Weyerhaeuser: Woodsy Urban

Weyerhaeuser’s Lobby Area.  Photo: Anthony Bolante/Puget Sound Business Journal

Weyerhaeuser’s new headquarters has moved “out of the woods” and into the urban core, to paraphrase The New York Times. A number of large, local companies decided recently to move their suburban headquarters to the Seattle core, including Weyerhaeuser, in an attempt to attract new talent who might prefer the perks of a downtown lifestyle. Another reason Weyerhaeuser decided to move is their previous location, which they occupied for 45 years, was deemed too big. Last autumn, they moved most of their office (between 700-800 employees) from a sprawling 430-acre campus in Federal Way to a single, new building in downtown Seattle. Their 166,000 square foot building is adjacent to Occidental Park, a community in transition, in the Pioneer Square area which is 3 blocks from a transit hub.

Weyerhaeuser Building in Pioneer Square.  Photo: Stuart Isett/The New York Times

Exterior of Weyerhaeuser Building.  Photo: Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times

The exterior of the Weyerhaeuser building (220 Occidental Avenue South) is understated with quality details, and makes an effort to blend with the historic brick buildings that surround it.  An overhang and mason end walls align with the cornices of the historic buildings around the square, for an even line or flow from building-to-building. Also in keeping with its historic environment and Weyerhaeuser’s 116+ years in business, the bricks on the new building were placed by-hand, highly unusual these days, instead of a prefabricated sheet of bricks. The structure was developed by Urban Visions, who chose to work with architecture firm Mithun.

Weyerhaeuser lunch room with Elizabeth MacPherson, Mithun principal. Photo: Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times

Photo: Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times

Weyerhaeuser produces wood products + land-related endeavors, and these materials are highlighted in their interior space, with the occasional burst of color (such as furniture). In the lobby, an employee’s photo of trees in a woods has been converted into a large digital wall mural. The ceilings, walls, tables, desks and other elements are often made from their own sustainable timber or made of natural materials. There’s quite a few windows for natural light. A rooftop garden. Studio SC’s large black and white wayfinding illustration of tree branches begins from an upper landing in the stairwell and works down floor-by-floor, ending with tree roots on a lower level. Even though this is a new building, a sense of history has been infused.

With the new building bordering the east side, Occidental Park is now enclosed on four sides and resembles a small, urban European plaza or Early American town square, especially during the summer. There’s seating available at the park, surrounded by hanging flowering baskets, older trees, and totem poles. Crime has dropped at the park by 2/3rds as of late July 2016, due to a very successful partnership between the Downtown Seattle Association and Seattle Parks & Recreation. As a result, a larger variety of people frequent the park because family-friendly events/activities, food trucks, games, and live music are now more commonplace. The re-invigoration of several downtown parks usually means an eventual rise in real estate values and a renewal of businesses in the vicinity. Weyerhaeuser, steeped in a long history with sustainable endeavors, is no stranger to renewal.

Occidental Park outside Weyerhaeuser headquarters.  Photo: Stuart Isett/The New York Times