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Central Waterfront – The Lead Design Winner & Why

September 24, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured, Waterfront, Waterfront/Piers

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From an initial field of 30 companies, the City of Seattle announced on September 21 that the award-winning firm of  james corner field operations will serve as the lead designer over 20 acres of public lands for Seattle’s new Central Waterfront. Whittled down to a field of four, they made their pitches for the project at Benaroya Hall on September 15. We were in a crowd of nearly 1,300 and watched founder James Corner lead the presentation for his group.

Although the firm is based in New York, Corner is a native of Manchester, England. He made comparisons of the work heritage of the Seattle piers to those in Manchester, making an immediate connection that he understood the heart of both. They also presented a video clip where they interviewed people at the piers, asking them for their vision of what they’d like to have done at the waterfront. It was an interesting bit because it was hard to hear the responses with the viaduct  traffic noise in the background, but perhaps it also served to reinforce another reason why the structure needs to come down.  A compelling visual presentation drawing the audience’s imagination towards the possibilities of what the marriage of a working waterfront with an urban space, or as he referred to it, “Seattle’s Front Porch” completed their time on stage, and they ended to a hearty round of applause.

Founded by James Corner in 1998, james corner field operations is a leading-edge landscape architecture/urban design practice known for strong contemporary design across many project lines. Its signature project to date is the High Line in New York City. Formerly an old elevated railroad track on Manhattan’s West Site, it was transformed into 1 ½ miles of grass, trees, benches and pathways. The project won the firm the 2010 National Design Award for landscape design and the American Society of Landscape Architects 2010 Honor Award.

The firm will work with the Central Waterfront Partnerships Committee and there will be plenty of interaction involving public outreach and meetings. Design work begins in October, with a conceptual plan to be finished in  2012. A final design will be decided by 2015, with construction scheduled from 2016 to 2018. Four of their eleven design team partners are based in Seattle and they are:  Mithun, The Berger Partnership, Herrera, and Jason Toft.  We’ll stay in touch as the project develops.

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