Monthly Archives: February 2018

A little marine biology that caught our eye

Eastlaker Craig MacGowan’s name popped up at the top of Danny Westneat’s Sunday Seattle Times column about a Garfield High School marine biology field trip forced to go rogue due to some bureaucratic red tape. MacGowan, a celebrated science teacher, long retired, also occasionally gives popular science talks about Lake Union for Eastlake Community Council public meetings. Maybe there should be one in the future on this latest adventure.

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The new firehouse has art, sustainability features, but no fire pole

After a couple of years of construction at Tenth Avenue and Roanoke St., the new Firehouse 22 opened its doors to the public Saturday afternoon for two hours, and although it was an ordinary gray and misty day, it was like a rare snow day seeing so many neighbors out walking to and from the event.

The brutalist front of the new firehouse conceals a friendly, open, comfortable, light-filled interior. The firehouse is like a home away from home for the firefighters, and after spending two years camped out in trailers under I-5 in Eastlake, a welcome home it is.

The entire structure is integrated with many sustainability elements including two cisterns that capture non-potable water that is filtered to use for washing fire trucks, flushing toilets, and watering landscaping. Solar panels provide about 16 percent of the station’s energy needs. The interior relies on a lot of natural light which is good for well-being. And it’s quiet despite being on a busy street; even with a crowd inside it felt calm. The bunks, which were not open to the public, were on the side of the building facing Roanoke. That side with a fortress front likely provides great sound proofing for resting.

There are amenities at the station that you’d find in some of Seattle’s newer apartment buildings and condos, but of a more modest scale: an exercise room and media room with four overstuffed recliners squeezed in.

Kids enjoy the exercise room.

Kids enjoy the exercise room.

The recliners were also a hit although you can’t tell that here.

There’s a spacious kitchen with lots of individual cupboards for the rotating staff, two large stainless-steel refrigerators, and an industrial gas stove; there’s an outdoor covered deck with black iron table and four chairs and a large grill. Sometimes, walking home from work along Roanoke in the evening I can get a whiff of something good cooking on the other side.

Kitchen

Kitchen

Alfresco dining area with grill in background.

Alfresco dining area with grill in background.

Unlike home it has a disinfecting wash room, large equipment rooms, and other reminders of dangerous work firefighters face.

One of the most interesting design features is an open central stairway that forms a large X using two stairwells. Reminding me of the Fidler on the Roof song of wanting a stairway that goes up and another one that goes down. This place has them (although not one just for show).

Looking at one leg of the X forming stairway.

Looking at one leg of the X forming stairway.

The grand stairway leads to a second floor that overlooks the barn for the fire trucks, which were cleared out that Saturday to create space for displays and kids’ activities. Outside there was a fire truck and emergency response truck that kids and adults were happily exploring.

The stairway leads to views of the barn.

The stairway leads to views of the barn.

One thing the structure doesn’t have however is a fire pole. “Not really safe,” explained the fireman I talked to. Many old stations do have them, he said, and use them though. But the two staircases allow for quick access to the fire trucks. Besides there are only four firefighters on duty at a time, so if one should get hurt sliding down a pole that would not be good.

Outside, and on display all the time, is the artwork sculpture, Drop of Life. The sculpture is made from fire hoses and their parts and really comes into its own at night when you can clearly see the LED lights reflecting off it, like an aurora. The artist Oliver Hess spent time with the firefighters to come up with ideas for artwork. He was struck by the varying intensities of energy at a firehouse and how things changed with the calls that came in. As one representative explained, it was always when someone was about to take a shower or start some other project that a call would come. Most are aid calls and then the rarer fire, she added. He mapped that activity into an algorithm for the light show that changes unpredictably but matches the feel of life in the firehouse from calm to strikingly intense.

"Drop of Life" sculpture as seen at night

“Drop of Life” sculpture as seen at night

“It was very memorable to me when visiting the fire station that there was a palpable anxiety and excitement about getting a call to action,” he wrote in his artist statement. “There was a feeling of superstition about the causal relationships between the way the firefighters spent their time and how likely it was that they would be called out to face danger and save lives.”

One thing that the artwork might also make you think about is the hose tower just beyond it rising over the building, a simple sustainable feature to air out and dry the hoses, but a towering reminder of the building’s basic purpose.

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