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By Tim Newcomb
When Seattle’s fire stations needed an overhaul, the city selected local architects to give these ultimate live/work spaces a modern-minded update. Seattle, Washington, firefighters don’t need to bunk next to their trucks anymore. Thirteen architecture firms so far have been hired as part of a $300 million program to upgrade all 32 neighborhood stations by 2015 (20 substantial renovations and 12 new constructions), and each proposed a sustainable new style of fire-station living.
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Fire Station 38 by Schreiber Starling & Lane Architects.

Fire Station 38 by Schreiber Starling & Lane Architects.

Fire Station 30 by Schacht Aslani Architects

Fire Station 30 by Schacht Aslani Architects

Fire Station 39 by Miller Hull Partnership (above)
Massive glazed doors invite the community to peep into this outpost’s guts and rigs, while an external steel sculpture acts as water feature, filtering rain from the roof to a 7,000-gallon underground cistern that supports toilet and truck-washing needs. Kitchen and sleeping quarters are separated from working areas, preventing smudges from dirty work gear.

Fire Station 38 by Schreiber Starling & Lane Architects
Color coding characterizes the exterior of Station 38, set on a reclaimed brownfield site: White demarcates the living spaces, red is for working, and slate indicates operations. The distinct curved roof channels rain runoff to a garden. The firefighters appreciate the revised operational flow that has them out the door from anywhere in their new home within a minute of the bell tolling.

Fire Station 30 by Schacht Aslani Architects
Sunlight changes the look of Number 30’s imaginative frittered-glass signage, but the red doors in front remain colorfast. Schacht Aslani Architects’ Eric Aman moved five bunk rooms upstairs, allowing the "beanery," a kitchen-dining room with a range, stove, television, and dining table, to take in the street-level views downstairs. Geothermal heat and on-site stormwater treatment helped the building achieve LEED Gold certification.

Fire Station 39 by Miller Hull Partnership.

Fire Station 39 by Miller Hull Partnership.


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"Lifter" by Pete Beeman

Really an interactive exhibit, when the crank at the bottom of the new 28-foot-tall powder-coated stainless steel sculpture gets turned, the steel-plated tubes at the top rise and fall together, creating different imagery for visitors to Fire Station 37. The arms move slowly, fanning out as they reach for the sky.

Photo by Pete Beeman

Click here for our extended slideshow of Seattle's fire stations.

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"Sentinels" by Gloria Bornstein

Inspired by Asian art, architecture, kokeshi dolls and even safety gear, the eight painted steel forms symbolize “guardians of the city.” Located near Seattle’s Chinatown-International District on the sidewalk adjacent to Fire Station 10, the artwork offers shifting perspectives as they diminish in size from nearly 9 feet to just over 3 feet along the incline.

Photo by Gloria Bornstein

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"Fire Tower" by Wayne Chabre

The bronze Asian garden lantern not only helps light the landscape surrounding Fire Station 28, but also serves as a suggestion of the station’s original tower. The 8-foot display incorporates history of the city’s great fire, the waterfront, the fire department and the neighborhood on its four sides.

Photo by Jeanne McMenemy

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"Thornton Creek" by Stephen Glassman

This steel sculpture literally serves to revive Thornton Creek, lost to urbanization. The reclaimed pipes were peeled open and now convey water from the rooftop of Fire Station 39 to an underground cistern, watering switch grass within the sculpture along the way, a literal throwback to the area’s past. The arms “float,” giving an organic quality to a rugged piece.

Photo by Stephen Glassman

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"Alex, Michael" by Mel Katz

The three abstract painted aluminum sculptures—red, of course—resemble small trees outside Fire Station 38. The playful attempt to mimic the adjacent row of columnar trees also serves as a counterpoint to the straight lines of the building.

Photo by Eduardo Calderón

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"Rescue" by Kay Kirkpatrick

The abstracted ladder pushes away from the new Fire Station 35 as a reference to the rescues firefighters perform daily. Surrounding the playful “35” sits a neon crown of fire, both an obvious tie to a firefighter’s main adversary and also as a play on the building’s 1950s-style architecture.

Photo by Peter de Lory

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"Bamboo, Luminous" by Nancy Chew and Jacqueline Metz, MuseAtelier

The resin “bamboo” glow, marking the Fifth Avenue entry to the Emergency Operations Center. Bamboo symbolizes grace, enlightenment, strength and the ability to adapt, qualities the artists saw in the immigrant residents of the neighboring International District. Bamboo also serves as a “symbol of strength and survival,” fitting for a new fire station in a cultural neighborhood.

Photo by Spike Mafford

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"Call and Response" by Stuart Nakamura

Known in the Seattle Fire Department as “the rock,” the large boulder’s etched lines and the accompanying stainless steel arc invite water imagery for those entering Fire Station 10. Inside the steel arc lie smoke and a firefighter and the rough-hewn, moss-covered granite boulder symbolizes the department’s tradition of serving the community.

Photo by Stuart Nakamura