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    Ideas for Seattle's waterfront: arts and play

    Parents like protection for play: a playground. Will that fit into designers' ideas?

    If Bertha ever gets back to work and the tunnel gets bored and the viaduct is razed and the money – $420 million – is found, then Seattle will get 26 city blocks worth of new public space along the waterfront.

    And what should be included in that space?

    Well, how about something that invites the public to play.

    Something in the spirit of this music video from 1974.

    It’s the song “Sisters and Brothers”  -- fast forward to 2:29 to get past Marlo Thomas and the kids – and you’ll see a bunch of adults scampering and climbing and grooving without a care in the world.

    This is the toe-tapping video that launched the Saturday portion of a two-day, city-sponsored “Art, Design and Play” conference at City Hall.

    Ain’t we lucky? Ain’t we happy? are some of the song’s lyrics.

    “That’s the kind of city we want to make here, right?” asked Eric Fredericksen, the city’s waterfront program art manager.

    This was an “ideas” conference and Fredericksen, in his introductory remarks, used the video as an example of a vibe — not the actual design specifics — of what an engaging waterfront park could look like.

    What Blanchard Street underneath the Alaskan Way Viaduct looks like now/Waterfront program, City of Seattle

    The city wants the waterfront to offer a lot: You should be able to stroll; you should be able to stick your toes in the water; you should be able to gaze at the mountains beyond.

    But as it embarks on a design for the park — the latest schematics were unveiled this week — the city is also figuring out how art could play a role in this space.

    And what Blanchard Street could look like after, in theory. /Waterfront program, City of Seattle

    On March 26, officials plan to announce the artist who will oversee the $1 million public art project on the waterfront. That project will be funded by the city’s “1% for Art” program; the money comes from the reconstruction of the Elliott Bay Seawall.

    Later this month, the city will also be putting out an additional call for an artist, an artist who will be commissioned to come up with something focusing on play.

    Explained Fredericksen: “We’re going to say ‘Work with us, the design team and kids and then tell us what should happen.’ ” He didn’t know what the budget for the commission would be.

    According to Fredericksen, there are 3,000 children who live downtown. And unlike what’s happening in other cities, Fredericksen said the number of young families and children is actually increasing year after year.

    He also cited how Seattle ranks in terms of its ParkScore, an index measured by the Trust for Public Lands that looks at a city’s investment in parks, how much land there is and how well the parks are located. Seattle ranks high: 10th among the country’s 50 largest cities.

    But when it comes to the number of playgrounds, the city’s rate is poor. There are 2.1 playgrounds per every 10,000 people, according to ParkScore.

    So here’s a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to remake a chunk of the city, city officials said at the conference. Architects and designers then spoke about various collaborations around the world that created innovative and interactive spaces, including the use of “play sculptures,” like a giant egg you could climb into or a slide that spirals around.

    Piaget, Plato and Nietzsche were quoted. The latter’s quote: In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.

    And then before the lunch break, a downtown dad asked the morning panel whether a dedicated playground would be featured at the waterfront.

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    Posted Mon, Mar 10, 9:14 a.m. Inappropriate

    Play in the rain 75% of the year? And with 6-12 lanes of traffic blazing by just behind that beauty screen of scrawny young trees. Are you kidding?


    Posted Mon, Mar 10, 9:46 a.m. Inappropriate

    3,000 children downtown, huh. That would mean 15 to 20 per cent of the downtown population is kids! Its this use of fictitious numbers that cause all sorts of mis management and poor planning i.e. transit or retail or security tk name s few. Maybe they are using the Downtown Seattle Associations definitionof downtown which includes lower Queen Anne, half of Capitol Hill, all of First Hill. Only San Francisco has less children per capita than Seattle.


    Posted Mon, Mar 10, 11:35 a.m. Inappropriate

    If you build it, they will come!


    Posted Mon, Mar 10, 1:59 p.m. Inappropriate

    Ceaușescu is dead, so let's stop trying to resurrect him. What the new waterfront needs is commerce, not play spaces or public baths or rainswept concrete "parks." Not the "visions" and "inspirations" of "designers" and "planners," but commerce. Ugly, beautiful, sordid, noble, unplanned random commerce. Commerce for the people who live here. With maybe a nice view to the west. That is the best and highest use of the waterfront.


    Posted Mon, Mar 10, 2:20 p.m. Inappropriate

    Thank you, DTNelson, 1000 times over.

    You are the rarest of voices, one that makes total sense.

    I agree that ugly, beautiful, sordid, noble, unplanned random commerce not designed or visioned by planners, designers or Disneyland architects are what the Seattle waterfront still and always needs.

    The fact is, the raised viaduct can be rebuilt at an affordable price. It puts traffic up high, with nice views to the west, and allows the waterfront to work. Work = commerce.

    If Seattle becomes fluffyville, it will need a new name, for Seattle is to honorable of a name.

    Posted Wed, Mar 12, 3:25 p.m. Inappropriate

    I can't wait for the new waterfront park to be built, although I wish it had more to offer downtown residents. So far the design seems almost exclusively focused on visitors.


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