Archive for the 'in-between' Category

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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The in between spaces

by Wendy Tsao Hoffman

Location: Fremont Ave N, between N 34th Ave and N 35th St.

Between the quaint stores and restaurants in Fremont lies a micro-urbanism space we all experienced before, the alleyway, a space that defines the separation of two structures. Frequently Alleyways are seen as left over space, exists only to make a physical break and where unpleasant activities like bumping waste occur. However, this small space is an important “everyday urban environment”; it contains characteristics and activities that are pertinent to our daily lives. Instead of hiding its existence, Freemont utilize the alleyway space and made it functional which in turn gives the space its own character. I explore two alleyways facing each other but separated by the Fremont St., the main road that consist most vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The alleyways are a continuation of each other due to the way blocks were grided, however, they possess very different qualities and traits due to the surrounding environment. The alley to the right of Fremont St. is located between a local Tai restaurant and the Sonic Boom record store. It is line with numerous dumpsters along the wall of the restaurant, however, Sonic Boom also use the alley way as the entrance to the annex of the record store. On the opposite side of the street, the appearance of the alley way is dramatically different then the one formerly described. Situated between Blue Sea Sushi and Starbucks, both well know enterprises, Starbucks then took the chance to turn the alley way into a pleasant space for their customers, putting chair and tables there to make it pedestrian friendly. The attempt is to compare the characteristics of the individual alleyways and further explore the possibility of creative reuses and transformation of this space in the future.

Parking Lot Patio

by Aaron Newhouse

Location: Princeton Ave NE & Sand Point Way NE

The Parking Lot Patio is a unique space that is heavily influenced by the surrounding elements, the activities that go on around it, and its location in the parking lot. There are 11 stores in its vicinity, with Gretchen’s Place and City People’s Mercantile having the biggest influence on the patio. There is also a bus stop directly adjacent patio.

The site contains a water fountain clock tower, two round tables, seven chairs, one picnic table, one double-wide flat bench, four signs, and an open faced shelter with two benches and two pin boards inside and a planter around two sides of the outside.

Initial impressions of the site were that it is aesthetically pleasing, provides some amenities, a place to sit down, and acts as a center piece for the shopping area; however, observation only verified some of those pieces. This patio was rarely used and did not function very well in its location. Pedestrians were not accommodated very well throughout the site. The patio has to potential to act as a center piece and hub; however, it only accomplished this visually and not functionally.

A Secluded Plaza: Blanchard Brick

by Aaron Luoma

Location: Blanchard Ave. between 5th & 6th Downtown Seattle, WA

This plaza is located along Blanchard Ave. between 5th and 6th in downtown Seattle. The entirely brick plaza is flanked by two large office towers. The small space faces south, but receives relatively little sun light because of the buildings and larger trees planted in some small beds. The space has several levels with stairs. A large partially disguised ventilation shaft for the underground parking below the building, dominates the front entrance into the small plaza. The two paths that lead into the space, first take one into a side entrance to the adjacent office building. To the side are some stairs that leads to a smaller, more intimate space with benches, trashcan, and ashtray. Large, over-sized floodlights turn on during the night, discouraging vagrant populations from using the space. Signs are posted disallowing certain activities, such as skateboarding. The plantings include mostly native plants, with several evergreens. Terracotta pots with plants are placed along side the building for decorative elements. Stainless steel handrails stand in contrast to the brick material used throughout the site. The obscurity of materials and isolated nature of this plaza provides little more than a break for lunch or a smoke for the office workers near by.

Alleyways: Fragmentation and Connectivity

by Hilary Clark

Location: Between 15th Ave. & University Way

I chose to explore alleyways around the University District in terms of how the fit into everyday urbanism as separate spaces and as corridors. Through my own exploration and referencing a few of the readings, I hope to capture how alleys function outside of the normal realm (deliveries and dumpsters). I believe they function as alternative pedestrian routes and as individual and discrete outdoor spaces.

Central Park

by Tom Jamieson

Location: Northeast corner Rainier Avenue South and South Edmunds Street, Columbia City, Seattle

The micro-urban site is located in the heart of Columbia City in south Seattle. The site is a 2-acre parking lot with 4 points of access, two on Rainer Avenue South and two on South Edmunds Street. There are two permanent structures on the site. The largest building is the 18,000 square foot Columbia Plaza, which houses a number of low cost retail spaces. The second permanent structure is the 6,000 square foot Bank of America building, which sits on the south-east corner of the site. The site also features two less permanent structures. A taco truck sits along the east side of the site and attracts diners from the busy traffic along Rainier Avenue. There is also very small storage unit located on the south side of the site, which houses supplies and materials for the Columbia City Farmer’s Market. The farmer’s market occurs at the south-west corner of the site on Wednesday afternoons from May through October.

Outdoor Café Seating Areas

by Tom Walker

Location: University Way and 41st / Ravenna next to Whole Foods

While I have chose to compare and contrast two locations for my study of outdoor café seating areas the primary site that I have chosen to analyze is the Solstice Café on the Ave just up from 41st. This site sits adjacent to the sidewalk and is only separated by a relatively open railing. The seating area is only accessible from the inside of the café and thus it would be difficult to use it unless you were a patron of the establishment. While it is a relatively small area, I did not see it overcrowded and the people using it did not seemed cramped. It is open to the outside world not by access but by its openness to passersby on the sidewalk and the sound, smell, and visual stimulation of the surrounding city and busy street it is on. This multi-sensory space is also designed within the context of Seattle, as it is also a covered space protected from the elements.


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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