This Urban Intervention conceives a fresh vision of environmental, social and economic opportunities on a beyond a 35000m² site at the heart of Seattle Center.
The objective was designing ideas that should harness Seattle’s history of innovation and civic interaction to meet the challenges of the future.
The project [In]Closure main characteristics points are the proposal of a replicable system that can grow and evolve. The not equating innovation solely with technology and recognizing that ecological resilience comes from the community itself.
The Public Space is considered that has to be done with respect to the history of the city and its identity, along with its inevitable transformation. By working on the perimeter of the space, avoiding material and energy wastes, they aim at accurately framing the area. This constitutes the starting point of the project.
The result is a space where centrism and peaceful urban atmosphere doesn’t rhyme with “disconnection” or “negation of a surrounding” but reverence, experience and gestation of innovative ideas. The project acts like an urban attractor.
[In]Closure is located in the city of Seattle, USA.
Seattle is a coastal seaport city in the state of Washington, it’s the largest city in the Pacific Northwest region of North America and one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States with an estimated 634,535 residents as of 2012.
With a total area of 135 square km, Seattle lies in the geographical co-ordinates of 47.4 North latitude and 122.2 West longitude.
Seattle’s climate is usually described as oceanic, dry-summer oceanic, or temperate marine, with cool wet winters and warm relatively dry summers.
Regarding its organization in neighborhoods, Seattle can be called “a city of neighborhoods” It has several urban centers, defined as “designated planning districts intended to provide a mix of housing, employment and commercial and cultural amenities in a compact form that supports transit, walking and cycling.”
Unlike many other American cities, the center of economic and social activity in Seattle gravitates toward the downtown core, with the main shopping district running from east to west.
Panorama of Seattle as seen from the Space Needle: a nearly 360-degree view that includes (from left) Puget Sound, Queen Anne Hill, Lake Union, Capitol Hill, downtown Seattle, Elliott Bay, and West Seattle
Situation and environment
The 35000m² plot where [In]Closure is developed is located in the heart of the Seattle Center in the neighborhood of Lower Queen Anne also known as Uptown; which refers to the shopping, office, and residential district.
The Seattle Center was originally built for the 1962 World’s Fair, 30ha as a park, arts, and entertainment center, in many ways as Seattle’s cultural heart. Its landmark feature is the 605-foot tall Space Needle, a now-iconic building that was, at its completion, the tallest building west of the Mississippi River.
Nowadays it’s home to 30 of the region’s top cultural, arts, educational and sports organizations.
Population groups involved
Characteristics of Seattle Center Visitors
Seattle Center had 4.6 million visitors in the year 2005. These people spent $396 million in relation to their visits to Seattle Center. Seattle Center is also home to many non- profit and for-profit businesses, who had revenue from their business activity of $313 million in the year 2005.
A typical group of visitors to Seattle Center was composed of two or three people. Over 90% of them made their visit to Seattle primarily to visit Seattle Center. They are roughly evenly split between men and women, and encompass all age categories. They are primarily working full-time or are self-employed, but include retired people, those not working, students, and other classes of people.
Age of visitors to Seattle Center had a mean age in their thirties but all ages are found. Arts and sports patrons are somewhat older on average, while those at other venues were typically somewhat younger than the average. People surveyed were generally well educated, with over 43% having at least a bachelor’s degree, and 69% having at least some college. The ethnicity of those interviewed is reported indicates that most of those attending all categories of Seattle Center activities are Caucasian.
Seattle Center Visitor Activities
Seattle Center visitors typically engage in more than one activity on their visits to Seattle Center. The average visitor engages in 2.6 types of activity on their Seattle Center visit, typically an admission to an event such as a sports event, arts event, or an attraction or museum. In addition, they frequently engage in dining or shopping, enjoy Seattle Center grounds, and may visit a festal. Seattle Center patrons’ frequency of use of Seattle Center varies significantly by their region of origin. Non-local visitors typically come to Seattle Center once a year, while local residents typically visit half a dozen times. Some people come to Seattle Center everyday. Most Seattle Center visitors come to ticketed sports and arts events, as well as free arts events and festivals annually, but their frequency of attendance is highly variable. Most people stay at Seattle Center for between two and eight hours on their typical visit.
Social issues and controversies
At the time when Seattle wonders what course to follow for a lasting transformation on public spaces, the [in]-closure project puts itself as the mainspring of the urban revival for the next five decades.
“Slow decision-making processes increased by fast practice changes and modern means of communication as globalized dematerialization implies that, nowadays, traditional urban planning methods are reaching the limit, You can plan an urban project; it will be obsolete even before seeing the light”. How can we thus produce such a dematerialized urbanism? A contemporary and future urbanism, flexible enough to be immediate, distortable, as well as embracing different living- in-harmony modes and new constraints in the long run. At the same time, a dematerialized urbanism must be strongly characterized so that everyone can adapt to it, in this everyday life in continuous motion.
Encouraged by the acknowledgment, they choose humility to intervene. They offer to keep this natural and unique area in the heart of the city as a legacy to the following generations and an economic, social and environmental experimentation field for the next five decades.
The competition was funded by the Grousemont Foundation. It honors long-term civic leader Howard S. Wright, who took a simple sketch on a napkin and created a landmark building known around the world, the icon of Seattle, the Space Needle.
Firstly, as already advanced the responsible for carrying out this are Seattle Center and Seattle Center Foundation / The Next Fifty.
Also, AIA Seattle is involved; it is a not-for-profit professional association of architects and allied professionals. AIA Seattle is committed to excellence in architecture and service to the public.
Architects of the proposal, The ABF team which consists of Etienne Feher, architect; Paul Azzopardi, urban engineer; and Noé Basch, climate engineer.
Citizens are agents involved too, as they are part of the final term of construction on the site, to them belong the final shape of the project.
The design ideas were informed, but not governed by the 2008 Seattle Center master plan and its conceptual programming ideas for the Memorial Stadium site.
In February 2012, the Jury selected three semi-finalists, these proposals offered a compelling range of ideas about the future of place as a social, physical, and ecological construct.
The Jury made both specific and overall suggestions to the semi-finalist teams in their initial Jury Report following the February jury, noting that each of the three projects should be developed to demonstrate a stronger connection to the site. A key opportunity to respond to this recommendation came with the “learning visits” to Seattle in April 2012, when each team toured the site and neighborhood, and met with experts and stakeholders from the community, Seattle Center, and the city.
In May 2012, the Jury attended the public presentations. The next day, they had the opportunity to interview each team, after which they deliberated and selected the first prizewinner. The key themes of the competition – design to innovate, build an ecologically resilient city, renew the cultural campus, generate dialogue, and be a change agent – remained the critical reference for the evaluation.
More than an urban “product”, the In-closure Project stands as a process, a long run process with a low ecological footprint, different from urban planning. They here claim a modular, distortable, improvable, interchangeable urbanism.
All the community members will be able to take part in it. More than a community life with its community centers, they propose a “made by me” project, partly built by the inhabitants themselves: one can help planting the cedar forest or constructing the event boxes – drawing up their front design, thinking about their function. This is the way to create an openly admitted project, which everyone can feel as its own, strengthening the sense of neighborhood they already detected within the Seattle Center.
This type of urban development could as well become a springboard for innovative economic configurations, in which local authorities and private enterprises could play a role together with the community. Let’s then imagine all kinds of economic sets-up, from concessions, public-private partnerships to common conception-construction-running or microleases.
The project’s innovation also resides in its capacity to put together, in a very same place, a vast number of different programs, such as cultural, artistic, sports, catering, social events, etc.
Development strategic: Generate a dialog
Dialog between the project and its construction site, just by acting in the perimeter could have created an environment too introvert. That’s why the access and gaps are minutely tuned in order to allow spatial and visual porosity and permitting the connection and linking to the surrounding, everything taking in account the human scale.
Taking in account topographical components and playing with a minimal excavation, enable the plot be linked to de International Fountain in the East and the creation of an active front onto the street in the West.
The enclosure is conformed by modular boxes, flexible boxes that can adopt different functions. We find greenhouses that generate multiple entries situated in the North and South connections.
Kiosk-like function, which ones can be opened to the inside (inner path) or outside (street) depending on its placement, they can act as a terrace function to install small cafes or stages promoting street theater, in many ways, interlinked places.
The inner space is thought has a piece of Natural Forest in the heart of the city.
A direct visual relationship links the Forest with the Boxes and the Surrounding.
Finally, the top level for a dialog to be set lies in the relationship between people, meeting up inside the in-closure to chat, debate, take part to the community life, help, learn, play, relax, stroll, see each other again.
Environmental and economic strategy: building an ecologically resilient city
They bring practical answers to sustainable development issues.
Water cycle respect
The intervention has a natural dimension, putting great emphasis on non-artificialized spaces, acting like true regulators for the water cycle. The main part of the project then helps a storm waters retention/infiltration strategy to be introduced, while the enclosure border is conceived to collect rainwaters in order to be reused for different purposes: to water the greenhouses, for instance, covering 50% of their water needs. The remaining 50% is dispatched for “non-drinking needs”: 30% dedicated to sanitary uses and 20% dedicated to the site exploitation.
Global energy strategy and natural resources management
The energy strategy is based on three steps:
A drastic reduction of the boxes energy needs; The reduction of the boxes energy needs is guaranteed by their bioclimatic design, including a high-performance covering with reinforced thermic insulation, glass panels with reflective double-glazing and a solar control layer with low emissivity.
Efficient energy systems; The use of performing energy systems, such as decentralized ventilation systems, very low-consumpation LEDS or the Seattle Center’s heating network, will be as many levers for the energy optimization of the project. Renewable energy production. To that end, an on-the-roof technological track will be planned to produce energy, thanks to photovoltaic cells hidden beneath a natural rubber transparent membrane.
Innovative technologies to produce energy. The technologic track also includes an innovative system with its unconventional electric production: our project aims at encouraging whatever energy form to be reused, even human power. The piezoelectric system inside the technological track allows to transform a mechanical energy (i.e. the jogger’s steps) into electric energy – this elastic energy usually being lost in the form of heat.
Microclimatic comfort for outdoor areas
Quantity of qualified areas in terms of climatic atmospheres (sheltered from the wind; shade; luminous effect, etc.), representing as many cooling islands during summer and during winter, comfort is passively handled since our insulated boxes act like solar collectors.
Finally, the In-closure Project acts like an acoustic barrier against exterior noises such as road traffic. Within the in- closure, everything and everyone is at peace.
Thanks to its strategic situation in the middle of the city, the In-closure project is naturally linked to the public transportation network, including the monorail.
Cultural strategy: Renewing the cultural campus
One of the strong points in the project is that it is not built on an image or a specific appearance but on a true action: this is how they preserve the town’s identity, a natural heritage, a community.
That way of carving public space is part of a methodology and thus, can take into account a vast number of issues. By nature, it is then applicable to other sites or, in other words, replicable.
Generating a temporary lab: the In-closure.
Social strategy: Be a change agent
The mark they are intending to leave is not palpable but consist in a whole combination of shared values. With daily experimentations and resulting lessons, this changing laboratory feeds the minds and embody a mover, a catalyst for the mentalities to evolve and enable the city of Seattle to carry out its economic, social and environmental transition.
They are aiming at proposing within the In- closure several activities allowing the users to look at the world from a different angle, leaving behind their usual prism.
It is particularly careful to pass on creativity and ideas thanks to the organization of thematic workshops, events, conferences, notably on societal issues, last advances and innovations in the world. Its aim is to develop common knowledge and start a change.
Neither the [in]-closure claims to be a memorial nor an observatory at the present, but a social, economic and environmental incubator/laboratory for tomorrow. It is cut out to condense a space in the center of the city, which will be both open and closed-in, external and internal, city’s past and future.
First of all, the specific situation of the Seattle Center makes it a privileged area to show a social and environmental example. The project is given the condition of central point, generating events and experiences as the heart of the area.
One remarkable point of the project is that is developed without generating an impact where is placed. It is implemented in harmony with the surroundings and at the same time it generates its identity.
Nowadays, strong environmental constraints lead us to rethink the city in order to bring again climatic balance. So, improving on generate low environmental impact (sustainability) should be one of the most important objectives in the development on architecture and urbanism. It’s ecologic and responsible.
Another points we should learn about the project has to be with the development in a human scale, because who live and make city are the people, in addition to this point, I find very positive that the project it’s not a finish piece but the citizens take part on a participative construction.
Finally, include its dynamism, not only during the project development if not the ability to be reused for other uses when its first situation is obsolete.