involved in coordinating the structural work, and developed a collaborative relationship with the shell and core architects, contractor, and engineering team.  As the project progressed, our scope grew to include every aspect of the project.  Our responsibilities included:

  • Overseeing the reconstruction of the historic window and storefront glazing systems.
  • Redesign and detailing of all the shared spaces including the main lobby, stairs, elevator, and bathrooms.
  • Overseeing the restoration and reconstruction of the steel fire escapes
  • Building signage and wayfinding
  • Obtaining Pioneer Square Preservation Board approvals on all exterior design choices.
  • Compliance with Federal Historic Preservation guidelines, including successful application for a 20% tax credit to the owner for all work done on the building.

Design Solutions

Working in a historic building, we were very careful to pay attention to the building’s character.  By following the cues of the building, and observing the Preservation guidelines, we arrived at a design approach that carried us through each design decision.  If an element was deemed to contribute to the Historical character of the building and was able to be restored or replicated, we did.  For instance the wood windows are an exact replication of the original profiles, which we studied and documented in detail.  If exact replication was not possible, we learned what we could from the building and set out to solve the problem in a sympathetic way using today’s methods.  This was the case with the street level storefront glazing, which was made from a copper glazing profile common to buildings of this era.  Since this product is no longer available, we studied how the system worked and had our own custom profiles made that were clearly not historic but do feel like they belong in the building.  Similarly for new work in the building, such as the back stair or the new elevator lobby, we made design choices that separated the new from the historical, but were respectful of the building’s character.  The result is a building that will continue to contribute the Historic District, and which will reward the careful viewer with its uncovered, restored and new layers of detail.