Thank you to Prestige Residential Construction for co-sponsoring ARCADE's website and e-newsletter.
by Design Museum Portland
6:30 – 8:30pm
at On Deck
Storytellers will share tales of Making at Design Museum Portland's Story Hour
Tomorrow 8 Oct
by Herman Miller
5:30 – 7:30pm
Presentation by Steve Frykholm, graphic designer for Herman Miller. He'll share lessons learned through his creative and award winning design process.
Tomorrow 8 Oct
6 – 9pm
View Etta Lilienthal's sculpture during the October Capitol Hill Art Walk
This Friday 9 Oct
by Creative Mornings Seattle
8:30 – 10am
Creative Mornings is a breakfast lecture series for the creative community. October's speaker is Mike Gaston of Cut.com.
This Saturday 10 Oct
by International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Northern Pacific Chapter
Upcycling program with expired specification samples from interior designers and architects that supports the supply needs of local artists/educators.
Tuesday 13 Oct
by AIGA Seattle
6:30 – 9:30pm
Panel discussion featuring creative leaders from EMP, SIFF, Starbucks, and more wiht a glimpse into the inner workings of in-house design studios
Tuesday 13 Oct
by Town Hall and Third Place Books
Author Austin Kleon shares tips for successful innovation in a new companion journal to Steal Like An Artist
Wednesday 14 Oct
by UW Department of Architecture
6 – 8:30pm
Lecture by Peter Busby, managing director of Perkins+Will San Francisco and author of Busby: Architecture's New Edges
Thursday 15 Oct
by AIGA Seattle
6 – 9pm
Design industry event celebrating the design of the future. Includes a tour of the remarkable Bullitt Center
Friday 16 Oct
by UW Division of Design, School of Art + Art History + Design
6 – 7:15pm
UW Lecturer Dominic Muren gives a presentation about his teaching as part of his promotion process
Saturday 17 Oct –
Sunday 18 Oct
by Tacoma Arts Commission
Sat & Sun 11am – 5pm
at 35 locations around Tacoma
Free, self-guided tour of 35 art studios in Tacoma. Studios feature demonstrations of the artistic process or hands-on activities for visitors.
Tuesday 20 Oct –
Thursday 22 Oct
by Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA)
Tues 9am – 5pm; Wed 9:15am – 6:30pm; Thu 8:30am – 5:15pm
Industrial design conference in Tampa, FL, to exchange ideas, methods and practices in medical design.
Wednesday 21 Oct
by UW Department of Architecture
6 – 8:30pm
Lecture by Vincent James, founder of VJAA and currently professor at the University of Minnesota
Friday 23 Oct
Lecture with world-class graphic designer Lance Wyman, best known for his iconic work on the 1968 Mexico Olympics
Through Thursday 5 Nov
by Henry Art Gallery
Interactive art installation uses surveillance systems to create narratives with social media content matching demographic profiles of passers-by.
Through Friday 11 Dec
by Suyama Space
Artist reception: 28 August, 5–7pm; Artist talk: August 29, 12pm. See website for exhibition hours.
at Suyama Space
Installation exploring the idea that there are "rules of the game” in the production of art.
Through Sunday 24 Jan
by Vancouver Art Gallery
Daily 10am – 5pm
Tuesdays until 9pm
Conceptual design presentation by Herzog & de Meuron, the design architects for the new Vancouver Art Gallery
Through Thursday 29 Oct
Opening: 1 October, 6 – 8pm
M – F, 9am – 5pm
Art installation of large scale drawings documenting the artist's walks through the streets of Seattle
Through Saturday 31 Oct
by Tacoma Arts Commission
at Various locations around Tacoma
October is Tacoma Arts Month featuring hundreds of community-hosted arts and culture events, exhibits and workshops.
Through Friday 4 Dec
by AIA Seattle
Each session 8am – 12:30pm
Workshops explore cross-disciplinary approaches essential for planning, regulations, financing, and operations for net zero design
Through Saturday 17 Oct
by Frye Art Museum
Saturdays, 10am – 4pm
Art class helps students develop an understanding of design elements and organizational principles common to the visual arts
Ron van der Veen
I ride my bike to work almost every day, and frankly, sometimes it gets old—especially in the winter. I live and work in Seattle, and my normal route is from Columbia City, along Lake Washington Boulevard, through the bike tunnel to downtown. On those days that I start feeling a bit grumpy about pedaling, I look out over picturesque Lake Washington and remind myself that 99 percent of the human race would die to have a commute like mine. Part of the view includes a pencil-thin line hovering just above the water in the far distance: the 520 bridge.
Anyone who has experienced gateways into great cities around the world and taken a long look at the 520 replacement bridge will be compelled to agree that it is among the least designed in human history. Long, straight, utilitarian and boring! And this for one of the richest, most dynamic, smartest, greenest, most sustainable, geographically blessed, politically enlightened, creative, hip cities in the WORLD? Seattle’s smaller siblings to the south have more imagination and vision. Have you driven over the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge toward the city? Have you seen the delightful new pedestrian/light-rail bridge that Portland just constructed over the Willamette River? How about the design for the elegant Sellwood replacement bridge just to the south? And consider the graceful I-5 Whilamut Passage Bridge in Eugene! All of the above celebrate the spectacle of moving over water between structural pylons. They seem, well, designed …
This is why I want to replace the 520 replacement bridge.
Now, granted, I haven’t exactly used the new bridge yet, since it’s still under construction, but I’ve studied it, and here are three reasons why I want to replace the replacement:
1. It looks like a freeway, not a bridge. Yes, it floats on water, so it lacks the structural opportunities to celebrate long spans. But as one leaves the Eastside and encounters the view towards the city, there is no sense of choreographed drama, no celebration of the lake. And with the elevated roadway, the sense of floating is greatly diminished. It’s really just a freeway that happens to be traveling over water.
2. Have you ever noticed on the current 520 and I-90 bridges that you can’t actually see the water while driving? Bridges over water that block the view of the water … The vistas are obstructed by those hideous, solid concrete guardrails. The new bridge appears to be similar.
3. The whole project is a massive, unrelenting sea of engineered concrete. I scoured WSDOT’s website trying desperately to find some design rationale and discovered this on a page titled “SR 520 – Practical Design”:
“Practical design is an approach to making project decisions that focuses on the need for the project and looks for cost-effective solutions … The result is smarter, more effective designs that maximize results with limited funding.”
Now I ask, would Tokyo, San Francisco or Amsterdam take a practical design approach to its new city bridges? Would Barcelona tell its population that its new gateway to the city “maximizes results with limited funding?” Would Shanghai boast that its new bridge was cost effective? Name another city with world-class aspirations that would take such a maddeningly timid approach to something with so much iconic civic potential.
Imagine your company was just awarded the commission to design a brand-spanking-new connection across magnificent Lake Washington, a stunning entry to Seattle for tens of thousands of commuters daily. Sure, you need to allow for a shitload of traffic (or not**) to flow safely and smoothly, you have to think about copious amounts of practical issues, and you have to build it while the ugly old bridge is still in place. It’s very hard, meticulous work. But at the end of the day, you get to design one of the most breathtaking entry points to a city in the whole world! Calatrava would salivate!!!!
This is why I want to replace the 520 replacement bridge.
Essay by Jennifer J. Otten and Karen Cheng. Infographic by Khaito Gengo with Karen Cheng and Jennifer J. Otten.
America—once a nation that valued thrift—wastes more food than any other country in the world: up to 40% of its food supply. While food is lost at several points as it journeys from its origins to our plates, by far the largest producers of waste are individual consumers. Designed by Khaito Gengo, the information graphic, “Too Good to Waste,” analyzes the critical problem of food waste and, importantly, suggests potential solutions. In King County, Washington, food policy makers and food waste stewards who are driving discussions about what data is needed to understand local food waste have found this visualization to be of interest.
Understanding the Problem
According to a 2012 National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) paper by Dana Gunders, on average, individuals in the US waste 25% of the food they buy. Researchers Kevin Hall, Juen Guo, Michael Dore and Carson Chow translate this to approximately 1,400 calories wasted per person per day—enough to nourish a child and almost enough to feed an adult. As stated in the NRDC paper, if consumer food waste could be reduced by 15%, with good but uneaten food instead recovered and distributed to those in need, an additional 25 million people could be fed each year. This is a significant opportunity, given that 48 million individuals are currently receiving food assistance via the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Importantly, food waste also represents squandered energy, water and land. The NRDC paper estimates that getting food to our tables each year requires 10% of the US energy budget, 50% of US land and 80% of US freshwater, as well as substantial chemical inputs (e.g., pesticides and fertilizers) and human labor. By wasting food, we are needlessly expending precious resources and exposing our human labor, land and waterways to unnecessary chemicals.
Additionally, wasted food contributes to climate change. Uneaten food placed in landfills generates almost 25% of the US’s emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas with a warming effect over 23 times as powerful as carbon dioxide. In addition, in 2012 the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research found that the global food system produces one-third of all human-generated greenhouse gas emissions.
Looking for Solutions
Here in the Pacific Northwest, King County plans to decrease wholesome food loss by 25% over 10 years and develop a data-tracking mechanism for local food system waste in order to measure progress (see King County’s Local Food Initiative, a 2015 report). More data is also being collected by the City of Seattle, in collaboration with Seattle Public Utilities and the University of Washington, to better understand waste in the commercial food sector. The City’s goals (as stated in the Seattle Food Action Plan) are twofold: divert edible food from retailers and restaurants toward food banks to feed those in need and redirect inedible food waste from landfills into compost. This effort was prompted by Seattle Public Utilities data that found food and compostable food packaging to be the largest component (30%) of landfill-directed garbage.
While these policies and programs for food recovery and prevention are an important, inspiring part of ongoing efforts to overcome the problem of food waste, individuals must also make personal efforts. Everyone can help prevent food waste by buying only the amount of food that will be consumed. This might mean more meal planning, more frequent (but smaller) shopping trips, better food storage and eating leftovers. If everyone does their part to reduce and redirect food waste, the collective result will be saved resources, environmental protection and reduced hunger.
Thank you to Mithun for co-sponsoring ARCADE's website and e-newsletter.
If you were to visit Seattle’s South Lake Union and Pike/Pine neighborhoods these days, chances are you’d encounter several development projects, completed or under construction, that are odd juxtapositions of design—the Transformers of architecture. For these projects, developers and their architects retain only the primary facades of smaller, historic buildings originally on a site while erecting new, larger structures behind them. Dubbed “facadism” by its critics, this strange meshing of old and new is often motivated by requirements to save the facades of older buildings for regulatory reasons—a building is a designated landmark so permission for full demolition is difficult to obtain, or a building is in a conservation overlay district that incentivizes this sort of design in an attempt to maintain neighborhood character while increasing density through building height.
In rapidly growing Seattle, development pressure in recent years has resulted in a rash of facadectomies, in which only an older building’s main facades are saved during redevelopment. Despite what seem to be good intentions, if you are disturbed by acts of facadism, you are not alone. Urban planning and design can effectively manage the evolution of older neighborhoods, but facadism gives in to market-driven development, failing to promote authenticity.
Stripped of everything but its facade, a building loses its integrity and significance, rendering it an architectural ornament with no relation to its history, function, use, construction method or cultural heritage. With only its primary facades saved, the original structure is gone, including the roof, interior features and volume of space. Everything is new inside—nothing is reused. Instead, a new structure is added on, which may be set back and sometimes cantilevered over what was the roof level of the mostly demolished older building. When its defining features are mostly removed and no longer part of an integrated whole, a building no longer demonstrates its authentic self. Further, the scale and massing of the new building change the rhythm and feel of a block and neighborhood.
We all know Seattle’s population is increasing and will only continue to grow. Smart planning accommodates this growth, but it must do so without destroying the authentic fabric and community character that make this a desirable, livable city.
One might argue that at least facade “preservation” is better than nothing. But is it? Wouldn’t it be better to see new projects that are well designed, perhaps the landmarks of tomorrow, cohesively knitted into the streetscape? Instead, we get the illusion of preservation with the pastiche of the old unsuccessfully jumbled with the new. While not outright demolition, facadism is less preservation and more a begrudging compromise between the past and the future. Walk through the Capitol Hill neighborhood (particularly East Pike Street between Belmont and Harvard or East Union Street between 10th and 11th) to experience the impact and absurdity of facadism.
Adaptive Reuse Versus Facadism
Many of the solidly constructed buildings that have fallen prey to facadism were for decades adaptively reused structures, retaining the patina of time while providing flexible spaces for renovation.
In contrast to facadism, adaptive reuse projects rehabilitate historic structures, a widely accepted, good preservation practice. As defined by the National Park Service in its guidelines for the treatment of historic properties, rehabilitation is “the act or process of making possible a compatible use for a property through repair, alterations and additions while preserving those portions or features which convey its historical, cultural or architectural values.” Guided by the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, this approach upholds a building’s integrity as it evolves.
Often, rehabilitating an older, existing building involves changing its original use to accommodate current needs. In Seattle, a typical building might have started out as a 1920s auto showroom that turned into a print shop and is now a restaurant or store. This is a practical preservation solution to achieve economic impact and contribute to community vitality. In this way, adaptive reuse also promotes environmental stewardship and sustainability—it’s the ultimate in recycling. For example, Melrose Market, the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room and the Elliott Bay Book Company, all in Pike/Pine, and the Terry Avenue and Supply Laundry Buildings, both in South Lake Union, are successful adaptive reuse projects that promote preservation and bring new life into old buildings for their respective communities.
In contrast, we have facadism: slap a 15-story LEED Platinum building onto a 1910s, one-story brick or terra-cotta facade and we get an odd amalgam of design. No amount of greenwashing will mitigate the demolition of the original building.
Historic Districts and Zoning
Among the most authentic historic communities in Seattle today are designated historic districts, such as Pioneer Square, Ballard and Columbia City, which are protected by a preservation ordinance, design guidelines and review processes. There is more to these districts than just facades; they’ve experienced revitalization through rehabilitation and the adaptive reuse of spaces. In addition, new construction in these built-up districts is more sensitive infill (the development of vacant or underused parcels), adding to the evolution of the neighborhoods while becoming part of the community’s historic narrative.
In most other areas of Seattle, existing zoning, land use regulations and planning goals do not protect neighborhood character. Instead, they support increased density at the cost of community character, which modestly sized historic buildings embody, without recognizing that density doesn’t always equal height. Density is better achieved through more human-scale urbanism by varying height, scale and massing and integrating existing neighborhood elements. For example, take South Lake Union, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, where facadism is especially jarring. The area is seen by developers and the City as nothing more than a wasteland of low industrial and commercial buildings on big sites prime for large-scale development rather than creative adaptive reuse. The City’s recent rezone to raise allowable heights has increased the pressure to further redevelop not only older character buildings but also designated Seattle landmarks.
But even before the rezone, facadectomies were occurring. Now under construction in South Lake Union is one of the most blatant examples of facadism: the project incorporating the former Troy Laundry and Boren Investment Company buildings. They’ve been demolished—except, naturally, for their primary facades—and replaced by two 12- and 13-story towers, set back and hovering over remnants of these historic buildings. That the original buildings are designated landmarks makes this even more of a head-scratcher because landmarks have added protection; this facadism implies that we’re only interested in the outward character of these buildings, and even then, only a very small part. But why facadism happened in this case is more complex. Project proponents asserted that the city-block site was two-thirds contaminated from the Troy Laundry Building, necessitating remediation through extensive site excavation and that only the primary facades of the two landmarks be saved. The Landmarks Preservation Board approved the project after considerable review. Facadism is not always so black-and-white, but it elicits strong reactions because only the end result is visible. These two landmarks took up a fraction of the overall lot area; preservation advocates supported adaptive reuse of the buildings, which could have anchored the new project. Another developer may have approached the project differently, proposing a preservation solution.
Preservation Is About Livability and Creating Community
Many existing, older neighborhoods are already dense and contain a mixture of uses. They are already pedestrian friendly and located near public transportation. Older neighborhoods with lower-scale buildings are not impediments to “progress” but places with creative potential. Preservationists understand that not every older building should be saved and that well-designed new construction (often taller and larger) can contribute positively to a neighborhood’s character. The City of Seattle is currently updating its comprehensive plan and has an opportunity to better plan for growth that’s more balanced and enhances the livability of our city. Preservation planning should be an integral part of this discussion.
The National Trust’s Preservation Green Lab study Older, Smaller, Better: Measuring How the Character of Buildings and Blocks Influences Urban Vitality demonstrates the value of historic neighborhoods and older buildings. According to the Green Lab:
"All across America, blocks of older, smaller buildings are quietly contributing to robust local economies and distinctive livable communities. Buildings of diverse vintage and small scale provide flexible, affordable space for entrepreneurs launching new businesses and serve as attractive settings for new restaurants and locally owned shops. They offer diverse housing choices that attract younger residents and create human-scaled places for walking, shopping and social interaction. These modest, often-overlooked buildings are irreplaceable assets for America’s new urban age."
Development pressure in Seattle’s neighborhoods in the last 10 to 15 years has greatly changed the urban landscape, whether facadism is involved or not. Around the world, preservationists, developers, architects, city leaders, planners and communities all struggle with issues of preservation and facadism, particularly in older cities experiencing population and economic growth. Building a vital city does not mean only looking to the future but also considering how preservation contributes to an authenticity of place and enhances livability.
RT @IDSA: @arcadenw knows: Get hands on. #IDSAMedical15 Register now. http://arcadenw.org/events/2015-idsa-medical-design-conference
BUILD: The materials you work with as an architect in Hawaii include lava rock, ohia trees and thatch. How have these materials shaped you as an architect?
MARK DE REUS: I’m from Idaho and originally became familiar with the indigenous materials of the Northwest. Then in the 1990s, I lived in Indonesia for five years, and the experience lured me into the business of planning and design for tropical regions. During this time, some of the design work that was going on in Bali and Thailand, such as the Aman resorts, was on the cutting edge of tropical design. This new design work was more contextual, and its use of natural materials was in tune with the allure of beautiful tropical settings. So when I moved to Hawaii in 2000, I brought with me a range of tropical design sensibilities much wider than what was being offered in Hawaii at the time. Back then, it seemed there were only two or three different versions of what people considered to be Hawaiian design, and they had been drastically overused. We began designing with natural materials that supported a concept of island architecture that embraced a wider Polynesian region rather than just Hawaii specifically.
B: The use of traditional thatched roofs in your projects is striking. Tell us a bit about the craft of thatched roofs and the process of designing them.
MdR: The palm frond, indigenous to Hawaii, does not actually make for long-lasting thatched roofs. The best thatch comes out of South Africa. The South African reed has a life span of about 30 years in an arid climate like that of the leeward side of the Big Island. These South African-style thatched roofs are designed seven-inches thick, and they make for beautiful natural roofs.
Figuring out the aesthetics of designing thatched roofs was straightforward, but the engineering and permitting process was a challenge. The structural roof components consist of pole rafters (smaller, round purlins to which the seven inches of thatch is tied) and make for a fairly simple assembly. However, the structural calculations don’t fit neatly into what building departments are used to, and it takes a savvy structural engineer to help nurture the process along. And even though the thatch is treated with fire retardant, the fire departments require sprinklering.
The roof forms you’ve seen in our work are derived from what the thatch requires. The roof needs to maintain a minimum slope of 10 units horizontal to 12 units vertical. This steepness automatically gives a strong presence to the roof. It’s good to keep the roofs as simple structures without valleys—this creates a certain pavilion-like character.
B: Modernism is typically associated with thin horizontal roof planes intended to lightly float or even disappear. The heavy massing of the thatched roofs in projects like your Kūki‘o Golf Club beautifully challenges this convention while still adhering to a modern aesthetic. What are the intentional design decisions you make with a modern thatched roof?
MdR: When you look at a building, one of the first things you identify with is the roof. The roof tends to give instant character to the building. These pavilions are really just simple shelters, so how you handle a select few components like the roof massing, the eave and the wall is important. You don’t have to overwork the elements; the forms can be kept simple, and with contemporary detailing the overall effect can be powerful.
The edges and eaves of a roof are key to achieving pleasing architectural proportions. In Bali, thatched roofs will often flare out at the bottom and create beautiful overall forms. This edge detail is integral to the craftsmanship of constructing the thatch. A crisp edge that is almost horizontal has a very different feel than upturning the thatch, which causes the roof to lose its elegance.
B: What other indigenous techniques do you like to incorporate into modern design?
MdR: Here in Hawaii, there is a strong tradition of using lava stone for site and building walls. There are only two different kinds of lava, a‘a and pahoehoe, but they produce many different styles of stone walls. The a‘a lava tends to be rough and jagged, occurring in thick flows, whereas the thinner flows of pahoehoe tend to be billowy and smooth. It’s fun to explore the nuances of how to work with this type of natural, rugged material.
B: Your work often includes a harmonious balance between the sleek, modern and the naturally rustic. The machined-glass walls that highlight the rustic stick trellises at the Kūki‘o Golf Club are an excellent example. Where do these contrasts have the most significance in your designs?
MdR: It’s about developing a sense of place. Carefully handling the composition is one of the ways to instill a soul into the building, rather than it just becoming an assembly of parts. The contrast builds drama and develops an experiential quality that has tangible benefits to the design.
B: How do you uphold the quality of timelessness in your work?
MdR: A good example on the topic of timelessness is in the hospitality sector. Usually hospitality developers are prone to be formulaic in their approach to design, and they like to work with trends. Most hospitality work is designed by analogy, just continually tweaking the model rather than designing to what I refer to as first principles, which include the program, what the clients need and what we want to do regarding an architectural direction. I’m sure they feel it’s a safe way to design and minimizes risk. We prefer to go back to those first principles of design and ask what the user ultimately wants or needs. We design from there rather than simply tweaking a conventional model.
B: There is a noticeable consistency in your work involving a heavy stone base, a transparent middle and a substantial thatched roof massing. Is there a danger that this method could become prescribed to the point of excluding the exploration of design?
MdR: I think if you look across the board at our work, you will find a variety of design responses. In terms of an influence that could hinder the “exploration of design” as you mention, I find that limitations imposed by community design guidelines or preconceived notions by developers have more potential to restrict creativity.
B: There is a Hawaiian phrase on your website, “ka nohona lokahi,” which translates to “the way of living in connection and harmony, with the laws of spirit, nature and man.” Tell us a bit about this concept.
MdR: A friend of mine on Hawaii is a kahu, a Hawaiian priest, and he does a lot of the blessings for our projects while they’re under construction and also once they’re finished. I asked him for a Hawaiian phrase that reflects our approach to design. We discussed it several times, and as the subtleties of language are sometimes difficult to translate, it took a while for him to come up with this phrase.
As an aside and in a somewhat similar context, an ancient Hawaiian term, ahupua‘a, translates to “ocean to mountain.” Native Hawaiians organized their land in strips that run from the ocean to the mountains, and it was their traditional way of practicing sustainability. This organization takes into account everything you need for life, from the fish that are caught on the shore to the agriculture and livestock further up the hill.
B: What kinds of projects in Hawaii receive a blessing by a kahu?
MdR: Since most of our clients have moved here from somewhere else, or maybe the project is a second home for them, this ceremony encourages them to be stewards of the land and take a vested interest in the community. In the same ceremony, the kahu also asks the ancestors who may have ties to the land for their blessing and to accept this new family or owner. You hear stories from these kahus about how sometimes they feel the spirits of ancestors still lingering around. The kahu’s role is to ask them to move on. Blessing rituals like this are also common in the folk belief systems of Indonesia.
B: The term “lifestyle expectations” is mentioned on your website in conjunction with the resort residence buyer. What does this mean in the context of a tropical paradise?
MdR: It runs the gamut of what you might call the luxuries of living. A home is more than a collection of spaces or an assembly of materials; it’s a vessel for living and experiencing family and a location. This term helps orient clients to expand their input to us for design into the qualitative realm.
Thank you to Andrew Buchanan/Subtle Light Photography for co-sponsoring ARCADE's website and e-newsletter.
Mayor Edward B. Murray
I grew up in West Seattle in a mixed-income neighborhood, part of a large, working-class family. It was a great place to live. We were able to take the bus to school or work. We knew our neighbors. It was an authentically Seattle upbringing. Unfortunately, my family probably couldn’t afford to live there today because of rising costs and a widening inequality gap. To ensure we have a Seattle that works for everyone now and in the future, we, as a city, must address the challenge of affordability and equity.
There is no doubt Seattle’s future will continue to include newcomers attracted to our city by jobs, our spectacular natural setting, our progressive values and high quality of life. By 2035, it’s expected that 120,000 more people and 115,000 more jobs will be added to our city. This level of growth certainly comes with its share of challenges, but it also presents a great opportunity—the opportunity to come together as a community to plan for the future we want. In doing so, we can balance growth while protecting the ideas and values that make an authentic Seattle—a city where people of all backgrounds live and work together.
That’s why the Department of Planning and Development started the Seattle 2035 campaign, a citywide conversation about change—where we’ve been, where we are now and where we want to go over the next 20 years. We want this discussion to guide us in creating our city’s new 20-year plan. This plan will guide how we grow and covers things like housing, land use, transportation, environment, utilities, capital facilities, parks and neighborhoods.
For me, Seattle in 2035 is a city where a high quality of life exists for all residents—one with access to living wages, quality education, a healthy environment, effective transportation options and, very importantly, affordable housing. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made on raising the minimum wage and expanding access to pre-K and transit options. And it’s why I’ve set a goal to bring 20,000 new units of affordable housing to Seattle in the next 10 years.
An authentic Seattle is equitable—all families and individuals, those living here today and those coming tomorrow, should have access to the services and amenities that make Seattle so special. To get there, we need to continue to guide our policies for future growth and decisions in a manner that reflects the city’s core values—values including race and social equity, environmental stewardship, economic opportunity and security for all, and a strong sense of community. Throughout Seattle’s history, some communities and neighborhoods have prospered while others were left behind. We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past. We must do more to ensure that growth benefits all residents. This means ensuring we have inclusive, diverse and mixed-income neighborhoods as we grow.
I’ve always said Seattle works best when we work together, when we focus on the goals we share in common rather than the differences that too often divide us. Through collaboration we can realize our vision for Seattle 2035 and make Seattle a safe, affordable, vibrant, interconnected and authentic city, today and into the future.
In 1972, Laszlo Toth, an unemployed geologist, climbed onto Michelangelo’s Pietà, grabbed a hammer from underneath his coat and smashed the sculpture 15 times. This attack left the Madonna without a nose and left arm, and with a chipped eyelid and veil. What were the Vatican Museums to do? Restore the statue as nearly as possible to its original appearance? Merely reattach the larger bits that fell off, leaving the Madonna irrevocably scarred? Or just sweep away the rubble, keeping the post-attack statue as is? Our answers to these questions tell us something important about our thoughts on authenticity in creative works and the best way to maintain it.
While concepts of authenticity are difficult to define regarding art, they become further complicated with works of architecture. If forced to choose, does a building’s authenticity lie most in the architect’s design or in the physical structure once erected, exposed to the world and changed over time? Our fascination with modern architectural ruins seems quite different from our aesthetic appreciation of the Pietà, throwing this question into sharp relief. “Ruin porn” is increasingly popular, but those ruins neither conform to the plans of the architect nor the final building once constructed. This leads us to the following question: Can the same concept of authenticity be applied to artworks, buildings and ruins?
According to philosopher Mark Sagoff, there are two major theories about art restoration, which in turn inform different conceptions of authenticity (see “On Restoring and Reproducing Art,” The Journal of Philosophy). The first is integral restoration, in which the restorer adheres to the sculptor’s plan rather than the strict preservation of original materials. Those who favor integral restoration believe authenticity lies in the intent of the artist. The real work of art is what it “looks like” as soon as the artist lifts her brush/chisel/etc. Under integral restoration, the post-attack Pietà would be repaired to be visually identical to the pre-attack Pietà. The second is pure restoration, in which the restorationist reattaches to the art any bits that may have fallen off and cleans off grime but does not add any nonoriginal materials. The pure restorationist believes that authenticity lies in the art’s original materials, which exist throughout time, and that adding new materials papers over the object’s history. A pure restoration would leave the Pietà partially fixed, but the sculpture would show its scars. (The Vatican Museums did restore the Pietà, and it is now virtually impossible to see the past damage with the naked eye. But in order to achieve this, the restorationists introduced materials that Michelangelo never touched, sacrificing a piece of the object’s history.)
Applied to fine art, a restoration approach that prioritizes the original look of the art over its original materials may feel intuitive. Are art restoration practices and concepts also germane to architecture and its ruins, and modern ruins in particular?
In recent years, photographers, photojournalists and tourists have flocked to “modern” or “industrial” ruins, such as those in Detroit. The resulting photographs have been labeled “ruin porn,” a moniker that describes both the allure of the decaying building and the moral repugnance of possible exploitation. One such ruin is the United Artist Theater, the once grand “movie palace” turned ruin porn darling. The puzzle ruins present—and modern ruins in particular—is that the structures seem more aesthetically valued in their ruinated state. This seems at odds with our intuitions about fine art, which tend toward a desire to preserve the art’s original visual form.
With this in mind, the question remains: How would one “restore” a ruin? How might it differ from preserving other types of historic architecture, and what effect would restoration efforts have on a ruin’s authenticity?
I would suggest that an architectural ruin is a discrete object from its former life as a building. Consequently, for example, the United Artist Theater and the United Artist Theater–Ruin are distinct objects. For the theater, it might be appropriate to employ integral restoration, focusing on upholding the architect’s original intent for the design over the original materials. We want buildings to be functional; if a chandelier falls down, we might replace it with one that is identical in look but made from nonoriginal materials.
On the other hand, in the case of the United Artist Theater–Ruin, we are attracted not to its functionality as a theater but its beautiful decay as a ruin. We enjoy seeing nature encroach on the man-made; it reveals important insights about our culture and ourselves. As objects that are in the process of disintegration, ruins give us a window into the past, present and future. We reimagine their former glory, engage with the decay before us and project what the ruin will look like as time continues. Ruins provide us with powerful experiences of memento mori and the sublime; American modern ruins incite our worries about the flaws of capitalism and the impermanence of our exalted status in the world.
If we see decay as a defining characteristic of ruins, and we have good reasons to respect their aesthetic integrity, we ought to allow a ruin to ruinate. Paradoxically then, perhaps in order to “preserve” the special aesthetic value of a ruin and uphold its authenticity, we must allow it to continue to break down. Maybe the authenticity of ruins lies in neither integral nor pure restoration solutions, which stipulate action be taken, in varying degrees, to bring an object back to an earlier state. Rather, to preserve a ruin’s authenticity, we might not be able to do anything, because to interrupt or stop the ongoing action of decay would be to destroy something central to the ruin itself.
I acknowledge that this may be unrealistic (and perhaps undesirable): city planners must balance aesthetic concerns with historic preservation, economic development and ethical concerns that arise from tourism. Ruin appreciation (of the ancient sort) has been inextricably wed to tourism since the days of the grand tour. Similarly, Detroit’s modern ruins have attracted photographers and photojournalists; as a consequence, unofficial and official ruin tours, which aim to provide opportunities for photographs, have become increasingly popular. Historic preservation has obvious implications for tourism. How, and when, do we limit access to the site to prevent damage? Should historic buildings be preserved as something static or as part of a living culture? As with historic buildings, incorporating ruins into landscape design and city planning is nothing new, from the use of follies in 18th-century English garden design to modern-day public spaces, such as Richard Haag’s Gas Works Park in Seattle.
What can we take away from this brief discussion of art restoration, architecture and ruins? Perhaps that authenticity is not a static concept that can be applied universally to all objects but one that is bound to reflect the shifting practices of different creative disciplines.