Smoking Ban Activates the Urban Landscape

by Riisa Conklin

Location: various

#1. Beacon Pub

#2. Maharaja

#3. Finn MacCool’s

#4. Cha Cha Lounge

#5. The Bus Stop

#6. Alley Behind Atlas Clothing

#7. Linda’s

#8. The Wild Rose

Seattle’s nighttime personality has dramatically changed since the smoking ban of 2005. It quite literally pushed people out of their interior hideaways and onto the city streets. The places for movement in, out and along are now becoming places where people stop, stay and socialize.

Initiative 901 passed overwhelmingly in November 2005, requiring Seattle’s public places and workplaces to be entirely smoke free. The law also prohibits smoking within 25 feet of the doorways, windows and air intakes of these protected places. The implications of this new law are particularly interesting in terms of how it has manifested itself in the urban landscape, immediately transforming the sidewalks, alleys and otherwise static places into a new active terrain.

Some business owners have responded to the ban with new amenities for their smoking clientele. For example, in an effort to offer a sense of comfort for the smokers, the Stumbling Monk on E. Olive Way provides moveable seating and ashtrays on its sidewalk. Some businesses have even built exterior structures that extend 25 feet from their back door complete with landscaping and heat lamps like Linda’s on E Pine and The Beacon Hill Pub on Beacon Ave. S.

I documented smokers in the Capitol Hill and University District and Downtown neighborhoods on both weekday and weekend nights who, despite their grumblings of the ban, generally agreed that they run into more people and engage in more conversations due to the change.

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Micro Urbanism

The term “micro-urbanism” describes small-scale urban spaces and design interventions that enable a wide variety of activities, events, processes and functions to take place. It also involves ways to reinterpret the urban landscape. As a class project, the purpose for creating this Guide is to bring attention to aspects of our everyday environment that are important but often neglected parts of the urban experiences.

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