Bold Design,
Subtle Substation

Substations are critical to a city’s power supply, but they are often eyesores. So NBBJ and Seattle City Light teamed up to create a design that better integrates into the city, both aesthetically and sustainably.

The Denny Substation represents a physical merging of public infrastructure, architecture, urban design and landscape architecture. It aims to create a symbol of pride for the South Lake Union neighborhood, Seattle City Light, the City of Seattle and the natural region that powers the city.

The substation responds to Seattle’s rapid growth, particularly the tech and biomedical sectors (including Amazon, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and PATH) that are revitalizing the neighborhood but simultaneously create a heavy demand for power. The substation’s physical form will stand as a significant historical marker of this era and signifies a critical investment in Seattle’s future.

The enclosure’s multiple terraced walkways draw pedestrians onto the substation to give them an intimate understanding of the facility through integrated graphics, educational components, landscape and seating areas. Elevated 16 feet above Denny Way’s busy traffic, the substation affords visitors a unique urban vantage point. Additionally, the upper enclosure walls angle away from pedestrians to mitigate bulk and scale and to increase access to light and air on all sides. Its footprint allows ample open space for art, seating and potentially even an off-leash zone for the area’s many dog owners. The rising and falling walkways surrounding the substation create an ADA-accessible quarter-mile ambulatory loop.

The Denny Substation is currently entering the construction documents phase of the design process. This design is the designated preferred alternative and has not yet been identified as the selected design, which is subject to the Seattle City Council’s approval.

Awards and Publications

Awards

AIA Seattle, Honor Award, Honorable Mention
Fast Company Innovation by Design Awards, City Solutions, Finalist
IIDA Nothern Pacific, INconcept15 Award

Publications

Slate, “Seattle Is Building the Coolest Electrical Substation Ever,” September 15, 2016
Wired, “We Want To Hang Out At This Electrical Substation. No, Really,” July 11, 2016
Fast Company, "World's Coolest Electrical Substation Has a Track and Dog Park,” October 7, 2014