The Emerald


Case Study
Center Steps Apartments

Seattle, WA

Architect: GGLO

Glazing Contractor: Emerald Glass

Product: Pilkington Profilit™ OW (Low-Iron) Channel Glass

Channel glass links performing and visual arts districts

Located near the Seattle Opera House and McCaw Hall and just north of the Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass, the Center Steps Apartments function as a vital gateway between two vibrant arts districts. This unique location, along with input from the community, drove the need for a design that matched the playfulness and visual flair of Seattle’s city center.

To capture the location’s energy and guide visitors to the building’s entryway, GGLO Architects designed a glowing channel glass beacon that is visible from Seattle Center’s International Fountain. The soaring Pilkington Profilit™ OW (Low-Iron) translucent channel glass system from Technical Glass Products spans the building’s façade and extends above the roofline.


The beacon’s form is a single monolithic rectangle that hovers over the Mercer Street residential entrance. Its “U” shaped, sandblasted cast-glass channels are self-supporting and vertically mounted in an extruded metal perimeter frame that highlights the primary section of the building’s exterior windows. The lower iron content in the glass channels allows for greater light and solar transmission and a less green appearance than is typical of standard glass.

Textured with a macro dot pattern, the glass channels speak to the artistic legacy of glass in Seattle—from Dale Chihuly’s iconic blown glass installations to the work currently being made at the Pilchuck Glass School. In addition, as one walks around the perimeter, the building’s faceted metal façade shifts colors, “transforming the mood as lighting does on the stage.” In this way, the beacon works with the metal façade to provide the visual connection between the two districts.


The channel glass beacon does more than drum up visual interest. When the sun has gone down, it also supports wayfinding. The building’s design team backlit the feature with strategically placed LED lighting. Programmed to light the front of the building with an array of vivid colors and patterns, the channel glass system guides visitors to the Center Steps Apartments’ south entrance. Its sandblasted form diffuses the light evenly for a soft but palpable glow.

When lit, the beacon provides a modicum of ambient lighting to create an intentional and inviting space for all. Whether a person is shopping, dining or simply hanging out in the public plaza, the LED lighting can help facilitate a relaxed and playful atmosphere.


The Pilkington Profilit™ OW (Low-Iron) translucent channel glass system from Technical Glass Products fits the Center Steps Apartments’ multiple design needs. It allowed GGLO architects to nod to the vibrancy of the building’s neighboring attractions. It also supports easy wayfinding by illuminating the south residential entryway at night. The monolithic beacon is subtle and breathtaking—truly a fitting addition to its location.