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Jimenez Lai Built an Original Structure Based on His Journey to Seattle

This feature was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and Visit Seattle. Vox Media editorial staff was not involved in the creation or production of this content.

Been There, Made That

Jimenez Lai


Seattle is full of inspiration. We invited artists from across the country to visit the city and create something new based off their experiences.

Jimenez Lai, an architect, professor, and graphic novelist living in Los Angeles, is a man on the move. He founded the Bureau Spectacular architecture and art studio after working around the world — and after taking a gap year to live in a shipping container to work with Atelier Van Lieshout in Rotterdam. So when asked to design a structure based on his travels to Seattle, he jumped at the opportunity. "Every time you enter a place that's foreign to you — when you hear a different language, when you encounter different colors, different sounds, different urban fabric, different texture — something happens," he says. "It forces you to heighten your awareness of current surroundings. It also forces you to rethink what you are in life, what your home is to you."

Naturally, this architect was ready to take a deep dive into Seattle’s many different attractions and landmarks. "I believe in the statement, ‘If you set the stage, the players will play their parts,’" he says. "In other words, architecture has the power to induce character development. Architecture changes people, it makes people feel certain ways."

See the inspiration Lai found in Seattle for his architectural structure.

The Journey

The Inspiration

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Local artist Dale Chihuly was one of the first to use glass in avant-garde art, and has created installations in every corner of the world. The Chihuly Garden and Glass is the crown jewel of his career: a 40-foot tall glasshouse, galleries, and sculpture park with hundreds of his sculptures and installations.

"To me, the only possible meaning to life is pleasure. The senses that you receive, whether it's a scent or a visual pleasure, an audio pleasure — when something is enticing and stimulating, my attention perks back up and suddenly there is meaning to life. I'm interested in the way light plays into a space, the way sound plays into a space, or even smell — it all triggers memories of a place."

Seattle Waterfront

"When you're on the water, and you're hearing the sound of seagulls, and you're hearing the crash of waves, there's this feeling that this perpetual motion of being on a journey of some sort."

"We're going fishing out in the water in Puget Sound. It's a place where you can look back and see the city, even see the mountains beyond."

"I think there's something really beautiful about this city, because the buildings are a lot like these capsules, these ships, that take you on these journeys."

Washington Park Arboretum

The Washington Park Arboretum, on the shores of Lake Washington, is home to some of the rarest plant varieties in the Pacific Northwest.

"The Washington Park Arboretum is a place of refuge for citizens to escape the ravages, the wears and tears of urban life. The everyday stress that you may need to take a break from."

"I’m making my installation out of wood, and because of my trip to Seattle, I've decided to leave it blank. When I say leave it blank, it's a funny statement because I usually paint stuff white, which in French means "blank". This time, I've decided the meaning of the word blank is naked. I want to keep that pureness and nakedness of the wood."

Olympic Sculpture Park

The Olympic Sculpture Park, which sits on a nine-acre industrial site, zig-zags from the revitalized waterfront to city in a unique "Z" shape.

jiminez olympic sculputre park sketch
View from above Olympic Sculpture Park

"We're headed to the Olympic Sculpture Park, designed by Manfredi Weiss. This is also an example of a way of thinking about landscape architecture and architecture, and even the design of parks in an urban context. It's really exciting to see the masterpieces that would be littered all over this park."

Seattle Public Library

When the central branch of the Seattle Public Library opened in 2004, it was instantly hailed as an architectural landmark and "the most exhilarating" library to open in the last century, according to the New Yorker. It attracted more than two million visitors just in its first year.

"Seattle Public Library is one of the most important buildings that has influenced me. It allowed me to understand what it means to design social interaction, to condense parts and to distribute whole. I think Seattle Public Library has had an immense influence on not just me, but many many architects of my generation."

"When I die and go to heaven, I would like Seattle Public Library to be one of my destinations. Today, I guess I'm dying."


"Being on the ship was really important for me. I live in the city, I don't get out much. Going to Seattle and being able to go out in the water with friends kind of made me want to make a little tree house, so I can feel like I am floating once again. And I like being in a tight space where every wall counts and every surface counts. That compact feeling matters, so you can bring your friends closer to each other although you're far away in the wilderness. A tree house is a place where you gather around with friends that you want to be with, and vacations do that."

The Structure

jiminez structure sketch
Work in progress

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This feature was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and Visit Seattle. Vox Media editorial staff was not involved in the creation or production of this content.

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