Video: ‘Three-minute teardown’ today in Seaview

March 28, 2014 at 10:59 pm | In West Seattle housing, West Seattle news | 33 Comments

Dan Engel shares that video he recorded today as a house in his Seaview neighborhood was torn down – 6008 44th SW, one of the demolition permits mentioned in our roundup last Saturday. Dan says the 96-year-old, 1230-square-foot house took less than 20 minutes to take down; his video is at six times real time, so the entire demolition (minus cleanup) is shown in about 3 minutes. The house’s planned replacement is shown here.

33 Comments

  1. Nice…more Legoture.
    What is with the new generation of architects?
    Are they that uninspired?
    These designs are lazy.

    Comment by AlexDex — 11:50 pm March 28, 2014 #

  2. I’m no architect nor critic so I don’t know about “lazy,” but having researched and written about more than a few homes like this in the past few years, it appears to the untrained eye as if there is a relatively small set of plans being reused by the higher-volume homebuilders (Blueprint group as in this case, also Isola), plug-and-play, on many sites. To be fair, when you travel along many of our streets where homes were built in the first half of the last century, you see the same WWII-era design repeated, sometimes three or four in a row, differing only in the colors they’ve been painted and repainted over the years, and in the way the landscaping has grown …

    Comment by WSB — 12:00 am March 29, 2014 #

  3. And so we should let the “modern” designers off the hook?

    These designs are blocks upon blocks. They show no inspiration. Is this what we have to look forward to for the next few decades?

    If so, Sorry Tracy,I’m disappointed.

    Comment by AlexDex — 12:15 am March 29, 2014 #

  4. I, too, also feel that they seem uninspired. I just am not crazy about the square, cold looking , doctor office looking homes. But if that’s what people want, who am I to judge, I guess.

    TR, I like the plug and play comparison :)

    Comment by JanS — 12:17 am March 29, 2014 #

  5. Interesting video to watch, thanks.
    .
    Check out the shadow in the third picture. It could cover the house (not shown) to the north. It would be better if the floor plan was reversed to at least keep some of the shadow on their own property.

    Comment by dsa — 12:21 am March 29, 2014 #

  6. Not offering an opinion, just an observation. I’ve been thinking about trying to trace the origin of the seemingly used-and-reused designs, and to figure out through photography or plan-set checks if there really are only about five different used-and-reused variations or if it just seems that way. The less block-style modern looks only seem to turn up in the expensive spots, like Beach Drive waterfront.

    Comment by WSB — 12:23 am March 29, 2014 #

  7. I guess you’re right Jan.
    I appreciate what the inside of these places may be but they look awful on the outside.

    Comment by AlexDex — 12:36 am March 29, 2014 #

  8. Sunset Ave has the blocks now too.

    Comment by dsa — 12:36 am March 29, 2014 #

  9. Well, I’m probably wrong then but IIRC from architectural drawings on signage, they still have some touches that the “lower-end” (relatively speaking, since they all seem to be priced $500,000+) ones don’t. Here’s the one that made me mention Beach Drive – it’s on the “green home tour” next month – http://www.nwgreenhometour.org/slot-house/

    Comment by WSB — 12:49 am March 29, 2014 #

  10. That operator has some skills. I bet he or she loves their job.

    Comment by howdy — 6:03 am March 29, 2014 #

  11. On an unrelated to development note, thank you for this video, my 3 year old will LOVE watching this machine work. I will love the lack of chatter in the audio when we watch it for the 100th time. I just wish I could run out and transplant those petennials before they are trampled. Looks like lilacs and hydrangeas.

    Comment by T — 7:03 am March 29, 2014 #

  12. I’m a draftsman and draw these modern houses along with more traditional ones. I’d like to make a couple of observations based on some of the sentiment I’ve picked up on over the last year of reading the WSB.

    Cities, via their architecture, are living and breathing organisms. They change, they grow, sometimes they shrink, they follow trends, and they reflect their citizens. And this ‘block architecture’ is merely the latest trend. It’ll blow over in a few years and the architecture world will move on to the next thing which will be met with love, hate, or indifference. This variation over time gives a city richness.

    This modern style of house is a reaction to several factors. Clients and builders mostly seem to initially approach a project from budget and square footage (important factors) instead of what experience they would like. From the start there is a tension to build the biggest area for the least dollars. More regulated and defined zoning definitions create a ‘box’ for the architect to fit a house in to. And what better to fit inside a box than another box? Is it less creative to design to these limits? It maximizes the building envelope which probably means a long service life for the structure. It generally uses materials efficiently so it trends ‘green’ and a cheaper per square foot cost. Those buyers looking for that ‘experience’ in the home will get a clean break from the past. (I personally like what PlayhouseNow is doing in this area, architecturally speaking. http://playhousenow.com/ )

    So, many dislike change. The Native Americans surely disliked what settlements the white man put up. Those frontiersmen surely disliked high-rises. Farmers had resistance to urban sprawl. The cycle goes on. If you happen to be a homeowner then you can only really control that change on your own property, and only as long as you are alive on this earth.

    However, there is still plenty of room for input to DPD and at design review meetings. I encourage each of your to approach critique from a perspective of helping a project be the best it can be. Architects are people too and they just as foul-able. A knee-jerk cry of NIMBY! doesn’t provide positive feedback. There are, and have been, plenty of mediocre projects out there that could use community guidance instead of resistance.

    Comment by JK — 7:31 am March 29, 2014 #

  13. Thanks for the vid, Dan, and WSB.

    .

    That 6X speed makes it look like the Diesel the Cat was running on was heavily spiked with caffeine! ;-)

    .

    As to new vs old architecture; I rarely comment on these development related stories, other than the occasional data point such as historical info, because being West Seattle born, and living most of my life here, most any opinion would be muchly, if not solely, based on emotion and sentimentality. Yeah, I’d be one of those cranky ol’ NIMBY’s. ;-)

    .

    That being said, I’m not fond of most of the modern architecture either. In fact, not fond of much after the ’60′s or ’70′s, both design wise, and quality wise; it seems many of the apartment/condo buildings of the ’80′s and ’90′s, were cheaply constructed, perhaps with low-quality and/or defective materials, and in literally as little as three to six years, we’d see scaffolding and wraps around the buildings, for repairs. Many condo owners were screwed, because the developer was no longer legally responsible. Not to mention the hassle for the owners/tenants having to either temporarily move, or live in a cocoon for a few months.

    .

    I think one difference for me, is I look at these old places being torn down, and besides a significant change in a particular neighborhood I may be familiar with on some level, the older homes have history; even if it is just their own. I feel the older homes have a “soul”. If they were animate, what stories would they tell us of the various families that lived in them over the decades, whether it be just one or two, or many. What could they tell us of the triumphs and heartaches of those families?

    .

    Tracy is right, many of the warboxes look, or at least used to look cookie-cutter. Even my favorite type of house; 1920′s-’30′s brick tudor like the one I lived my first nearly 11 years in, are similar in appearance, as they are interspersed in older Seattle neighborhoods. I see some of them on my once a week bus ride through North Beacon Hill, and wonder if some may be by the same builder that built my old Home, and the two neighboring to the north?

    .

    So, yeah, I generally hate to see so much change, but for the bad or the good, it does happen, and I’m sure that some 85 years ago, some cranky ol’ guy in one of the few houses on the block of my old brick tudor, was probably sitting around wishing that the internet had already been invented, so he could complain about the trees in his forested neighborhood being torn down. :-)

    .

    Mike

    Comment by miws — 8:35 am March 29, 2014 #

  14. Thank you JK! Well said.

    Comment by cjboffoli — 9:17 am March 29, 2014 #

  15. JK: The defense of your trade is appreciated.

    That other eras have mindless architecture makes the current trend no more appropriate.

    Community guidance is a fine idea. If only it had more effect than drizzle.

    Comment by LivesInWS — 9:37 am March 29, 2014 #

  16. Things I have noticed about the box. Cheaper and quicker to build = more profit for developer. Takes up less sqft of lot as many go up (tall) instead of out = more houses on old house lot sometimes. More useable sqft inside the box as compared to a traditional style house of area. Will be interesting to see how they hold up over the next few years with the new products they use in build. I don’t mind the box in the right setting and lot as you can take advantage of sun and view add a nice roof deck for a hot tub I’d be happy. Just got to figure out how to get up and down all the stairs.

    Comment by wetone — 10:34 am March 29, 2014 #

  17. I realize I am not being entirely rational about this, and I am not by nature some no-growth troglodyte, but I always feel some sadness when a house is torn down. They contained so many life stories within their walls, as though the lives of the people who pass between the walls of a house somehow imbues it with a life of it’s own.

    I then snap back to semi-reality, and ponder whether all that lumber in the house, which was almost certainly old-growth wood, could somehow have been salvaged. I doubt it would be economically feasable, but it is still a shame to see it all turned to splinters.

    Comment by dawsonct — 10:36 am March 29, 2014 #

  18. I grew up in a WWII-era brick house on the east coast and JK’s point is well taken. The neighborhood used a handful of floor plans and built multiple copies of each. Today those houses don’t resemble each other much at all, due to additions, renovations, cosmetic changes, landscaping, and a whole bunch of other alterations.
    .
    So I don’t understand what “appropriate” means in this context. Do you want every house to be uniquely designed and built? How many people can afford that? Where are the people who can’t supposed to live?

    Comment by datamuse — 10:44 am March 29, 2014 #

  19. Not another blockbuster flatliner house…ugh. Can’t anyone design and build a pitch roof anymore?

    Comment by Seattlite — 10:57 am March 29, 2014 #

  20. Thanks for your perspective and input, JK.

    .

    Another thing too, is I always forget that many of the older, early-mid 20th century Homes that I so dearly love, were not always designed/built from “scratch”, for want of a better way to say it; some of these Homes were Sears, (and I suppose others) Kit Homes:

    http://www.searsarchives.com/homes/index.htm

    .

    So, even though not “pre-fab” as me may now identify certain buildings, they weren’t necessarily totally unique, original Homes.

    .

    And in finding the page I linked above, I have something new and cool to read! :-)

    .

    Mike

    Comment by miws — 11:38 am March 29, 2014 #

  21. i worry about all of those flat roofs
    being old enough to remember when the rage of California architecture passed through Portland, Or and passed out again as the inevitable leaks occurred.
    .
    i am sure the technology has improved.. but wish i saw more green on those roofs

    Comment by JoB — 11:57 am March 29, 2014 #

  22. I agree with the comments about the homes having a history, which is being increasingly ignored and that is sad. Also, the refusal to even try to salvage the wood is disgusting and despicable. There simply is no excuse for not doing so except for a desire to save the almighty dollar. So the developer will claim the new build is green, but won’t mention the choice of destruction made during the teardown.

    But on the subject of the old vs. the new – the simple fact is that older homes have “been through it”. When I bought my home here 10 years ago, I opted for a 50s rambler – not because I loved the entire design – I did not – but the interior suited my purpose. It had a leak in one of the bathrooms but it was repairable according to two inspectors. It was repairable because the house was built with quality solid beams. Now, we don’t want old growth forests used to build homes anymore, but there was a significant value in the house being that solid and able to take some damage wiithout collapsing. I compare my experience to that of a friend who bought a new build within about 4 months of me. The contractor was well-known and well regarded and she felt that it was a great decision. But within a year or so, the repairs had been made to my house at an affordable and expected price and her house was wrapped for months on end because of mold and other structural problems. She couldn’t use her pantry for more than a year and couldn’t access the lower half of the house for the same amount of time. She got lucky that the contractor was still in business but she still had to get a lawyer and fight it out to get the place repaired. Similar and other problems at the house next door that was built at the same time. These new houses are generally built cheaply and have no staying power. The good news is that the ugly monstrosities won’t last, although they will diminish property values as they fall apart.

    Comment by Rational Thought — 12:49 pm March 29, 2014 #

  23. I am really tired of these new houses that look like cardboard shoeboxes cobbled together, especially when they are among old houses that have character.
    To the architect that says basically “things change”, well do they have to get uglier and less interesting? I really don’t think so. If modern technology can basically do anything, why can’t you build something that looks good, is modern and blends better into the surrounding neighborhood? These boxes look like they came from Ikea.

    Comment by BH — 1:47 pm March 29, 2014 #

  24. love this comment thread
    ~
    I can attest to the “WWII-era design repeat” that TR mentioned; my first West Seattle house that I rented for 7 yrs, in what I’ve since learned is called ‘Seaview’ (never heard that when I lived there); the house I was in, (1947?) was exact mirror of house next door
    ~
    and I’ve been meaning to comment somewhere about some new construction right now architecture that is really good, which will especially be of interest to Mike; the old neighborhood grocer that Mike has shared about from his childhood “Beck’s Grocer” on the corner of Belvidere and Hinds, in south Admiral; that evolved later into the pet grooming shop, and after the longtime owner died, the infamous and very scary estate sale armed robbery; all next door to me, right outside my windows; I’ve been here 7 yrs and seen quite a transition this past year
    ~
    I watched the demolition; which took weeks, and was extremely toxic; I even got sickened by it for a couple days; I was inside that house for hours just prior to the armed robbery, and there was not much in that house worth trying to salvage; it was old and layered with so much toxic material; then during the demo, first there was a suited-up asbestos removal team that came in, but they could not remove it all; after that, there were huge dust clouds of major toxic microscopic crap getting into my apt during the tear down of the building; it took weeks; thank god that is over
    ~
    but getting to the point of this thread; the new house, which is being built by a young family just down the street; it is HUGE, but gorgeous design; and they’re moving along pretty fast; the first week was extremely noisy because they brought in a big team of about a dozen, hammering away; that’s also the good news; the whole structure was up in a week; it’s nearly 4,000 square feet, and from what I can see so far, very attractive house; I made a point of going over to talk to them one afternoon when the ‘mom’ was out with her 2 little kiddos, and compliment them on the beautiful design, such a breath of fresh air after seeing all the modern square boxes invade seemingly every block of Seattle
    ~
    so if anyone wants to see a new construction good design, drive by the corner of Belvidere and Hinds
    ~
    I don’t have any way to take video; but I did take photos of the old house, and the demolition, and the new house being built
    ~
    also, this is not a spec house, so could be part of the reason it’s way better; this is a family that hired an architect to design exactly what they wanted for their dream home, with room to accommodate lots of extended family
    ~
    and Mike, I’m totally with you on being passionate about history, and cherishing the “soul” of the old homes being destroyed, all for money making box-like spec houses
    ~
    when I go into old homes, I always think about the people who lived there 75, 90, 100 yrs ago, and what their lives were like; that real live people walked on those floors, touched those walls, had children running around inside, how did they entertain themselves before there was even TV, or radio?

    Comment by Diane — 2:14 pm March 29, 2014 #

  25. As easy as it is to pine nostalgically for the good old days, poor design and mediocre construction is nothing new. It is a gross generalization to say that because something is old it was better and that nothing built new is any good. There is still plenty of craftsmanship alive today.
    .
    And while we might not be building houses out of dense, straight grain old growth timber anymore, new construction has significant advantages in all of the progress that is constantly being made in materials sciences. The efficiency gains from tighter construction, better insulation, multi-pane glass, more efficient heating and water systems, modern appliances, etc. means that new houses save energy exponentially over the houses of old. Something built in 2014 will have much less of an impact upon the environment in its lifetime than a house built in 1914. New construction is greener than it ever has been in the last century of American homebuilding, especially in the Pacific Northwest.
    .
    It would be great if houses were built in a way that made it more practical and cost-effective to disassemble and reuse materials. But in fact many more developers than ever are recycling materials from demolition. And even when wood can’t be re-used and goes to a landfill, every bit of that wood still represents sequestered carbon that is not going back into the atmosphere.
    .
    I love old houses and the history they represent. But in many cases what is being torn down has outlived its useful life and is being replaced with something that is better in many (if not all) ways. I prefer to be nostalgic for the future.

    Comment by cjboffoli — 2:22 pm March 29, 2014 #

  26. John Ruskin, The Seven Lamps of Architecture:

    “They [torn down buildings] are not ours. They belong partly to those who built them, and partly to all the generations of mankind who are to follow us. The dead have still their right in them: that which they labored for, the praise of achievement or the expression of religious feeling, or whatsoever else it might be which in those buildings they intended to be permanent, we have no right to obliterate. What we have ourselves built, we are at liberty to throw down; but what other men gave their strength, and wealth, and life to accomplish, their right over does not pass away with their death; still less is the right to the use of what they have left vested in us only. It belongs to all their successors. It may hereafter be a subject of sorrow, or a cause of injury, to millions, that we have consulted our present convenience by casting down such buildings as we choose to dispense with.”

    Comment by Morgan136 — 4:09 pm March 29, 2014 #

  27. CJ and JK have hit the nail squarely on the head.

    Rational Thought, not so much.

    Comment by Heaven Sent — 5:12 pm March 29, 2014 #

  28. I love the design of the house going in. I think there’s room for all generations of aesthetic choices in West Seattle. Like cars, I appreciate rides from the 1950s as much as I do this year’s best designs. Once the landscaping, owner choices and time customize it it won’t look so off the shelf. BTW, as mentioned by others this might be a good time to check out the historical pics what many of our houses looked like right after construction. The Boeing boxes (I’ve lived in two so far) are ugly to me in their raw state, especially when they’re built en masse as large bulldozed developments. Relax folks, there’s room for all of our styles.

    Comment by Cy — 6:12 pm March 29, 2014 #

  29. The Native Americans surely disliked the white man’s sense of manifest destiny.

    Fixed that for you.

    Ours and Dan’s houses bookmark this property. (Great video, Dan!) For both our houses, this house was in horrible condition and only served to shelter rats that loved to take more than their fair share of bird seed in our feeder. I can’t speak for Dan and his family, but my partner and I are not entirely thrilled with yet another three-story house being erected in the neighborhood. I am sure the property will sell somewhere between $750–800K, and I can only hope our new neighbors are just as friendly and respectful as everyone else in the neighborhood. But if this is not the case, I am prepared to buy a hot tub and opt for a nudist lifestyle.

    Comment by Mr Elliott — 6:38 pm March 29, 2014 #

  30. The new lousy lego box design which is permeating the old charm neighborhoods in WS is really a terrible tragedy. It may have its place somewhere else, but is not welcome here. Many neighbors on this street have built new or added second stories to their homes in a very tactful, era -correct way. Profit maximizing, outside developers who could care less about preserving the look and feel of a neighborhood are fantastic reasons why Home Owners Associations (and the like) have their place in the world.

    Comment by MTD — 7:28 pm March 29, 2014 #

  31. Hi! I am the author of he video and this thread is a great discussion about all the new construction in West Seattle. As far as this particular house, I am glad it is gone. It was a shining example that poor quality construction is not an inherently modern problem. It was an eyesore and needed to go. As for the new house, I’m not particularly bothered by the plans for it, but not excited either.

    I think the bigger issue facing West Seattle is the huge increase in large scale appartment buildings. I’ve only been here for eight years and the traffic and parking have become significantly worse in that short period of time. And when the 3000+ new units are completed, the traffic and parking will only get worse. This I believe is going to have a much greater impact on our neighborhoods than the particular architectural style of a few dozen houses.

    Glad a few of you enjoyed the video and I gotta say, I felt like a wide eyed little kid watching this house be demolished!!

    Comment by Dan — 8:17 pm March 29, 2014 #

  32. Dan, in case my thank-you note didn’t get through (the e-mail account’s been misbehaving), thanks so much for shooting and sharing this! Another neighbor sent a photo of the demolition, mostly done, and by the time we were able to go by, it was DEFINITELY done. – Tracy

    Comment by WSB — 8:31 pm March 29, 2014 #

  33. I look forward to the day that the yellow robots destroy all homes in west seattle occupied by humans. I, for one, welcome our new shoebox overlords! Please enjoy the Kool-Aid they have left us.

    Comment by Cranky Westie — 9:20 pm March 29, 2014 #

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