Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"A design plan for children is a design for everyone"- Lars Gemzoe

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Belltown Art Walk- 2nd Ave and Bell Street- Dinah Gewalt

Artistic Character along Second Avenue and Bell Street

The sufferings, strength and identity of any place can be discovered though the expression of public art. Belltown, commonly identified as an eclectic residential/commercial area, has experienced a rocky history throughout development but has none the less evolved. This evolution is evident from significant events, such as the Denny Regrade (1897-1930), followed by an economic depression (1930s), the World’s Fair in 1961 and currently faces the most influential event of shaping its identity, increased density, redevelopment and gentrification.
Since early January 2010, I explored Second Avenue and Bell Street on weekend photography and sketching excursions. I observed how people interacted artistically with the urban environment (16), and the placement of apartments and businesses that have made Belltown their home. However, the most interesting feature I discovered were the little things; textures, signage, sculpture, graffiti, old murals and new advertisements. The colors and scale of these art features act as landmarks, reflecting the unveiling of character from businesses along two blocks along Second Avenue between Blanchard and Battery Street.
There are definitely layers of art in Belltown, a collection of event stickers pasted over one another in the alley behind a music club and bar (21). Not too far away is a competition between the colorful store fronts of a Mexican restaurant among many bars (10 -14). Behind these restaurants along 2nd Avenue is a service alley, with a variety of sculpture, graffiti and shrines that represent business and individual identity toward the public sphere.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Window Display

Selina Chiu

Strolling along streets, searching for an interesting topic for the urban observation assignment, I finally notice that I always peek into windows from one another without consciousness. Windows along the streets always attract my attention. People began using glass to be the major material of window from the recent decades. The transparency character of glass defines private and public spaces in a opportunity for people from inside and outside of buildings to communicate in different ways.

The collection of photos comes from downtown Seattle, University District and neighborhood near Green Lake. In different regions, windows show different applications.

Window displays are just a tiny, ordinary thing that exists around us everyday. Thinking about how its meaning and potential influences the city is really interesting. As long as we would like to observe our environment carefully and use our creativity to make our living place better, I believe every small element or usual activity can be meaningful and worth concern. I would image that in a commercial area, some stores might display their products which can interact with passersby; in an education district, students might display their study works to inform and update ner knowledge with neighborhood; in a residence community, neighborhood might hold window display competition occasionally and form the consensus of community wision together.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

sidewalk reborn

deanna goldy

The sidewalk is still here but you can't walk on it anymore since its now a wall. Underfoot are lumpy woodchips that shift slightly with each step. I slow down to see. On either side of me, furrows of brown earth are interrupted by stout rosemary bushes, flimsy daffodils or bunches of mustard greens, blushing wine-red from the frost. I know there are tiny seeds tucked in between the soft, silvery sage and gaudy euphorbia. Tiny radish, chard and lettuce promisary notes to be redeemed once the weather warms. I slow down to see what is not yet visible. I can almost smell warm soup and taste the water crunch of carrot. I see strawberry leaves as red as their fruit will be this summer but get distracted by a child's dinosaur painted on a ceramic tile. Yum! He is enjoying the berries I can't have. As I stand to leave, blue tarp, yellow plastic watering can, rumpled burlap and the fuzzy fractals of a lamb's ear snag my attention. I slow down see what is visible when I slow down. Painted letters form C O M M U N I T Y on a sign made by friends and neighbors. In another few months these brown furrows will fill with fresh food, which will fill the soup bowls in a nearby kitchen, which will fill the emptiness and satisfy the hunger of a few strangers for a few hours. I cross the street to the next block and feel the slap of step on pavement.

Keeping the Local History

Gilbert Wong

Although the Wallingford Center could be considered as a measure of gentrification as many other neighborhood in this country. The difference is the local history is being maintained by keeping the original school building. The more important aspect of the success of the center is because it is being supported by the local community of Wallingford which is a primarily residential neighborhood with more affordable housing than other neighborhoods of the city.
The walkabilit to the Center from the neighborhood. Most of the shops on the 45th Street and Wallingford Ave. are not taller that 3 storey high. That is a good human scale. Many shops have apartments on top. That gives the “eyes on the street” benefit to better secure the safety issues in the neighborhood. The location is also served by public buses. The surrounding blocks have a wide variety of restaurants, shops, two cinemas and other amenities. The Center sits in the middle of a vibrant community.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Cities are complex and fragmented places and it is important to strategically think about how we bind disparate elements together in order to maximize function for all users. I believe that the bike paths and the way the vacant spaces surrounding them have been activated serves to connect fragmented components of our city. I am using this final project to explore how Seattle benefits from the creative uses of the spaces directly adjacent to, surrounding and between bike paths in Seattle. I believe that these spaces along the bike trail represent an emerging mixed use structure of the land along bike paths. And just as mixed-use has been touted as a successful way to structure space and provide for needs on the street, I believe mixed use facilities will be equally as successful along the bike paths because they provide for needs and build community which in turn keeps the trails activated and safe.

Cowen Park – a secret garden in the neighborhood

Cowen Park – a secret garden in the neighborhood
Cowen Park is a lovely park in a density neighborhood. I find people usually visit the park during weekend and the good weather day. And many of them are families, especially kids and parents. Parents usually bring their children to use the facilities in the park, and people living nearby use the park for walking with their dogs. However, compared with other parks in the UW area, it’s not a very popular one, even though it is easily to access. Not too many people know this park. The community is keeping renew this park to create more popular space, but it’s not very successful. There are several reasons: though the park is in a density residential area, many apartments are lived by students, and the students’ major activities happen in the campus. Only a few families live here, and most of the equipments in the park are just for family using. And mostly the facilities in the park are just for children. However, Cowen Park is a big and beautiful green area, then people use their way to represent themselves in the park. They draw and build in the park to use the park better for them.

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Everyday Convergences

Leftover spaces such as the “Urban Den” are potential sites for people to engage in creative and imaginative use, and to connect through chance encounters and spontaneous events. These informal spaces may be disorderly and unkempt yet it is this reason that prompts people to be willing interpreters and patrons of these places. At the “Urban Den” this is further complicated, or rather, intersects the natural processes that already occur. Leftover concrete structures are reclaimed by naturally occurring invasive plant species, and age from the weathering elements, while catering to various user groups, who bring with them different expectations, behaviors and modifications to the landscape. This exhibits a convergence between the narratives of people and narratives of the landscape, such that the former becomes part of the latter. This is seen everywhere at the "Urban Den", from the appropriation of concrete walls as art canvasses for graffiti, or the overgrown awning above as an ideal ‘disposal’ system for the countless soda cans and empty liquor bottles. These are just a few examples of what may be found at the “Urban Den”, including marks of people’s presence, occupancy and use of the site through found objects, signs of settlement, and mere scratches on the asphalt.

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From the Pike Place Martket to the Harbor Steps

Pike Place Market has always been the epic center of downtown Seattle. This public market overlooking the Elliott Bay waterfront in the city and is one of the oldest continually operated public farmers’ market in the United States. The Pike Place Market, the underground restaurants, and the Harbor Steps locate between Freeway 99 and the 1st Avenue from Virginia Street to University Street, and they together dominate the activities along the waterfront. Before the Pike Place Market was found in 1907, farmers and producers sold their food and products to some middle persons, who would then sell to the stores and finally to the customers. The formation of Pike Place Market changed the format and routine of how products are sold. Farmers and merchants can now directly sell their food and products to the customers. To allow the customers to meet the producers is the market’s mission and founding goal.

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Urban Hotdog Stands

Minjae Kim

This project looks at the hotdog stands that appears at 10th and Pike everynight by bars and music venues such ans Neumos, Comet Tavern, and Bimbos. Everynight during and after bar hours these hotdog stands are crowded with people then next morning they are nowhere to be found.

This interesting phenomenon is a good example of ad-hoc urbanism which takes place in unproper sites, mainly focused to take the most advantage out of the right moment.

In weekends they sell hundreds of hotdogs. The lines are so long, the cart will be blocked from view by the crowd. Then again, next morning, the cart is nowhere to be found. If you want to get a hotdog from here, you will have to wait for the right moment.

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The Urban Gallery

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This project is aimed at describing the intricate human processes involved in the creation of unauthorized urban art. It moves to focus on aspects of adaptation and transformation as well as the democratizing nature of this social phenomenon. It is these factors that culminate to form a constantly changing urban gallery. This urban gallery reflects hugely on the environment itself, the artists involved in its creation and the deeper pulse of the urban city.

This renegade art gallery is a fundamental part of the urban fabric within the city. These artistic expressions represent a huge cross section of culture and a strong sense of personality. Through this expression of ideas posted on the landscape the streets of Seattle are transformed into an omnipresent public gallery. This gallery is in turn used as a forum for the expression of diverse ideas, creativity, dissent, conflict and hope. The urban gallery provides a way for members of the community to literally leave their mark on the city.

Interchange as Interstitial

roen hohlfeld

Throughout this project I explore the typology of the urban freeway interchange as an interstitial site; a stage upon which ad-hoc urbanisms unfold. Interstitial spaces lie on the margins, at transitional points that are not clearly legible. As a result, these spaces are often marginalized and undervalued. Under closer scrutiny interstitial spaces are a critical and essential component of our cityscapes. My explorations are an attempt to better understand these sites, the values that they have, and the role they play in the larger urban landscape.

I focus specifically on the site beneath the interchange of Interstate 5 and the West Seattle Bridge. This is a space of the everyday. The landscape of the Interstate serves as a threshold for the humble routine of the daily commute; it is a repetitive and overlooked backdrop for this parody. This space acts as a retreat for urban wildlife and offers marginalized people a place as they attempt to simply live in ad-hoc shelters scattered around the site. The freeway itself, as well as the interstitial space created by the complex interchanges allow for a different experience of the city. This space is a critical and valuable part of our urban fabric.

Simulated Urbanism

Talya ten Brink
Themed open malls, or ‘festival marketplaces,’ are a growing type of privately owned open space that threatens the vitality of pedestrian urban environment. To highlight the contrast between the festival marketplace and the public urban environment, this paper will compare photographs of the festival marketplace of University Village, a privately owned commercial development in Seattle, with photographs of the adjacent neighborhood. The Google map below shows University Village (site of photos 1-4) and the adjacent Union Bay – Blakeley Neighborhood (site of photos 5-9). UVillage exhibits a simulated city of culture and community, but in reality it replaces real community with marketing for consumption of standardized products. Because UVillage is managed in a top-down approach to profit the owners of UVillage, it does not encourage all types of storefronts, activities, or user groups. The strict controls in UVillage hinder ad-hoc urbanism. The adjacent Union Bay – Blakeley Neighborhood is suffering economically and socially, yet it serves the public because it allows the layering of incremental adjustments in public open space.

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Safety In An Urban Environment

Safety Methods Used in the Urban Environment
Lindsay Duin

Safety has been and will remain an underlying issue in the context of the urban environment. Safety is something people desire and need included in their everyday lives. It is appropriate to even say that safety is in someway involved in almost every aspect of people’s lives. It is essential. Because of this essential need of safety in life, people are willing to try all kinds of security related methods in order to obtain the feeling of safety. As I explored Seattle’s Belltown district, I came across different safety attempts that used a variety of methods, ranging from boarded or barred up windows, to six inch spikes atop doors and fences. Whatever the method was, it was obvious an attempt was made to keep unwanted people away. The problem with this tactic is, not only do these unpleasant elements have the potential to keep unwanted people away, but they also deter every other type of person from entering the space. These safety methods can lead to a lot of empty undesired spaces throughout the city because of the unpleasant atmosphere these elements create for people.

Mosaic of Stages at Pike Place Market

Hugh Hedin

Recently thrown fish, fresh produce, vibrant bouquets, and good eats are the things people take with them as they return home from Pike Place Market. People love it here. What makes their visit to Seattle’s most famed attraction a pleasant experience, however, is probably not anything tangible; it’s most likely a product generated by their senses. One of these ethereal forces is my focus. As always, the countless street performers of Pike Place Market welcome its visitors with a diverse display of world music and entertainment.

Everyone can picture these types of performers. They’re usually seated on a bucket or stool, or standing against a wall at a busy pedestrian intersection. In their hands is their instrument of choice; at their feet sits an open guitar case or coffee can. That’s it—at the end of the day, they can walk home holding all of the equipment necessary for tomorrow’s show. Their temporary setups are, in a way, like a patchwork of urban stages throughout the Pike Place Market area. These musicians provide an invaluable asset to the energetic urban vernacular of downtown Seattle, and foster exciting social interactions. While their space-creating shows are modest, temporary, and unscheduled, one can be certain to have a pleasant soundtrack to their shopping experience or a place to pause and watch a live show with fellow listeners.

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Retaining Walls and Curbsides: meet the people

Dana Pierce

The University District is home to a variety of different people and activities that occupy its urban fabric; the buildings as well as the spaces in-between the built environment. Among the variety of shops, marketplaces, alley ways, and streets is a mixture of curbside localities that serve as a sort of transition between the more private zones and the larger public arenas. These in-between elements enable more people to better engage with their urban surroundings and gain a greater appreciation for the uniqueness of the city.

The streetscapes in the heart of the University District are home to a variety of curbside conjunctions defining both the public- private partition as well as the public’s interaction with the private line. Some examples along the University Avenue and adjacent streets include trees, car parks, bank kiosks, and bus stations. On 15th avenue, the sidewalks are wider than adjacent streets and occupied by a series of bus stations rather than retaining walls. The enclosed, street-facing bus canopies act as a buffering agent between the street and the sidewalks, melding the latter into the shops, engaging the consumer with the market.

On the corner of 45th and Brooklyn a unique retaining wall enables a prime ad-hoc landscape surrounding the University of Washington Tower, formerly the Safeco Tower. A large courtyard space cushioned from the street by well-kept garden beds held up by a stepped retaining wall. The use of the sidewalk edge seems predefined, as well as the designation of the courtyard as a private space, however the story of the site told by observation and documentation illustrate a different story. This seemingly ordinary space, defined over time by a variety of users and passersby, reveals its complexity as an ad-hoc urban arena with an array of different functions unapparent upon initial observation.

Although the use of this sidewalk edge seems predefined as a retaining wall with limited functions, it is actually more frequently used in a greater variety of ways than the larger courtyard space. The implication of the courtyard as a private space deterred most pedestrians from using its large display of tables and benches for their intended use and encouraged the ad-hoc improvisational use of the retaining wall as such instead.

The need for a table, bench, counter, or for some a climbing ramp, was non-negotiable. The assumed inability to use the courtyard meant an inventive means of meeting these essential needs on the Brooklyn block of 45th street, and the retaining wall the accessible tool of choice. This seemingly ordinary space, defined over time by a variety of users and passersby, reveals its complexity as an ad-hoc urban arena with an equally diverse number of functions.

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Way Home with Sign Boards

Yoyo Hsieh

Everyday life

We get up, go to school and study. This is everyday life for most of the students. However, the most exciting part of the daily life for me is on the way home. Everyone must has a 'way' that connect school/workplace and home. 'What is on your way home?'

On the way back home, we take the same bus, keep seeing same view, same sign boards for 1 years, 3 years or more then 10 years. It does not matter what those signs are about. We see those signs but we never read them since we get too used to them. We see but we do not read, we hear but we never listen. Those sign boards speaks really loud to us by using vivid colors and neon lights. It seems that those sign board do not have relations or discourse between people. However, when we start to regard those signs are marks of way home, we starts to depends on those signs board psychologically. Those sign boards has same functions as landmark. Just like Tokyo tower to Tokyo, space needle to Seattle, those sign board tell people they are on their way home. There could be thousands of sign boards of Starbucks in the world; however, people feel differently when they see the one which is on their way home.

For me, I have 3 different ways back home during my life. One is from high school to home for 6 years, one is from Waseda University to home in Tokyo and the latest is from UW to home. Those 'way back home' is always a combination of different sign boards. The slide 1 and 2 contain series of photos that connect all the view I see on my way back home in Seattle. It starts from the sign on the bus which I take back home and go though Ave. Slide 2 shows that my way home is just like connecting the dots (the signs) in the dark night. The slide 3 shows the view I see on my way home when I was in Japan. Different from Seattle's one which lined in line, those sign broads are arranged into a surface form upside to downside from left to right. The slide 4 is an illustration drawn by my friend. The illustration shows those signboard has blended and become an essential part of landscape in people's mind.