The Most Impressive Buildings in Seattle

Museum of Pop Culture
Museum of Pop Culture | © Dave Sizer/Flickr
Jacklyn Grambush

Seattle has grown steadily over the last century like a huge concrete playground in a vast forest. Ever-conscious of the surrounding landscape, the city has found its own ways to embrace progress while respecting its history. In a city known more for its Space Needle than its skyline, here are some buildings that will knock your Birkenstocks off. Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.

Columbia Center

The progressive Columbia Center is Seattle’s tallest building at 943 feet. The 76 floors offer a three level atrium, 30 retailers, 24 restaurants, and a Sky View Observatory. Over 50% of the building’s waste is recycled or composted, and the underground parking garage offers Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Stations. It boasts an ENERGY STAR rating of 83 points and is the tallest building in the nation to have earned LEED Platinum certification. The icing on the cake: lighting on top of the building, which changes colors depending on the city’s events, informs citizens of the time every hour on the hour.

Space Needle

Designed for Seattle’s 1962, futuristic-themed World Fair, the Space Needle is the seventh tallest building in the city at 605 feet. Once the tallest building west of the Mississippi, it is the number one attraction in the Northwest with over one million visitors per year. The size of the plot on which it was built restricted the width of the base, resulting in a 30 foot foundation underground to balance out its height. It sways one inch for every 10mph of wind. Designed to withstand winds of up to 200mph, it even endured the city’s 6.8 earthquake in 2001.

Smith Tower

The Smith Tower was built in 1914

The first Seattle skyscraper and – back when it was built in 1914 – the tallest building west of the Mississippi, the Smith Tower makes the list due to its historical significance. Now the 19th tallest building in Seattle at 462 feet, it features historical exhibits and a sensational observatory. If those walls could talk, they’d probably slur their words. #RumRunning

Seattle Central Public Library

Not only does the Seattle Library design look rad, but it’s also practical. The 9,994 pieces of exterior glass are intended to pique the curiosity of passersby, but they’re also designed to use natural light more or less depending on a room’s purpose. The landscaping outside is irrigated as often as possible by an onsite 38,500 gallon rainwater collection tank. Designed to outperform Seattle’s energy code by 10%, the Seattle Library earned a LEED Silver rating. All this added to the over one million books to complement the 400 public computers and free wireless access: this library is ready to press forward with the rest of the world.

Bullitt Center

Meeting the strict standards of the Living Building Challenge, the Bullitt Center is intended to give more than it takes. Its seventeen highlighted aspects to achieve this include toilets that compost, 575 solar panels on the roof for net zero energy, and regenerative technology in the elevators (similar to a Prius) to render them 60% more energy efficient.

Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop)


Formerly the Experience Music Project, the MoPop building is impressive in its design. Conceptualized by Frank O. Gehry, who used slices of electric guitars as inspiration to convey the rock’n’roll experience, 21,000 individual stainless steel and painted aluminum shingles make up what some city residents may still call an eyesore. Comprising eclectic shapes, colors, and textures, most of which are unconventional in architecture, this building’s design originally stirred a lot of debate. Today, MoPop is an integral aspect of everything Seattle stands for.

Art Stable

This seven-story building makes use of 8 foot by 12 foot “art doors” stacked upon each other on the side of the building. Opening up to 75 degrees, an attached crane can then be used to easily move heavy or large items, such as art pieces, in or out of the building. The building includes sustainable features, some with their U.S. debut in this building. Located on grounds that used to host horse stables, Art Stable couldn’t be a more fitting name.

Edith Macefield’s House

Last, but certainly not least, is the house of the most impressive Ms. Edith Macefield. Unwilling to move out of her over one-hundred-year-old house to make way for a commercial development, even when offered generous compensation, the plans were developed around her house instead. Some believe her story inspired the movie Up.

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