SEATTLE – When Dr. Beverly Beeton moved to Seattle from Alaska several years ago, she started looking for ways to learn more about her new hometown.
Beeton's search led her to the Seattle Architecture Foundation, where she signed up for a downtown tour focusing on design details: "Lions, Griffins & Walruses, Oh My!"
Beeton has taken more than six architecture tours. She said they were a tremendous help in getting to know the city. Beeton even takes friends who grew up in Seattle on these tours.
"They come away saying, 'I didn't know anything about that neighborhood,'" Beeton said.
The Seattle Architecture Foundation has added three new tours to the roster this year, so any local or visitor comfortable spending two hours and $15 will have more options to choose from. One new tour reveals some of downtown's best-kept secrets, taking guests to a variety of parks, art galleries and rest areas that, although privately owned, are free and open to all.
Did you know, for example, that the U.S. Bank Centre downtown houses an installation of Dale Chihuly's blown glass? How about the secluded park wedged between the historic Bank of California Building and the 5th and Madison condominiums?
"We're going to try to let people know that these spaces exist and are available for the public to use," said Stacy Segal, the executive director of the nonprofit foundation.
Another tour looks at the newer generations of buildings that cropped up around the Queen Anne neighborhood's historic mansions.
The third new tour, aptly titled "Purple and Gold," explores architecture from every era of the University of Washington, from the earliest Gothic halls to the freshest modern add-ons.
One of the tour guides, Segal's husband, Jim Goodspeed, was project designer for Paccar Hall, the Foster Business School's sleek new flagship building.
Goodspeed pointed out that the seemingly random position of Denny Hall, the first building on the UW campus, influenced the style and location of the new Paccar Hall.
"Our physical environment is built so much by previous generations," he said. "It can touch our lives in ways we don't even know."
Segal said all the tours aim for a wide audience by making architecture relatable.
Professionals find the tours valuable, too.
After taking the downtown trek, which included the Smith Tower, Seattle architect Evelyn Bravata said, "The tour whetted my appetite, because despite the fact that I'm a longtime Seattle resident and architect, I've never been in that building."
Some of the neighborhood tours focus more on the here and now. One tour guide, Katie Kemezis, said she encourages attendees to apply their interest in architecture toward community planning when she leads her tour of South Lake Union.
"I hope to inspire people to think twice about the sidewalk they're walking down, or the development that's going in across the street ... or a land-use measure that's on their ballot in the next election," she said.