Pike Motorworks

On Seattle’s gritty, historic “Auto Row,” an old BMW showroom was transformed into a true mixed-use residential space. With a unique combination of parcels interwoven amongst existing buildings, this project’s frontage touches all four sides of the block. Two midblock pedestrian passages organize the development, serve internal functions, link to adjacent streets, and create rich place-making opportunity in the heart of Capitol Hill.


Seattle, WA


Urban Housing


The Wolff Company


Weber Thompson


1 block

An urban oasis

Pike Motorworks engages four different streets yet controls only one corner. A cruciform courtyard at the intersection of two mid-block passages creates a vital heart within the two-building complex. A half moon south-facing courtyard brings new life to the historic retail frontage on Pike Street.

Architectural portals make enticing thresholds to the space, framing artwork and found-object fabrications directed by the landscape architecture team. The internal courtyard holds a nexus of activity with retail and dining spilling into space alongside two primary residential entries. A study in honest materials and subtle details provide respite from the active, sometimes raucous streetscapes.

Pike Motorworks was designed and constructed coincident with the Cue apartments, an adjoining project designed by Hewitt.  This timing, proximity, and shared landscape architectural team allowed the Cue’s west façade and lobby terrace to face into the central courtyard of PMW, bringing visual variety and energy to the spatial composition.

design context

Seattle’s Capitol Hill is an urban village neighborhood with a deep history as a destination for art, creative design, commerce, and nightlife. When the old BMW showroom and repair center on historic “Auto Row” was acquired and envisioned as a new mixed-use residential community, it brought with it an very special opportunity to create an iconic destination.

quality of design and execution

This is a project of simple yet tough materials elegantly deployed. In the interior passages, basic concrete pavers of two textures recall the simple floors of the repair center. Metal planters set aside space for enough vegetation to soften the experience, while leaving room for it to still feel gritty and true to the site’s history. A generous walkway leads one from the north into the heart of the site, punctuated with moments of planting and found-object art. The portals into the site from the east and the west frame views to the central courtyard sculpture, ‘Capital’ by DeWitt Godfrey, commissioned specifically for this project. A series of catenary light bars provide a visual ceiling, evoke the auto shop lighting of the past, and help separate the people who occupy the plaza from the residential units above.

The southern courtyard boasts a bold sculptural element at its heart, with plenty of room for retail to occupy the remaining space. The rooftops blend simple utility – getting people a seat with a great view, with added amenity of warm fire pits, barbecues to grill outdoors on a clear evening, and p-patches to be cultivated by tenants.



Environmental sensitivity and sustainability

The challenges of designing for the typical weekend social activity on Capitol Hill created unique opportunities for bringing layers of sustainability to the development. With four separate frontages, this development promotes diversity in the urban forest by using six new tree species in addition to the four species already existing on the block. This urban forest approach creates a rich, resilient tapestry that uses the qualities of the different trees to accentuate the character of each frontage.

A focus on materials reuse gives a sense of warm patina to the pedestrian level spaces. The semicircular entry plaza wanted paving that would respect the historic façade and be tough enough to not feel “precious.” Recycling broken slabs of sidewalk mix with brick and rubble chinking to create a neutral but character-rich paving field. At the entries to the courtyard on the quieter streets, reclaimed timbers were repurposed into seating set on I-beams. At the north/south connection, a screen separating an adjacent bar’s outdoor patio utilizes found objects – including motorcycle wheels – to reference the site’s history and mask both shoring and a gritty CMU wall beyond.

At the rooftop the opportunities were different, providing a respite from the busy streets below. Room was made for urban agriculture, with P-patches available for tenants of both buildings. The extensive green roof was planted with species preferred by local pollinators. The rooftops were literally abuzz with activity shortly after installation!