Westlake Plaza – a well functioning public space?

Merit Lesta

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Located in downtown Seattle, Westlake Plaza is one of the places where different paths and travel directions intersect. It is also a place where the Christmas tree is located annually and most everybody takes their friends when visiting Seattle. According to these and some other characteristics, Westlake Plaza can be classified as “the grand public place”, according to Clare Cooper Marcus and Carolyn Francis.
Westlake plaza offers an open space for people to gather or meet their friends. Its function changes over different seasons as well as during different days. It hosts a carousel during Christmas and serves as a great brown bag lunch place during warmer seasons. It is a place for people to gather during different events – for parades as well as for different meetings. It doesn’t offer an escape from city life – on the contrary, it is a place where one can observe and enjoy busy life between buildings.
Seemingly well functioning and centrally located in the city center the following questions raised in my thoughts: Is this plaza as alive and well functioning public place as it could be? Could it serve better its current users and possibly attract more people?
From the analysis that I have conducted, it can be concluded that the Westlake Plaza has many advantages to function well and satisfy the needs of its users. Though the plaza works the way it currently is, there are a few things that could be improved to better the atmosphere of the plaza and bring the area more alive. Things like bringing different restaurants on the edge of the plaza and using movable street furniture can increase the use of the site as well as have a positive impact on currently present homeless people. These are just a few conclusions that can be drawn from short term observations and brief analysis of the site.

1 comment:

  1. As Holly Whyte observed in, "The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces", plazas like this one do benefit from movable furniture and a high ratio of seating spaces to square footage. This plaze is certainly lacking in both of those areas. As an office worker in the tower at 1501 4th Ave who likes to sit in the sunshine to read during lunch, I've often found no place to sit because the granite monoliths there are already occupied by a few people or other groups. It takes only a small group of loudly interacting poeple to dominate a sitting area intended for many more.

    However, when the space is used for organized events, such as the Friday concerts, it works very well. Its open spaces allow for congreations of onlookers, and a continuous flow of shoppers or office workers on their way home to pass by without interruption.