Field trip! Dirt piles and glass houses at Seattle's newest museum

Seattle mag's editors just got a private hard-hat tour of the new Chihuly Garden and Glass museum at the Seattle Center, and a peek into the nondescript warehouse in Ballard where a huge fiery glass installation is being assembled.

That's it in the photo to the right; or rather, a tiny, model version of it. When finished, five 20-foot-tall Chihuly creations will hang in a row from the rafters of a glass house now being built in the shadow of the Space Needle.

What's cool about it is that you don't need a ticket to experience parts of the museum; peering into the glass house and strolling the nearby gardens will be free and open to the public.

Ticket buyers will get inside the museum, which will feature 8 or so rooms, each dedicated to one aspect of Dale Chihuly's glass art (including neon). Sure, it's a museum all about one artist—who created the Pilchuck Glass School, by the by—but the planners' commitment to keeping parts of the experience free and open is impressive.

Was this museum a long-held dream of Chihuly's? An outcome of epic self-promotion?

Not at all, according to Ron Sevart, CEO of the Space Needle, who says the Space Needle (who owns the property) approached Chihuly and basically talked him into it.

Wander down to the build site today (shown left) and you'll see mountains of dirt and the rising peaked skeleton of the glass house, its white beams echoing the legs of the adjacent Space Needle and nearby Science Center arches.

Where bumper cars used to be are now framed-in rooms, soon to house exhibits. A gift shop and cafe are also planned.

An admitted glass-art neophyte—heck, I'll say it: skeptic—I came away impressed with the plan and more than a little excited to see what this public display of art will do for the apparently rising Seattle Center.

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