Urban Balconies

by Mac Lanphere

Location: various.

Over the quarter I have developed a case study of urban balconies on residential multi-story buildings. These spaces are truly micro-urban, serving a variety of functions both preconceived and unintended. Above eye level for the pedestrian, these spaces can easily be overlooked, and so should serve as a valuable addition to the “Guidebook for Seattle Micro-Urbanism.”

The attached photographs of balconies taken throughout winter quarter are from the dense Seattle neighborhoods of Capitol Hill, Queen Anne, Rainier Valley and Magnolia. The cold weather makes these drafty perches somewhat less hospitable, and the photos do not show residents out enjoying these amenities. But in the attached essay I will explore, with help from the course readings, the possibilities and limits of these spaces.

Like the middle-class suburban garage, some balconies tend to pile up with outdoor gear. Many have potted plants, providing a bit of nature high above the asphalt roads and concrete sidewalks below. They often feel cramped, as if the developer or architect simply checked off “balcony” on the list of accoutrements necessary for speedy sale or rental of units. But the balcony offers the city resident a retreat from the urban environment––a place where individuality and identity can be restored and even expressed.

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1 Response to “Urban Balconies”


  1. 1 HavenMaven January 31, 2010 at 6:24 am

    Hey Mac!

    I’m in Portland now and reading your excerpt/viewing the pics instantly transported me back to the days when I spent much time traversing the hills of Seattle via bus when I last lived there. I used to stare up at those same balconies and wonder about their designers AND occupants…

    Fun that you are/were paying attention to those details/ideas as well. Equally happy that you seem to have found the work you love in life, mainly architecture.

    I’m finishing my BFA in Interior Design right now and loving every minute of it!

    Wishing you the best!
    Darci Shaver


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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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