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Seattle Central Waterfront Redesign Recap

Interesting meeting tonight folks. You missed out on a series of conceptual ideas and absolutely no design revealings. Unfortuantely, I suppose I had my hopes up that actual “redesigns” would be unvieled as a means to judge the competency of the four teams competing for a spot to architect the city’s new waterfront.

There were some good allusions to potential ideas, but at the end of the evening it was a torrential buzzword fest without a lot of solid information.



5 Comments on "Seattle Central Waterfront Redesign Recap"

  1. The cartoons capture the event perfectly! There was certainly a bit of designer insularity that was hard to penetrate as a regular joe (especially from the MC).

    That said, I did think the local team, GGN, showed the best understanding of the area, and the feelings surrounding its future. I really loved their focus on small, detailed areas, rather than some iconic project to add to the resume. I also thought the idea of Elliott Bay as Seattle’s central park was very intriguing.

  2. Josh, I’m really looking forward to seeing some actual design schematics. I thought the 2nd & 4th presentations were the runaway favorites. You do make a good point about the latter being more focussed on smaller spaces and attention to detail.

    If I had to pick today, I would go with the 2nd; James Corner Field Operations. I believe they had the best visionary description of a project that at least “conceptually” excites me.

    I would love to see how they could incorporate their experience with the highline project in NYC into the mega highline of the destroyed viaduct.

  3. I was able to see the first three presentations, but I will say that Corner and Van Valkenburgh, while offering a singular point of view and recent examples of their work to illustrate their points, delivered fairly packaged presentations. Wallace Roberts and Todd had a big group to manage on stage and a slew of tech glitches (kind of unforgiveable throughout) but brought ideas: art and experience will define and enliven the space; heritage and culture will inform design decisions; I loved the idea of rain being a reason to come to the waterfront – the space being activated at all times and filled with the unexpected, and community. Van Valkenburgh: Nirvana? Really? Corner: while the design sense is beyond reproach I’ve just been at the Highline and not all their choices have passed the use test. it is a compelling and brilliant public space but it’s not the waterfront.

  4. Thanks for the additionally perspective. I’d be interested to see what you thought about the last presentation by GGN.

    If you managed to snap any pictures of the highline project, I’d love to steal them for a feature.


  5. I found several problems with the Wallace Roberts Todd presentation. From an ecological perspective, they had the greatest lack of understanding of Seattle. Following the “natural curvature” of Elliot Bay, although it’s all 100+ y.o. fill! Ahh, demo the viaduct and turn it into reefs on historic tideflats! Brilliant!

    I did not like their segue from “when the tide is out the table is set” to displaying only post-contact art in the city. Seemed like cheap lip-service to the tribes. And they were tone-deaf to the public involvement question (“we’ll make the public understand” or some such unilateral statement); this tone-deafness was underscored by the packed audience of citizens. They were ill-prepared, not very thoughtful about Seattle as a unique city, and did not bring a sense of humility of the complexity of the project that the other teams did. As one of my friends said, “well, I guess they needed a fourth team for the shortlist…”

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