by Jennifer Cho
Location: Beneath the University Bridge off 40th, along the Burke-Gilman Trail
On the western side of the University of Washington campus, the Burke-Gilman Trail passes just beneath the University Bridge before continuing west. This small pocket of leftover space, commonly referred to as the Wall of Death, was predominantly conceived as an overlapping of vehicular and pedestrian circulation; however, the space offers a multitude of public amenities. Despite its proximity to heavy traffic, the intersection is protected from the adjacent roads by a shift in elevation and sheltered from weather by the bridge overhead. The acoustical properties of the space make it suitable even for band practice. Lining either side of the trail are wild blackberry bushes that generally attract attention from local residents with sun-ripened berries. Opposite the large art installation is an inclined concrete plane used as a skate ramp in the summer. At the top of the ramp, several rows of concrete blocks allow for informal public seating and at night, this section offers the homeless a sheltered, flat place to sleep. As an example of micro-urbanism, the hidden intersection is significant because of its successful engagement of local users and the impressive variety of services it quietly offers to the University District’s diverse population.