On February 9, 2008, at 10 a.m., Seattle's new Chinatown Gate is dedicated. The gate, located at S King Street and 5th Avenue S and designed by a group including Kirkland architect Paul Wu, is made of steel and ceramic and is colored bright (and lucky) red, yellow, gold, and blue. It marks the historic western entrance of old Chinatown. Its cost of $500,000 was raised by the Historic Chinatown Gate Foundation. Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels (b. 1955) and Washington Governor Christine Gregoire are among those who attend.
Dragons and a Fireball
The gate has upturned eaves because, according to Wu, some Chinese believe that straight lines shoot strong energy, and the curves soften this effect. Ornaments on the ceramic roof include animals such as a dragon and a phoenix, said to keep out bad luck. An orb at the top represents a fireball from heaven bringing good luck. Most parts of the gate were made in China, including 8,000 ceramic tiles. Wu explained that most elements of the structure could not be obtained anywhere else.
The architecture firm MulvannyG2, located in Bellevue, helped with preliminary designs. Architect Paul Wu traveled to southern China to study the traditional elaborate gates that mark the entrances to cities there. To design Seattle's gate, he worked with a design institute in China.
To build the gate the construction crew, which included an expert in traditional Chinese gate construction who had come over from China to participate, worked nine hours a day, six days a week, for five months. The crew consisted of six full-time workers and two part-time workers.
A Dream Come True
The dream of having a gate in Seattle's Chinatown is not at all new, but it was in 2002 that volunteers formed the nonprofit Historic Chinatown Gate Foundation and began serious planning. Money was raised from Chinatown residents and from the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, the South Downtown Foundation, the City of Seattle, King County, and MulvannyG2 Architecture.
The foundation continues to raise money for an eastern gate, to be located at S King Street and 12th Avenue S. Foundation president Tuk Eng said, "We're proud of what the Chinese did in Seattle. It's our roots. But the gate is also for the whole Pacific Northwest" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer).