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.

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