urban design

Best Urban Gardens in Seattle

Schemata Workshop will be hosting a model-building workshop for youth aged 11-16 on Saturday, March 26, in collaboration with the Seattle Architecture Foundation about the design of urban gardens (more information here).  We'll be exploring the issues we faced while designing the rooftop garden with Seattle Urban Farming Company at our new space and cohousing community. This got our froggers thinking about their favorite urban gardens in Seattle.  Here are some of our staff's well-loved lesser known parks in Seattle we hope you get to visit.  Happy exploring! 


Abigail's Pick:  Seven Hills Park (Capitol Hill)
1514 E Howell St, Seattle, WA 98122

"I feel like Seven Hills Park is a hidden gem, so I almost don’t want to share it, but it’s such a great spot. There’s a little community garden, some public grills and picnic tables, a few trees for shade, and an ample lawn perfect for laying out a blanket and sharing a picnic, readinga book, or just soaking up some late afternoon rays. It’s a little off the beaten path, and with Volunteer Park and Cal Anderson Park nearby, most of the visitors to Seven Hills Park live in the neighborhood, which makes for a cozy community feel even on the most crowded summer day.

"I feel like Seven Hills Park is a hidden gem, so I almost don’t want to share it, but it’s such a great spot. There’s a little community garden, some public grills and picnic tables, a few trees for shade, and an ample lawn perfect for laying out a blanket and sharing a picnic, readinga book, or just soaking up some late afternoon rays. It’s a little off the beaten path, and with Volunteer Park and Cal Anderson Park nearby, most of the visitors to Seven Hills Park live in the neighborhood, which makes for a cozy community feel even on the most crowded summer day.


Brian's Pick: Kubota Garden (Rainier Beach)
9817 55th Avenue S, Seattle, WA 98178

Kubota Garden.jpg

Grace's Pick: Belltown Cottage Park and P-Patch (Belltown)
2512 Elliott Ave, Seattle, WA 98121

"I like that people hang out there. It can be quite lovely on summer evenings to walk through and see people picnic as well as working on the lots."

"I like that people hang out there. It can be quite lovely on summer evenings to walk through and see people picnic as well as working on the lots."


Margaret's Pick: Streissguth Gardens (Capitol Hill)
1640 Broadway E, Seattle, WA 98102

"I love how tucked away this park is – if you’re coming from 10th it’s easy to miss the stairs that lead down to it.  The hillside gardens are really beautiful and have a wildness to them that I really like. There also is a pretty great view of Lake Union and the Olympic Mountains from the top."

"I love how tucked away this park is – if you’re coming from 10th it’s easy to miss the stairs that lead down to it.  The hillside gardens are really beautiful and have a wildness to them that I really like. There also is a pretty great view of Lake Union and the Olympic Mountains from the top."


Mike's Pick: Loveless Building Courtyard (Capitol Hill)
806 E Roy St, Seattle, WA 98102

"The Loveless Building scale is outstanding along the sidewalk, as is the material textures, and expression of uses. The glimpse of the courtyard seen passing by the gate is very compelling, followed by the traditional sequence of compression of view in the tunnel, and expansion into the garden, and the tree canopy overhead."

"The Loveless Building scale is outstanding along the sidewalk, as is the material textures, and expression of uses. The glimpse of the courtyard seen passing by the gate is very compelling, followed by the traditional sequence of compression of view in the tunnel, and expansion into the garden, and the tree canopy overhead."

Mira's Pick: Waterfall Garden Park (Pioneer Square)
219 2nd Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104

"Waterfall Garden Park is such a secret oasis in the middle of the of Pioneer Square.  I love taking visitors there when touring Pioneer Square since the waterfall and lushness makes for a nice break from the noise and harshness of the city."

"Waterfall Garden Park is such a secret oasis in the middle of the of Pioneer Square.  I love taking visitors there when touring Pioneer Square since the waterfall and lushness makes for a nice break from the noise and harshness of the city."


Roma's Pick: Federal Courthouse Plaza (Downtown)
700 Stewart St, Seattle, WA 98101

"While there is a lot of critique regarding the Federal Courthouse Plaza, and though some of it is valid, I just really love the space."

"While there is a lot of critique regarding the Federal Courthouse Plaza, and though some of it is valid, I just really love the space."


Will's Pick: Guerrila Gardens
Throughout Seattle

"Guerilla Gardening happens when people garden in places where they don't have a legal right to utilize the property, like these little traffic roundabouts that you find all over Seattle.  I find it so neat that people have taken it upon themselves to garden wherever they can and to beautify their environment. It really adds to the city."

"Guerilla Gardening happens when people garden in places where they don't have a legal right to utilize the property, like these little traffic roundabouts that you find all over Seattle.  I find it so neat that people have taken it upon themselves to garden wherever they can and to beautify their environment. It really adds to the city."

Cheers!

-The Froggers

 

*All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Google Streetview.

 

Community Recap - SAF - From Wheels to Woonerf

The Wheels to Woonerfs event on Tuesday, September 16,2014 was a free event hosted by the Seattle Architecture Foundation for the 2014 Seattle Design Festival: Design in Motion.   It consisted of an exclusive behind the scenes tour of the King Street Station restoration project, an AIA National Award recipient, followed by a panel discussion at the Klondike Musuem presenting various facets of urban design and transportation planning. 

The tour was led by Tim Williams of ZGF, project architect for the King Street Station restoration. Immaculately redone, the station is an exemplary case of a historic architecture preservation project.  The most exciting part of the tour was the behind the scenes access to the two-upper stories which were left unfinished for a future office tenant.  The space is still available for rent if you know of anyone interested

Photo Credit: Letao Tao

Photo Credit: Letao Tao

Photo Credit: Letao Tao

Photo Credit: Letao Tao

Photo Credit: Letao Tao

Photo Credit: Letao Tao

Our panelists were carefully chosen to span a wide array of expertise on transportation design and was energetically moderated by Lyle Bicknell (City of Seattle, DPD). 

Steven Shain (City of Seattle, DPD) presented the upcoming plans for the Link extension, its opportunities and challenges and what to look forward to in the upcoming few years. It was really exciting to hear about projects that we are contributing to in such a public and positive way.  

Steven was followed by Tim Williams (ZGF Architects) who segwayed, pun intended, into a presentation on bicycle infrastructure, a continued interest for our Schemata bikers.  He presented several bike-related projects in Seattle including the protected bike lane on 2nd ave and the bike-share program 'Pronto!' slated for official release this fall.  Tim ended with a reminder that we are nowhere near as bike-savvy as the Dutch and a call-to-action to aspire to their infrastructure capacity.  

Photo Credit: Letao Tao

Photo Credit: Letao Tao

Kris Snyder (Hewitt) then presented three Seattle woonerf (shared street) projects explaining the design concepts behind the urban intervention, the challenges and the outcomes.  He was very optimistic about the direction the Department of Transportation was taking in terms of being more open about new design solutions for transportation planning.

We finished off with Lesley Bain (Framework) who questioned the urban design of downtown streets, presenting a "traveling lounge" pilot project and opening up with the question of what will happen to the buses when the downtown tunnel will be exclusively for the Link. Her proposed solution imagined a system with a connected double-core (at King Street Station and Seattle Center) from which bus routes could array from the hubs. 

From left:  Lyle Bicknell, Lesley Bain, Kris Snyder, Tim William, Steven Shain.   Photo Credit: Letao Tao

From left:  Lyle Bicknell, Lesley Bain, Kris Snyder, Tim William, Steven Shain.

Photo Credit: Letao Tao

Photo Credit: Letao Tao

Photo Credit: Letao Tao

Some interesting points that I jotted down that night:

  • The importance of language:  let's not vilify car users, but rather empower car-owners to believe that alternative transportation solutions are better.  
  • There is an incredible amount of growth projected for Seattle in the upcoming years from industry giants moving into the city like Amazon and Weyerhauser.  How will we be able to capture that increase in population both in terms of housing and transportation capacity?  And what happens if Amazon decides to leave the downtown core?
  • Pronto! bike-sharing to be available in Fall 2014 -- just around the corner!  
  • The benefits of seeing the city and to be seen zipping past traffic in above ground transit versus underground subway systems.
  • Factors influencing the success of an outdoor mini-lounge (or parklet?):  agency of adjacent business owners, foot traffic, vehicular traffic, movable furniture vs. fixed furniture.
  • Weaving the street right of way to slow down car traffic in woonerf design.
  • The learning transition time it takes for people to get used to new design features can lead to some very funny situations. 
  • After mulling about it for the past week, my answer to Lyle's question of what I would Iove to see tomorrow in Seattle transporation infrastructure...a more efficient public transit connection between Ballard and Capitol Hill...please!

This event was my first event as co-chair of the Design in Depth committee and I was extremely pleased it was such a smooth-running success!  Special thanks goes out to two new but extremely resourceful volunteers, Sandy Chalk and Dan Fernandez for putting together such a terrific group of panelists; Stacy Segal for her dedicated work as SAF executive director and to all the other SAF volunteers who helped out at the event, including our engaging panelists!  

Please click here for more photos from the event by volunteer photographer Letao Tao.

Capitol Hill's Secret Alley

 

On Capitol Hill, our alleys are linear. Stick straight, their linear nature defined by the walls and buildings that crisply define their edges. Though such definition is the typical case it is by no means the only one, as some alley- edges are defined not by a building or wall but only by a change in pavement type or by a shift from pavement to lawn. In such cases where there is no strict spatial boundary (i.e. wall or garage), the alley has an opportunity to usurp its linear heritage, and borrow from an adjacent space. Such expansion and contraction of the alley's typical spatial composition adds significantly to one's alley experience, adding yet another fruitful reason for exploration.

 

 

For apartment buildings, the transition space from alley to building often includes parking for vehicles, a totally reasonable use of such a space.  At the non-alley side of the parking, one finds the apartment building which terminates this most basic of alley-space borrowing. The single-family residential portions of the Hill, on the other hand, can provide a more significant opportunity for the borrowing of space, as the often smaller-footprint single family house takes up less space than a mufti-family building. Such residences often have garages in their back yard. While such out buildings and walls often limit the extension of alley-space, they also frame the extension of space from the alley into an otherwise private realm.

 

 

A hybrid of the two above examples can be seen below. More urban in nature, this alley-extension has an unusual formality to it, attributable to the uniformity in the defining buildings' materials and their symmetrical lay-out. Though the fence makes it clear that the courtyard is private and not to be shared, its presence contributes to the spatial collage of the alley, lending it a more public ambiance.

 

 

Appearing to be carved out from the building, the porch/corridor combination/extension pictured below presents a rare, subtractive typology to the menu. In fact, the porch extension is wholly contained by the building within which it resides, allowing the alley to retain its crisp definition.  The spatial ambiguity of this intriguing borrowing is enhanced by the narrowness of alley itself.

 

 

In isolation, the individual variations of each alleys spatial characteristics is perhaps only mildly interesting. Taken as an ensemble and concentrated in one place, however, such variety gives unexpected richness to the alley-experience.  Fortunately for us, we have just such an alley on the Hill, which I call Capitol Hill's secret alley. Why secret? It was at least to me.  I have lived only two blocks from it for almost nine years and I just discovered it. Perhaps the more intrepid of us had already taken the plunge, but to me it was all a surprise, and all great fun.

 

 

Above, is the view of the alley that I had seen perhaps hundreds of times, and prior to this series, never felt the urge to delve into. From all appearances, it seems to be a straight connector from Roy street (between 19th and 20th Avenues), to Mercer Street. Very narrow, unpaved, not exactly inviting, and hardly likely to have much of interest. But this was a day for exploration, so I thought, why not?

 

Why not indeed! This is the view, mid-alley, looking back to Roy. What a surprise! Talk about  borrowing space -- this alley leads into quite a variety spaces. Gardens, porches, and stoops -- wow. And so urban. In the gritty, well worn way that adds character to a city. Look at that foot path, what a great chronicler of use. And unique to this alley, no cars. An added bonus, for it allows portions of the alley to be extra narrow.

 

While hardly a piazza, the central space of this alley has a wonderful sense of enclosure that merits a visit. Similar to the examples above, the alley extensions here are private property, but their enclosing walls conversely make it feel more public (even though it clearly is not). In warmer months, with leaves on the trees and vegetables in the gardens, the experience must be even more satisfying. With a bit of polish (not too much, though) the above space would make a fabulous summer time terrace for dining or drinks, providing a nice addition to the Monsoon and Kingfish ensemble, one half a block over.  Or, how about letting a warm summer day slip away, perched on the second floor balcony of the apartment building in the previous photo?

 

 

Looking north from Mercer, towards Roy, the southern portion of the alley has an even greater urban patina to it. The roughness of the masonry walls, the slight bend in the path, the bare utility of the steps. To the right one can see the tree and corner of the building pictured above, giving the slightest hint of the treasure that lies beyond, in Capitol Hill’s secret alley.