Columbia Center in Seattle

Photo of Columbia Center in Seattle, Washington
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz
Photo of Columbia Center in Seattle, Washington
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz
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Photo of Columbia Center in Seattle, Washington
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz
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Columbia Center
Formerly:Bank of America Tower
Formerly:Columbia SeaFirst Center
Formerly:Columbia Center

701 Fifth Avenue, Seattle, Washington
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Though skyscraper fans frequently note this building as Seattle's most famous, to the general public it is somewhat less significant. Certainly the Smith Tower and Pike Place Market are more historically and culturally visible through postcards and tourist materials sent around the world. Still, the Columbia Center is worthy of a significant amount of praise.
It is based on the simple black glass block so popular in the 1970's and 1980's. But in this case, the simple form was made graceful -- elegant through the use of three sweeping arcs of multiple elevations. The Columbia Center manages to break out of the monotony and stand out among the world's great towers. This would have been possible even if it had adhered to conventional design forms. Clocking in at a massive 997 feet, this is a building that demands attention.
Still, its position in the skyline is unfortunate. In picture post cards it is frequently the tall kid in the back of the class on the right who doesn't get noticed as much as the one in the center with the shiny teeth and good posture (Washington Mutual Tower).
It was the Federal Aviation Administration that first took the building down a notch, reducing its design height from 1,005 feet. Whether the eight foot reduction really makes a difference to pilots coming into SeaTac airport is a matter for speculation. But the developers weren't going to lose any money on the deal by reducing the number of floors available for rent. Instead, they simply reduced the ceiling height on each floor by six inches. Perhaps not the most elegant solution, but at least the most practical.

Quick Facts
  • August, 2015: This building was bought by Gaw Capital Partners for $711 million
  • March 2, 1985: This building opened to the public
  • 1998: This building was bought for $404 million
  • July, 2007: The building's name changed from Bank of America Tower back to Columbia Center
Rate This Skyscraper
method='post' action='/Building.php?ID=570#Rate'>Current rating:50% 80%  name='Rating' id='Rating' value='Praise' class='Plain'> name='Rating' id='Rating' value='Raze' class='Plain'>
Your Thoughts

There are 12 comments.

  I used to work as a security guard in that building.Almost got blown off the roof once, escorting a communications technician.Took my niece up on the very top one Sunday when she was about 9 years old. Put her on my shoulders and told her she was "the tallest person in the world". She tells me she still remembers that one.

Joe Schmoe - Tuesday, September 29th, 2009 @ 4:45pm  

  The view is great, and it does add to the skyline without dominating or detracting (always a plus). But the interesting geometry I think lost on the casual observer. It just looks a big black obelisk at a glance from the sidewalk like so many others. I wonder if some day they may not spice up the exterior somehow. Or maybe just mirror the north-westward curve...

Swokm - Thursday, January 10th, 2008 @ 6:15am  

  Great post. I think the height is great and fits well with the Seattle skyline. I bet it has great views. Anyone know if it has sustainability features?

Garrett - Wednesday, July 18th, 2007 @ 9:15pm  

  The finest view I have ever observed from a building.Wonderful.

David Collins - Sunday, May 14th, 2006 @ 9:03am  

  We live here in Seattle. When we first moved here we went in to the Tower to see if they had a viewdeck...and they did, a splendid one with about a 280 degree (Give ot take a few degrees) view. The admission price is much more reasonable than at the Space Needle, and the view much better. We still make an annual trip there just to enjoy the view. The Tower itself is an impressive presence on a very aesthetically pleasing skyline

Jacquelyn - Sunday, February 12th, 2006 @ 7:25pm  

  This building has such an amazing view i think it was better than even the world trade center in new york, because you are looking at more than one type of landscape not just solid city but wall mountains and beautiful waterways, as well as city when i went there i spent about an hour and a half because it is that cool

afb - Friday, November 25th, 2005 @ 2:10pm  

  The view is to die for. One of the greatest structures in the region.

Michael - Thursday, September 22nd, 2005 @ 1:05pm  

  I took my daughter up on 6/20/05 for her 11th Birthday, it was FABULOUS to look DOWN on the Space Needle. She was very impressed too! Nice they have the observation deck!

Lorna & Katrina Bolton - Tuesday, June 21st, 2005 @ 10:13am  

  My son just went up it in a fieldtrip in 9th grade and was totally awestruck!!!

Lisa - Friday, May 20th, 2005 @ 11:30am  

  It is a very beautiful building, i cannot disagree with that, but perhaps a little too tall for a city so small compared to others, and if the tallest building in the world title did return to the U.S. the building would be somewhere mor widely known like New York or New orleans, perhaps los angeles or chicago

GH - Monday, April 18th, 2005 @ 11:40pm  

  Go to the observation deck on the 72nd Floor. It is the best view in the Pacific Northwest.

A.J. O'Connell - Thursday, January 13th, 2005 @ 12:54am  

  I rated it a 4 because I think that they should think about making it taller. It would be cool if Seattle had the tallest building in the world. Some day I hope to design the tallest building in the world and if I could choose the city to put it in I would choose Seattle. For some reason I have always been facinated with skysrapers and I really badly want to go to the top floor of one and look straight down. The tallest structure that I have been on is the Space Needle and I really want to go at least 1000ft in the air if not higher. If I had the money I would make a skysraper 2000ft high and make it so people can go to the top floor and look straight down to the ground. That is my ultimate goal.

Mike Burke - Tuesday, May 25th, 2004 @ 5:29pm