This Valentines Day, volunteers from Schemata Workshop teamed with the Seattle Architecture Foundation and other local designers to lead a conversation about architecture and urbanism with a dozen young Seattleites. The workshop was hosted at Jackson Place Cohousing, and the day began with a tour of Jackson Place’s shared common spaces, from a commercial kitchen and large dining hall to outdoor play spaces and neighborhood pea patches. After the tour, Schemata Workshop presented a host of different dwelling types from around the world and challenged participants to articulate the qualities of good urban environments and good homes.
After the presentation, the students formed three teams and worked with the volunteers to create their own design for three actual sites in Capitol Hill. Each of the projects incorporated housing, various types of retail, and an array of inventive public spaces. Working through sketches and drafted plans, the students debated the best configuration for the different spaces. The volunteers helped them to understand the way factors such as site context, circulation, daylight, and public safety could inform their work.
As students finalized the basic layouts for the site, they began to construct models to articulate their vision in three dimensions. Because the three sites were adjacent, clustered around Cal Anderson Park, building the models gave the students insight into how the projects would interact. Though they had much in common, the three sites also posed unique challenges, and the students developed a wide range of strategies to meet them. One project’s graphic use of color allowed it to dynamically address different scales—from a busy plaza to a quieter neighborhood. Another used individual buildings on the site to give identity to its different housing and retail spaces. Finally, the third project used a network of organic public spaces to carve into their building and form a relationship to Cal Anderson, across the street.
When the students finished their work, they presented the models, listened to comments from the volunteers, and answered questions. In doing so, they contributed to Seattle’s ongoing dialogue on what makes a good city—from public spaces to private, from our parks to our homes.