Yard Art?

by Kristi Park

The examination of approximately five miles of the Wallingford, Phinney Ridge and Fremont neighborhoods in search of yard art; began as a self-seeking topic choice to cheer myself up on a gloomy and economically depressing day in Seattle, Washington. Over the course of the previous few weeks, I had begun noticing yard art in the front yards of single family homes and realized that I often smiled to myself upon seeing it. How can you not smile upon seeing little gnomes, spinning pinwheels, elaborate homemade sculptures and a rotting boot filled with moss? As I began to actually study yard art, the topic moved from beyond simple entertainment into a fascinating exploration of many different ideas. Why do people display yard art in their front yards? Why is it facing towards the street and not meant to be viewed from inside? Where does the private property begin and public end in a visual sense when the traditional front yard is very visually accessible to the public? Are these tiny pieces of art important in to urban environment?
Defining a small aggregate’s contribution to the greater concept of urbanity is a personal reflection, thus there are no absolute answers to my aforementioned questions. However, it makes me pause and wonder as our society moves in the direction of exterminating the opportunity for the public viewing of vernacular art through the development of secured housing, planned communities, funding for public art budget cuts and generic architecture; maybe not only is yard art important, but the broader concept of the individual’s ability to influence the urban environment and the public’ could be very important, even if it is simply by placing a tiny ceramic duck in a front yard.

Everday Pedestrian: Lake Union Waterfront

Vanessa Nevers

The western shore of Seattle’s Lake Union holds a variety of experiences for the pedestrian adventurer. However, it is the type of place that one would not ordinarily consider exploring. The path running from the South Lake Union Development to the Fremont neighborhood runs between a continuous parking lot and a string of private marinas and boating related shops and services. Alongside the parking lot is Westlake Avenue, a busy road popular with commuters. There is also a fair amount of development in the area with many of the buildings under construction or slated for demolition. All of these elements blend together creating a varied and layered experience that is completely unexceptional, yet full of possibility. When moving at a pedestrian pace it is possible to perceive the variety of emotions and memories triggered by even the most mundane of elements within the environment. Taking the time to examine how we perceive our urban environment allows us to gain a better understanding of the cities we live in and of ourselves. A closer examination of the Lake Union pedestrian experience reveals that ordinary places often hold the most meaning and are most worth exploring on foot.

Boba Square

Wuttiporn Taksinvarajarn

An object can be viewed differently from different angles. Everyday activities might dictate different approaches in their meaning corresponding to different societies. Repeated experiences between urban residents and ordinary routines could reveal spatial, social, and aesthetic meaning of the society. Different strategies and tactics which are used to sell Bubble tea reflect the society’s characteristic. In Taiwan, most of bubble teashops are a stand-shop, open only through the window. This type of arrangement is to fit with the rushing society and the limited of space in Taiwan. In Thailand, popularity has decreased the form of bubble teashops from a hang out café to a street cart. This is because the bubble tea is very similar to Thai drinks and also the big bubble tea franchise companies could not compete with the local street sellers who offered a triple cheaper price for Thai drinks and bubble tea drinks. In Seattle’s University District, with four factors, Mee Sum Pastry and Bubble tea shops have become a public space for international students especially Taiwanese. The first factor is the abrupt changes of everyday activities such as an immigration issue. International students seek a place that is familiar to where they are from and create it as their own space. The second factor is the characteristic of the University District as a temporary space allowing the space to have different meaning depending on who is there. The third factor is the important role of commodity that develops the public space in the form of privatized space. Last, the acceptance and appreciation of Americans toward the taste of bubble tea allows bubble tea shops to survive in American society.

Revolution Taco Truck

Monica Thompson

Bright, colorful, bizarre, functional, inviting… all adjectives we can use to describe the taco truck. Despite modernity, capitalism, or technology, the taco truck is still widely used as an element of ‘mobile architecture’. El Camion fills a food niche not otherwise addressed by the surrounding establishments: good food for low fares in a space that offers a certain freedom from the normal indoor operated or sit-down experience.
El Camion, a taco truck in north Seattle, (11728 Aurora Avenue North) discreetly offers the chance to feel something, and perhaps to share the feeling with someone else. . In our area where street food is often scarce, buying something from the taco truck becomes an exciting moment. This taco truck resides in a parking lot designated for a nearby tobacco store and mini-mart, but have essentially changed the appropriated private space into a dynamic, economic, social node for its customers.
A wonderful consequence of this taco truck is great flexibility and the availability to various social-demographic groups, as it attracts people from different social classes and age groups. There is now a relationship between El Camion, the site where it is located, and the patrons. Join in a salute to the taco truck. Join in what could be Seattle’s street food revolution. Taco trucks can offer some of the most gloriously energetic food in the City of Seattle.

Pike Place Market in the Context of Everyday Urbanism

Yannah Wijaya

“A city is more than a place in space; it is a drama in time.” – Patrick Geddes

Our trivial, daily, seemingly mundane acts constitute urbanism; a way of living striving in a city. Here, it is not necessarily a city literally but a place or a space that contains the act and culture of living. How can a space initiate urbanism? Or is it people that activate the space first? What can be learnt from everyday urbanism? What can we get? Taking one of the most beloved urban space in Seattle: the Pike Place Market as an example to see how the everyday urbanism takes place and what exactly the relationship between the people, the acts, and the space is.

Taco Trucks: Authentic Infiltrators

Eric Scharnhorst

Just as a batch of carnitas is cooked according to a specific recipe, certain conditions must be met in order for taco trucks to thrive. Of course, there should be a demand for tacos. There must also be a supply of parking lots, visionary entrepreneur chefs, and modified trucks.

These mobile food vendors produce and sell tacos in parking lots. Proxy to this function is the reprogramming of an urban form whose primary intent is car storage, characterized by the inhumane surplus of asphalt parking spaces. In the area it takes to park four cars, an authentic latino restaurant can operate. In doing so, an empty parking lot can be transformed into an activated dining space with newly accreted functionality.

Taqueria La Pasadita is a Seattle taco truck whose form has been accreted onto a parking lot. Two feet south of the rear bumper is the dining room, a large canvas wall-tent filled with white plastic tables and chairs. This typology is repeated throughout Seattle and King County. It represents the infiltration of an authentic program onto the ubiquitous form of the American parking lot.

más grande por favor!

Aesthetic of Repetition

Yun Mi Suh

The site that I have picked is ‘Gum Wall’ on Post Alley in Pike Place Market, Seattle. I focused on the repetition of ordinary materials in urban environment. A gum is very ordinary and banal object but a layer of gums makes powerful urban impression that attracts people. This place not only has a meaning itself as unique urban scene but also makes a performance or an event: the act of attaching gums. I observed that people enjoy the act of attaching gum on the wall, and this looked a kind of a performance of urban vernacular. I could find the evidence that some people came several times to finish their art and enjoyed the performance. This performance repeated thousands times and made a spatial form in urban area which create other activities. Also, old gums and fresh gums consisted the wall together and made a history. The layer of gum is a visible process how space is created and activated by people and time. From this idea and concept I found more similar urban scenes and then I put a gum on the wall.

Everyday Landscape in Cal Anderson and Thomas Street Park

Min Koh

Placed in the densely populated area of Capitol Hill, Cal Anderson Park and Thomas Street Park provide good get-away spaces to the surrounding neighbors. Although two parks place in the same neighborhood of the Capitol Hill, they have many differences. Cal Anderson Park is a large park that placed between Denny Way and Pine Street with 11th AVE on the West, and a block away from Broadway to the East. Because of its location surrounded by busy streets and Seattle Central Community College, Cal Anderson is open to large number of floating populations. The park is also well organized with different activity areas for the users and neighbors: play area, public restrooms, water feature, soccer and baseball, and outdoor tennis courts with lights. Unlike Cal Anderson, which is 7.37 acre wide, Thomas Street Park is only 0.25 acre small site that located on the corner of Thomas Street and Bellevue Way. Not much program due to its small size, hilled grass area with one bench is all. Since two parks are only few blocks away from each other and take about 7 minutes of walking, I thought those two parks will make a good comparison to each other about who are the users? What kinds of activities are they looking for and happening on two different parks?

Jiffy Lube / Day Care: Made in Seattle

Alex Tulinsky

The building sits on 25th Avenue N.E. adjacent to U Village, amid a typical American automobile-oriented “strip” landscape. Not a preconceived design, this building is an urban aggregation. At street level, a Jiffy Lube oil-change shop; underneath, a bilingual day-care preschool.

The unusual platform-like structure has an expansive parking lot on top, level with 25th Ave. N.E., convenient for the high-traffic Jiffy Lube. Toward the east the ground falls away, so that the rear of the structure frames a one-story facade facing the opposite direction of the Jiffy Lube. This space houses the day-care center. This is aggregation at a large scale: two quite different structures and two quite different programs.

Another, smaller scale of aggregation is also present. At the Jiffy Lube, a covered work area has been added in the parking lot to the north of the building. Note the oil extraction device standing ready. At the school, a play area was carved out of the adjacent parking lot and fenced in. The fence was lined with plastic material at the eye-level of a pre-schooler, in an attractive geometric pattern, to block the distracting view out.

Olympic sculpture park: A museum masquerading as Public Space?

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Jason Hutto

The Olympic Sculpture Park, nine acres of Elliott Bay shorefront property dedicated to the public display, appreciation, and enjoyment of sculpture in an outdoor setting, opened to the public on January 20, 2007. The three distinct parcels of land consisting of a former fuel storage and transfer facility for Union of California (UNOCAL) presented the designer’s challenges of site contamination, remediation, and integration. The stated objectives of lead designers, Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, were to “create a sculpture park at the intersection of the city and the sound, defining a new model for bringing art to the public and the public to the park (“Design”) and to “embrace the city’s energy and create collaboration between art, landscape, architecture and infrastructure” (“Design Team”). Their intent was to seamlessly bring together both landscape and design, to “transport art outside the museum walls and bring the park into a landscape of the city… implicitly questioning where the art begins and where it ends” (“Design Team”). The fundamental aspect of the park is its attempts to establish connections between all parts, weaving an urban fabric of life, landscape, infrastructure, and art. Does it successfully achieve these aspirations? Is it a museum masquerading as a public space? Does the designs strict adherence to spaces that are large permanent and formal compromise the attempts to effectively integrating the all components of aggregate urbanism? I encourage all to dissect the components of this aggregate landscape in search for the answers.

King Street Sidewalk Embellishments and Blemishes


Spencer Drown

These photos document a walk that I took in the Chinatown/International District of Seattle on an overcast January morning. All the photos were taken on or just off of King Street and all within the space of half an hour. I wanted to focus specifically on the sidewalks of the area and examine the embellishments or blemishes that have been added to them.
Many of these additions to the sidewalks are minor and ephemeral. Some of the more ephemeral items would be the transient’s belongings in the shopping cart, the flowers for sale outside a shop, and the advertisements for condos in Hong Kong. Some of these, the transient’s cart or the parking official’s bike, will be gone in a minute or a day. Others, such as the flowers, may be a daily recurring theme. The fact that they are temporal however does not make them any less important than the more permanent parts of King Street. In fact they might represent urban aspects or issues that are more important.
The permanent additions to the King Street sidewalks are the phone booth (perhaps not permanent for very long in this age of cell phones), the hanging lanterns, and the golden lions. These elements often appear more formal and decorative. They serve as visual reminders to the culture of the neighborhood. They also serve to draw people into the businesses next to them. Their presence also reinforces the role of King Street as an important artery in the city. This is not a marginal space.
Some of these images tell me that King Street might need more bicycle parking so that people don’t have to chain their bikes to the telephone poles. Or that there needs to be more trashcans or street cleaning. Or that the city needs to consolidate the various newspaper vending machines into a more formal, organized unit like they do in other neighborhoods in the city. Every image tells me something.

Parking at Westlake Plaza

Daniel Jeon
The site I have chosen to study is in middle of downtown, Seattle where lots of retail shops are cluster together. It is located near 4th Ave and Pine St and also known as Westlake Plaza. I focused on the urban streets around the site and attempt to gain knowledge of individual’s behavior with how they deal with parking. Westlake Plaza is surrounded by big enclosed retail pavilion such as Westlake Center, Nordstrom, Macy’s, and other small shops. Therefore, it is not wrong to say, site is busy from morning to evening. It is also a place where lots of diverse group of people show up for different reasons. Shoppers and tourists tend to dominate the streets. It is easy to spot homeless people, workers from near offices, group of teenagers, people protesting as well. In driver’s point of view, the site is in between Seattle Center, Pioneer Square, International district, and Capitol Hill. People who come to Westlake plaza specifically and people who are going through the site in order to get to near destination collide and makes an even busier road. This urban space is compacted and highly dense place. It has lots of energy and movement all around the area which could be a bit problem for people who are looking for parking.

Reflection-Scape as An Agent Portraying Aggregate Urbanism

by meng cai

Harrison St. & Fairview N, South Lake Union, Seattle, WA

Westlake Center, Downtown Seattle, WA

From a fragmented scene reflected on two rows of huge glass panels on a red-brick-patterned building facade, to part of a golden-grown building top mirrored in a small plot of padded water on a sewer cover, whether it is spectacular, romantic, chaotic, tragic, distorted, or depressed, each image tells a story of how urban space is experienced through an accumulation of pieces, sections, and portions that come across on purpose or just by accidents.

This photographic documentation include photos taken at South Lake Union neighborhood and around the streets at Westlake Center, Downtown Seattle in a clear afternoon in January 2009. These images captured trivial aspects ephemerally reflected on the surfaces in urban spaces, a collection of various frozen moments revealing daily urban life that add up to the aggregate urbanism. 

The installation of glass, polished granite, and other reflective materials in urban constructions and the manufacture of vehicles enables reflection to generate interesting textures on the surfaces of objects and dramatically reveal unusual scenes in urban landscape. These temporary frozen moments are constant changing, but these images are also somehow repeating cyclically in days, weeks, months, and years.

As the parts of the entire urban life is revealed in separate “pieces of mirror”, the trace of everyone’s individual life is reflected on the polished surfaces we passed by. These reflective surfaces blend and blur the boundaries of reality and imagination, which metaphorically indicates that the the aggregate urbanism is a sum of individual micro urbanism. If we see the the agglomeration of each pieces of images as aggregate urban landscape, the individual traces that each one of us left is therefore constitute the aggregate urbanism.

under the bridge - connor mccoy

The sites I selected for this class were those spaces beneath bridges which had been appropriated by people for a variety of uses. This was inspired by the “Wall of Death” along the Burke Gilman Trail beneath the University Bridge but quickly expanded into many other local sites including the Fremont Troll, Colonnade Park in the Eastlake, Wave Rave Cave on Elliott Street and the North and South Passage Point Parks along the Montlake Cut.
Bridges are usually dominant structures, built to get people from point A to point B. They require huge amounts of planning, construction and man power. These sites show the diverse uses which can spring forth from otherwise neglected and leftover space. From traditional parks in unlikely settings to public art and even a mountain bike course in the heart of a city, the spaces beneath bridges are a diverse and important part of urban life.
The sites I selected for this class were those spaces beneath bridges which had been appropriated by people for a variety of uses. This was inspired by the “Wall of Death” along the Burke Gilman Trail beneath the University Bridge but quickly expanded into many other local sites including the Fremont Troll, Colonnade Park in the Eastlake, Wave Rave Cave on Elliott Street and the North and South Passage Point Parks along the Montlake Cut.
Bridges are usually dominant structures, built to get people from point A to point B. They require huge amounts of planning, construction and man power. These sites show the diverse uses which can spring forth from otherwise neglected and leftover space. From traditional parks in unlikely settings to public art and even a mountain bike course in the heart of a city, the spaces beneath bridges are a diverse and important part of urban life.

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Brian Monwai

The pace of movement in contemporary urban life at times runs quickly, at other times slowly. We spend a lot of time hurrying from place to place -- whether by car, by bicycle, or on foot. Sometimes we find ourselves standing still against a backdrop of people rushing by.

The direction of movement can travel in parallel lines as in a freeway, in the overlapping, criss-crossing layers of an overpass, or in a randomly dissipating cloud like smoke from a smokestack. People – strangers and friends -- form an aggregate by coming together intentionally or unintentionally, with similar or dissimilar destinations when they depart. Signage may attempt to direct the flow of movement, but most of the everyday urban movement remains uncontrolled.

The Montlake area of Seattle is a hub of variegated patterns of movement. Bus riders, automobiles, gymnasts and their fans, and bicyclists are a sampling of agents in motion. Not shown are the myriad float-planes, automobile exhaust plumes, buses, crows, and joggers that form the dynamic texture of Montlake.

This project was also an experiment at methods of capturing a sense of movement with still pictures. Notes: while the panhandler and speed limit/your speed pictures were not taken at Montlake, they helped illustrate the nuances of urban movement. The pictures in the photo mosaic were also taken from the expanded Seattle area. The mosaic was assembled with AndreaMosaic software.

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