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Central Waterfront – The Lead Design Winner & Why

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


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.

What Happened at the Waterfront: The Final Four Presentations

September 16, 2010 by  
Filed under Belltown, Featured, Waterfront, West Edge


Seattle civic involvement was alive and well on Wednesday evening, September 15th when an audience of  1,200+ filled the main floor of Benaroya Hall’s S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium and overflowed into the Founders tier level. All were gathered to listen to the presentations of the final four candidates in the running for Lead Designer of Seattle’s Central Waterfront . Their goal was to present, in 20 minutes, their vision of transforming what will be 20 acres of public lands into “a waterfront for the ages—a place for all to come together and enjoy the waterfront now and beyond” as expressed by moderator Daniel Friedman, Dean of the University of Washington’s College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

We have supplied weblinks for each company, and here’s what they had to say, in speaking order:

Wallace Roberts & Todd – Ignacio Bunster-Ossa, Principal, led the presentation.  WRT created a new waterfront, revitalizing seven miles of the Delaware River, in its hometown of Philadelphia .  Their goal is to bring water into the city, bring the city to the water, and create a heart of the city reflecting the vibrancy of Seattle.  They bring a concept of “What has been, What is, What if, and What will be” to the project and visualize the Waterfront as “an open book written over time”.

james corner field operations – James Corner led the presentation.  Most renowned for designing High Line, an urban park set on top of an old railroad structure in New York. A number of Seattle consultants are involved. They refer to the Waterfront as Seattle’s front porch, and their well-done visual presentation outlined their goals for Green Urbanism, Early Wins (start changing the Waterfront NOW), and Public Engagement.

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates –Michael Van Valkenburgh led the presentation.  Designed Brooklyn Bridge Park, which will cover 85 acres and 1.3 miles of waterfront. On their team is architect and former Seattle councilman Peter Steinbrueck.  Their goal is to integrate concepts of “Civic, Boundless, Natural and Urban”. They presented their historical research on the Waterfront and were the only ones to really hone in on fiscal feasibility… they ensure the plan we’ll have is a plan we can maintain.

Gustafson Guthrie Nichol –Shannon Nichol led the presentation. Designed Lurie Garden in Chicago’s Millennium Park, but they were the only ones with a global project map, and the only ones who ran through an extensive array of past projects. Their concept is: “The City on the water, with a Bay as its central point and an entire Downtown as its Waterfront”. They were the only ones to mention the earthquake factor.  As the sole finalist headquartered in Seattle, they received a very warm reception.

A decision is expected shortly and we’ll bring it to you when it’s made. If you’d like to follow the news and the current chatter on the project, link onto
or  “#seattlewaterfront” on Twitter hashtag. 

To watch the presentations for yourself, below is a Powerpoint link to them, plus a link to raw video footage from the Seattle Channel.

PowerPoint Presentations:

Video Footage:

Your Chance to Weigh in on the Central Waterfront

September 9, 2010 by  
Filed under Belltown, West Edge


From a field of 30 applications, the City of Seattle has narrowed the list of lead designers for the Central Waterfront to four firms.  All of them have strong experience nationally and globally, a deep pool of designer expertise, and multiple design awards. We’ve provided links to their websites so you can check them out. They are:

Gustafson Guthrie Nichol – Based in Seattle with an office in London, GGN was founded by partners Kathryn Gustafson, Jennifer Guthrie, and Shannon Nichol. 

james corner field operations – Based in New York and founded by James Corner.

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates – Based in Brooklyn, NY with an office in Cambridge, MA and founded by Michael Van Valkenburgh.

Wallace Roberts & Todd – Based in Philadelphia, with seven offices nationwide. Founded by David A. Wallace, William Roberts and Thomas Todd (fka Wallace McHarg Roberts & Todd).

The winning team will lead the designing of over nine acres of new Central Waterfront public space and a new surface street on Alaskan Way. Design work begins in October and will run until 2015, with construction scheduled from 2016 to 2018.

Want to see what these firms have in mind, ask questions, and weigh in on your top pick?  Public presentations are scheduled for Wednesday, September 15 at Benaroya Hall’s S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium (200 University Street, Seattle) from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. All four firms will present their credentials, explain their approach to this project, and answer questions from the public. The City will select the lead designer shortly after this event, in part based on the quality of these presentations and their ability to engage the crowd.

Can’t make it to Presentation Night?  The Stroupe Group website will keep you informed on the winner!



Engineers to Begin Surveying 300 Buildings as Precaution to Viaduct Tunnel Boring

July 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Downtown (MLS Area 701), Featured

Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has already begun pre-construction work for the underground viaduct this month, and will now be doing surveys on an approximate 300 buildings to avoid any adverse affects during construction. During this time, above-ground conditions will also be noted for assisting the contractor to design the tunnel-boring machine.

The surveys will be used to determine how much settlement or horizontal movement could occur during the construction of the tunnel, then used to recommend assessments to prevent damage. Apparently WSDOT will be drafting reports over the next several weeks, but final proposals are not scheduled to be issued until next March. Engineers will be meeting with building managers to get information about the building, then taking visual surveys, notes, and taking photos. Therefore, there will more than likely be no disturbances.

There’s still a couple years before the boring machine begins to drill. WSDOT doesn’t expect boring to start until 2012 where they will start near the stadiums, then exit north of the Battery Street Tunnel by 2013. Here’s an animated video of what the new viaduct will be like as if you were driving north, then there’s a flyover of Alaskan Way coming back South:

We imagine that the biggest concern is if the tunnel boring machine will cause any damage to buildings. The best response WSDOT has at this time is that they will be “taking precautions to mitigate [the] potential impacts.” There are also concerns about settlement. However, Seattle has already had successful ground excavations and there’s some familiarity with the soil.

The ground conditions along the proposed tunnel route include soft soils at the tunnel’s southern entrance, then hard and dense glacier-deposited soils for the remainder of the alignment and at the north entrance. Numerous tunnel projects in Seattle, such as the BNSF rail tunnel and Metro’s transit tunnel, have successfully excavated ground conditions similar to those anticipated for the SR 99 bored tunnel.

WSDOT has also provided an interactive Google Map that shows the location and schedule for each geotechnical drilling.

View Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement Program in a larger map

New Plans for Viaduct

March 15, 2008 by  
Filed under MISC

viaduct corridorI’ve wondered what happened to all the press regarding progress on solving the viaduct problem. The city voted on two proposals for the viaduct last year and both were rejected. With the price of oil skyrocketing, it’s difficult to support money spent on enhancing roadways for motor vehicles. However, our first goal is to convince more future buyers who work and play downtown to pull up their britches and create some movement. Anyhow, here was an interesting excerpt from today’s Seattle Times article.

The new plan would tap Mercer-area landowners for $36 million in money or streetside property. The Spokane Street budget includes $50 million in state Alaskan Way Viaduct funds earmarked for traffic relief. More bonds would be sold, cash would be diverted from a project at South Lander Street and utility funds would be spent to bury lines underground at Mercer.

The Alaskan Way Viaduct will be closed March 22-23, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, for its semiannual inspection. The Battery Street Tunnel will remain closed overnight. During this closure, on Saturday, March 22, we will hold short walking tours of the viaduct. Visit Public Events for RSVP information.