by Mac Lanphere
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.