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A Glacier-Inspired Building to Revitalize A Downtown Core

Perkins + Will reveals the redesign for the former Key Bank Plaza Building in Anchorage—a modernization that nods to Alaska’s rugged beauty.

By Rachel Gallaher

The former Key Bank Plaza Building in Anchorage, Alaska as reimagined in an adaptive reuse design by the Seattle office of Perkins&Will.

Nearly three years ago, November 2018, a 7.1-magnitude earthquake rumbled through Anchorage, Alaska, causing destruction to homes, roads, and vital infrastructure throughout the city. One of the affected buildings was the former Key Bank Plaza Building, originally constructed in 1972 by Alaska Mutual Savings Bank. The nine-story office building, located in the city’s downtown core, suffered extensive structural damage that required much-needed seismic reinforcement for continued use. Recently, the Seattle office of global architecture firm Perkins&Will, who is heading up the adaptive reuse project, released renderings of its design, which is estimated to be complete sometime in 2022.

“We are excited to breathe new life into the former Key Bank Plaza Building, which was one of approximately 750 buildings damaged by the 2018 Anchorage earthquake,” says Erik Mott, principal and design director at Perkins&Will. “The repositioning will not only provide modern amenities to future tenants but will also serve to revitalize downtown Anchorage.”

The building is designed to include an additional 40,000-square-foot sloped façade that reconfigures the exterior to resemble a glacier, and its form is cut away at the corner to mark the urban area in the skyline while creating an inviting plaza that leads to the main lobby. The detailing in the lobby continues with the theme of ice and the fissures and caves one can observe in the glaciers and ice fields.

A rendering of the public plaza and lobby. Ice, snow, and glaciers all served as design inspiration and a thematic homage to the majestic wilderness of the state.

“We were inspired by the natural beauty of the Alaskan wilderness around Anchorage,” Mott says of the new, majestic design. “The rugged and sculptural forms of the Matanuska glacier and the ice fields of the Knik Arm were inspirations for us as we considered how to create a memorable and iconic identity for the new building. We wanted the building to feel like it belongs to both the city and the surrounding natural environment.”

Replacing the existing precast concrete cladding will be new floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing for maximum daylight. The retrofit of the building will include significant interior improvements such as the replacement of all mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, construction of a new stair tower, modern elevators and installation of a freight elevator. Additionally, on-site landscape and hardscape improvements have remained a top priority, as it is estimated that the new development, which is the first to happen in the downtown Anchorage area in the past 10 years, will draw a significant amount of pedestrian traffic. To account for dark, snowy winters, radiant heating, six new skylights, and drought-tolerant native plants have been incorporated into the project’s master plan.

“We believe that the building will offer an exciting destination for retail experiences and a state-of-the-art workplace environment for tenants,” Mott notes. “The revitalized plaza, public spaces, and street improvements will bring renewal and activity to this prominent corner that knits the urban fabric together with the neighboring civic and cultural attractions.”

The cutout at the corner distinguishes the building in the city's skyline.


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