Taking the tour of both the current location of KEXP and the now empty building that will house the new state-of-the-art facility, we kept hearing this one catch phrase over and over: Public Engagement.
Our tour guide DJ Larry Rose (the host of Larry’s Lounge) used it. KEXP’s Director of Business and Operations Denise Burnside used it, Executive Director Tom Mara mentioned it and architect Steve Olson from SkB Architects hammered the idea home as well.
The new building is all about connecting the public with the music and the artists; a conduit to allow us to experience and become more a part of the music rather than just listening to it.
One of the coolest features is the concrete “Great Wall Of Queen Anne” that seems to separate and almost disconnect that community from the Center on the corner of First and Republican will go away, through some creative design work and a whole lot of glass. The forward-thinking design will allow passersby the ability to look all the way through the new studios and into the grounds of Seattle Center.
The building, now 50-plus years old and originally designed for the worlds fair by world famous architect Paul Thiry, is a prime spot for KEXP. With street access as well as access from the Seattle Center side of the world, it’s in a unique position to become a huge attraction in the area.
But make no mistake, this isn’t just a building that will be pretty on the eyes; the functionality of it was thought about long and hard. As many people know, KEXP brings a metric crap-ton of bands in to perform live – in fact, in 2014 alone, at least 392 musical acts performed live at the current location on Dexter. They wanted a spot that would increase the size of the “Live Room” but still keep the intimacy, partly because they don’t really want it to feel like just another show for the bands. That said, the current spot might be just a little too intimate as they at times have had performance troupes with over 20 members. During the tour, there were over 20 of us crammed into the existing live performance space and take our word for it, we were nearing capacity. As a result of having a bigger space, in-studio performances will be open to the public for the first time.
Another way they are going to be helping out-of-town bands is that they will have a secure storage area. Sometimes when touring bands are in town they are hesitant to leave the van or touring vehicle and leave their gear. Smart move to always guard the gear but it also means that sometimes they don’t get to get out and see Seattle the way some of them would like to. All that AND the “Artist Lounge” (see below).
The new KEXP will also have a coffee shop and a record store and although it is too early to speculate who will be partnering with them for that part of the building, the tour guides were able to point out that those areas will be a stand-alone operation, basically meaning that they’d likely be open even when KEXP isn’t. The projected opening for the both of these are April of 2016, which coincidentally makes it perfect timing for Record Store Day 2016.
The revamped courtyard area will become a spot where outdoor live concerts will be held and with the close proximity to the VERA Project it’s a no-brainer to realize this spot will be alive once again. And of course people from the courtyard will also be able to look through the building up towards the Queen Anne area.
Some key features will include:
Gathering Space: A spacious new lobby and community gathering space will provide over 4,500 square feet for performances, dance parties, classes and lectures, and one-of-a-kind get-togethers for music lovers.
DJ Booth: Watch the KEXP DJ’s at work in the booth from the comfort of the Gathering Space. This bigger booth, featuring updated and expanded equipment, will permit the DJ’s to interact freely with visitors.
Live Room & Audience Viewing: KEXP hosts more than 400 in-studio performances every year. The new live room includes an audience viewing area, with room for 50-75 music lovers. Improved equipment and professional lighting will produce podcasts, videos, broadcasts and live streams that look and sound better than ever.
Artist Lounge: Life on the road can be brutal for artists. Designed with ample input from musicians, KEXP’s “Artist Oasis” provides a welcoming “home away from home” for touring artists with showers, laundry facilities, work stations, and a place to nap that isn’t on wheels.
Library: The new library more than doubles the size of the old one. Listening booths for DJs, work areas for assistants and volunteers, and digital resources to research music from around the globe will enable the world-class curators to bring you more “music that matters” with the loving attention to detail KEXP music lovers expect.
With a start date of January 28 and an eight-month construction project, this dream of more Public Engagement is now quickly becoming a reality.
Click HERE to find out all you need or want to know about this exciting new project.