They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but as I looked back at the sketches I’ve made since 2010, I couldn’t find just one that could define Seattle’s eventful decade in one big brushstroke. So here are 10 instead, one per year, including a few that can be summed up with a single word: Amazon!
The more the online juggernaut expanded its presence in Seattle, the more it kept drawing my attention.
In 2012, I said goodbye to the old Troy Laundry Building in South Lake Union with a sketch in which I couldn’t miss the opportunity to include the Amazon building nearby (Arizona). The laundry’s historical brick-and-terracotta facade was preserved, but the site — and many others in the neighborhood — is now home to another Amazon building (Houdini). In 2015, I went to University Village to draw Amazon’s first brick-and-mortar store — Amazon Books. The construction of the Spheres and the opening of the first Amazon Go store also caught my eye in the following years.
But Amazon’s growth wasn’t the only force that brought visible changes to our city’s landscape over the past 10 years.
The demolition of the Alaskan Way Viaduct (can you believe it actually started in 2011?) is finally complete, a bigger, bulkier 520 bridge now floats over Lake Washington, and light rail extended north, reaching Capitol Hill and the University of Washington. Speaking of transit, an important site in Seattle’s transportation history, the old downtown bus station, was razed and replaced with the largest hotel in the Northwest. I heard travelers’ stories and sketched the bus station in 2013.
New skyscrapers have also dramatically altered the city skyline. If you visit the Starbucks in the Columbia Center sky lobby, you can see one of them up close, the sharp-edged F5 Tower. Blocks away, the new, L-shaped Rainier Square has already been topped, becoming the second-highest building in the city after the Columbia Center. Such tall buildings sure make Seattle feel more like New York City every day. High-rises are also popping up in upzoned neighborhoods. Have you noticed the M Seattle in the University District?
The scene at the street level isn’t the same either. Fancy food trucks, for example, were a rare sight in 2010 — remember “Maximus/Minimus,” the sci-fi-meets-steampunk-era truck that served pulled-pork sandwiches? These days, plenty of colorful trucks offering every possible international flavor can be seen downtown during lunch hour. Moving about the city has also become more complex. Not a day goes by in which I don’t see someone zipping around on a self-powered electric scooter (aka “e-rideables”) or riding one of those free-floating shared bikes that sometimes end up being dropped in the unlikeliest places.
So much has changed in 10 years, it’s easy to say that Seattle is unrecognizable. Yet everyone I’ve come across as I sketched around the region remains fiercely proud of this place we call home. I never saw a bigger display of Seattle civic pride than when the Seahawks paraded through the city to celebrate their first Super Bowl title in 2014. Now that playoff season is around the corner, I can’t think of a better way to start the 2020s than with a repeat of that joyful moment.