LMN Architects Celebrates the Opening of the Sound Transit U District Station


U District Station
Sound Transit


Seattle, Washington – October 6, 2021 – LMN Architects celebrates the opening of the U District Station and the completion of the 4.3-mile Northgate Link Extension with three new light rail stations. The design of the 105,000-square foot station creates a unified transportation solution and offers a new gateway to the University of Washington campus.

Seattle’s University District is a bustling and eclectic mixed-use community situated directly between the city’s downtown core and the burgeoning neighborhoods to the north. With the University of Washington’s Seattle campus and numerous commercial enterprises creating a destination for thousands of students, workers, and visitors every day, this new station anticipates record numbers of riders in fulfilment of its pivotal role in Seattle’s urban evolution.

The U District Station, designed in collaboration with McMillen Jacobs Associates, offers pedestrians, cyclists, bus commuters and residents a highly functional, easy-to-use, and appropriately scaled transit hub conveniently located for their diverse activities.

Mark Reddington, Partner, LMN Architects, comments: “This project is a model of urban transportation infrastructure and relates to a complex of interconnected stations which we have been designing for Sound Transit over many years. Integrated into the urban fabric of Seattle, the U District Station and its associated public spaces, along with prominent use of color, art, and lighting, provided an opportunity to connect major urban mobility systems, integrated into the immediate neighborhood community.”

The U District Station is the first stop on the Northgate Link, a 4.3-mile light rail extension from the University of Washington Station on its way to points north. With the train platform located 85 feet below street level, the bulk of the station’s 105,000-square-foot area is below grade, served by two entrances on Brooklyn Avenue NE between NE 43rd Street and NE 45th Street. The balance of the above-grade site accommodates a future high-rise transit-oriented development project to be constructed on top of the station. Each of the two entries provides elevators, escalators, and stairs to the trains below. The north entrance lobby serves riders heading to and from the adjacent Neptune Theater and mixed-use neighborhood, as well as a major Metro bus transfer hub on NE 45th Street. The south lobby gives pedestrians a direct link to the UW campus a few blocks east. Creating a pedestrian-friendly experience, the sidewalks and streets facing the entrances meet Green Street standards, with ample landscaping, pedestrian lighting, seat walls, and a bike lane. For bike commuters, both entrance lobbies offer bicycle storage and racks.

This bright, open, and easy-to-navigate station is expected to serve thousands of daily riders. Above ground, black granite cladding establishes the project’s legibility within an increasingly dense and varied urban environment. When the future transit-oriented development completes the block, the entry structures will integrate effectively into the larger urban setting, maintaining their Sound Transit identity.

Daniel N. Adams, Corporate Development Officer, McMillen Jacobs Associates, comments: “Working with LMN Architects throughout the design, construction, and commissioning was extremely rewarding. LMN collaborated seamlessly in what was, at the time, the first use of Building Information Modeling for the agency. We have designed and built quite a few underground stations, and the completion of the new U District Station is a good example of what we can build for the advancement of Seattle as the metropolitan area continues to grow and expand into the new century.”

From the north and south lobbies, patrons descend through the escalator and stair tubes to a mid-level open landing, placed within a tall voluminous central space, and continue to the train platform below via open escalators or an open stair. The landing appears to float above the angled cross-bracing elements and is offset to the east. The offset, along with artwork and video installations on the west wall, create a design asymmetry that will help to define north-south wayfinding and directionality on the platform. While passengers wait for their trains, they will experience “Fragment Brooklyn” by Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo of Lead Pencil Studio. The artwork is a collection of sculptural pieces formed from stainless steel woven wire fabric into architectural appendages containing video screens depicting domestic life.

Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo, Lead Pencil Studio, comment: “This station artwork references the little-known original platting of this neighborhood as the city of Brooklyn, WA. Intended to be similar in every way to the namesake New York borough, the early development model never took hold except that the street name of Brooklyn Avenue remained. Fragment Brooklyn is an imaginary urban streetscape of building parts woven from metal mesh with films that detail quiet moments of domestic life and U-District history. The scale of the artwork, at almost 300 ft long, is a response to the cathedral size volume of the subterranean station and provides an opportunity for riders to make a visual connection to the increasingly urban context of life above ground.”

The large central volume is defined by a white corrugated metal ceiling and canted walls that conceal essential back-of-house functions. Wayfinding is enhanced by overhead aluminum tubes containing lighting, speakers, and other systems, which begin at the north and south station entries and trace a path to the platform. Two different colors aid passengers in orienting north and south: orange for north and blue for south.

Howard Fitzpatrick, Principal, LMN Architects, comments: “When we began the design, we were conscious of the large-scale transportation and infrastructure needs, but more importantly the neighborhood and its relationship with the urban framework. The station will bring together commuters, travelers, and the local community to experience the city in a new urban ‘room’ infused by the life around the site. We are extremely proud to be a part of this effort to help improve public infrastructure and support Seattle’s urban evolution.”

The U District station embodies LMN’s transit design principles: urban legibility, simple form, intuitive wayfinding, and memorable public space. It contributes another innovative, visionary station to Sound Transit’s growing light rail network. LMN Architects is recipient of the 2016 AIA National Architecture Firm Award and is widely recognized for its design of projects that support smart, sustainable cities. The firm has successfully completed more than 700 projects across North America, including the double LEED Platinum Vancouver Convention Centre West in Vancouver, Canada; Cleveland Convention Center & Civic Core in Cleveland, Ohio; Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in San Antonio, Texas; and the recently completed Mukilteo Multimodal Ferry Terminal in Mukilteo, Washington. The firm’s ongoing dedication to communities at all scales is underscored by its design approach, creating environments that elevate the social experience.

Learn more about the project here.