An Extraordinary Time » How We Got to Where We Are and How We Are Shaping Our Future

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Shaping Seattle

To get to work everyday tower crane operators Eric Lindquist, Ray Arnett, and substitute Shawn Carlson must first climb a 600 foot vertical, orange ladder; the equivalent height of climbing straight up to the top of the Space Needle. Then they can start their workday building the future 42-story Washington Mutual Seattle Art Museum Tower located on First and Second avenues and Union and University streets.

Currently resembling a pencil along the city skyline, the east tower crane is 8 X 8 feet wide and 600 feet tall. Looking straight down they view the new building’s elevator core, columns, and decks of the steel-frame structure, whose peak is currently at the 34th floor. They use the crane to maneuver heavy objects and steel to workers down below.

Construction which began in 2004 is scheduled to be completed sometime in 2006. When it is completed the Washingtion Mutual Center will be tied as the 9th tallest building in Seattle.

The building will be 576 feet above street level – 540 feet of which can be occupied. This is the maximum allowable building height under a cap enacted by the city in 1989. Mayor Greg Nickels is trying to change that to allow for buildings to rise to 700 feet.




Eric Lindquist, 38, Monroe, WA
Myself I climb 40 feet at a time. I climb 2 sections and then I stop. And look and inspect and breathe and climb 40 more. To me it’s no race. I have a lot of things on my mind. I have the day’s agenda ahead. So I’m in no hurry to run up there and get started.

I have lots of pride in it. I grew up in West Seattle and its cool to be a part of the city that you grew up in.

I love the atmosphere, the skyline, you know to me its like a revolving condominium. I can spin around and look in any direction I want. I have the best view in town.

… there’s a huge history behind this style of work. We use the same tools we’ve used for a hundred years. And the history behind these buildings is you know the guys who did that 40 years ago, and they know the guys who did that 50 years ago and its just huge history and to be a part of it for most of us there’s a lot of pride in it. You know hopefully one day 30 years from now somebody will look at our work the same way we look at the other buildings.

Ray Arnett, 48, live in Everett, WA,
It’s like sitting on the back of a fishing pole; swaying up and down. … we’ll be 700 feet when we’re topped out on it.

I just run the crane. Everybody on this job builds the building. We’re all in it together. If somebody gets hurt we all feel it.

Other people see us you know they think we’re rude people, we’re construction workers. They got to remember we’re the ones who risk our life to build the buildings that they’re working in. So you know, it takes a lot of pride for us.

Shawn Carlson, 38, Maple Valley, WA. (one of the substitutes)
My grandpa started building tunnels way back when and my Dad’s been a tower crane operator for the last 40 years. He’s retired for 4 years. When he retired I got to step into his footsteps and be a tower crane operator so he broke me in. Got me trained in the crane. Ever since I was 5 years old I went to work with Dad, it was a Saturday when no one else was around.

Plus my uncle was rigging for my Dad and now my cousin’s rigging for me when I work.

Dad was always proud of being there. That was his career so he was dedicated to the crane.

One question on everyone’s mind: Where do they go to the bathroom?
“The guys go potty in… Tide bottles,” Carlson said, “or bleach bottles or … Tidy Cat (containers).”


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