Monday, March 15, 2010

Hints of Seattle's Adhoc Infrastructure

Nicole Simon

In exploring the adhoc sense of the everyday urban experience in Belltown, I took particular notice of sewer grates, hose spigots, electrical boxes, wires, tubes, and other features that mark the piecemeal form of the urban streetscape, but at times break the flow of what are seemingly designed buildings, sidewalks, and streets. With a growing population, infrastructure is vital to provide water, electricity, and transportation of waste for the health, comfort and safety of people within the urban environment and the quality of life we have come to expect. However, in providing these utilities, there are artifacts of pipes, tubes, grates, and covers, which allow for these utilities to be accessed, fixed, improved and otherwise maintained, that can detract from a pleasing streetscape. The location of these utilities, which are often placed for ease of access, are often placed with little regard for the design and experience of the sidewalk and streetscape. They are elements of function as opposed to visually aesthetic design. It can be argued that these elements either mar the experience of the streetscape or are an integral part of what a city streetscape should look like. In these cases, form follows what simple forms have always been there, rectilinear slabs of metal or grey utilitarian boxes. There is a lack of creativity and ingenuity in these objects, and there are also missed opportunities in better integrating these necessities for urban functioning into our sidewalk experience.

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