From the issue feature, "Authenticity: Navigating the Real in Cities, Design and Art."

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Contributor's Note: There have been many comments regarding graphics we created for issue 33.2 of ARCADE.

We created a visual illustration of the number of applications for demolition permits submitted in Seattle based on one dataset, titled “Building Permits: Current” in the City of Seattle’s data portal at data.seattle.gov.

From 2010 – 2015, the chart displays information for demolition permit applications for that time period, whether issued, in review, cancelled or at another stage of the application process. It also includes information for applications from 2005 – 2009, but only those applications which are still active or have been cancelled or issued in the past five years.

In summary, the graphics show information on demolition permit applications that have seen activity within the past five years, but it does not show a total sum history of demolition application permits. These maps and charts were created to be informative, not in support of one political position or another in regards to our changing Seattle landscape.

It was not our intention to mislead and we should have considered more deeply the impact of our decisions, particularly in regard to the editorial accompanying the graphics, which should have explained that the data for the 2005 – 2009 timeframe does not represent all demolition permit applications. A comparison including all data would have been a more accurate portrayal. We regret the oversight and appreciate the feedback.

—Christian Marc Schmidt, Schema

ARCADE also apologizes for this oversight.


seattle demolition permit map

Source: Data.Seattle.Gov, data.seattle.gov/Permitting/Building-Permits-Current/mags-97de. UPDATE: Please see the "contributor's note" at the top of this post, particularly regarding 2005-2009 data, which only shows applications which are still active or have been cancelled or issued in the past five years. The graphics do not show a total sum history of demolition application permits. We apologize for this oversight—ARCADE.

At the time of this writing, Seattle’s skyline is populated with cranes. It is rare to walk down a block in the Capitol Hill or South Lake Union neighborhoods without passing a construction site. With every building that is demolished to make way for a new development, the urban fabric changes irrevocably—the old making way for the new. While much is being made of Seattle’s growth, what about its related casualties? What of all the torn down buildings and the aspects of Seattle’s culture they may have represented? Is all the new development changing Seattle’s culture, and if so, how?

Rather than focusing on the city’s growth, the above maps highlight demolitions in Seattle based on submitted demolition permits. The map reflects their corresponding demolition locations throughout the city. (UPDATE: Please see the "contributor's note" at top for more information on what data was included here. In addition, this previously stated, "The number of permits has increased dramatically over the last five years," but this cannot be concluded from this data alone. We apologize for this oversight.—ARCADE)

Each dot represents one submitted application for demolition of an existing structure. Some of the most common building types within these applications are:
Single family residence, multifamily residence, commercial (includes warehouses and complexes), commercial building (facade to remain), apartment building
and school (includes grade schools, university classrooms and facilities).

The map represents a version of Seattle now destined to become history. But it also indicates potential. Whatever fills these voids will shape the Seattle of tomorrow.

As the saying goes, the only thing that is constant in life is change. While change is certainly inevitable, it should also be intentional. In relation to our cities, we have a collective responsibility as designers, developers and citizens to promote meaningful growth. By embracing a sense of purpose that springs not only from private interests but consideration of the city as a whole, we may preserve and also create something resembling authenticity. 

seattle demolition chart

Source: Data.Seattle.Gov, data.seattle.gov/Permitting/Building-Permits-Current/mags-97de. UPDATE: Please see the "contributor's note" at the top of this post, particularly regarding 2005-2009 data, which only shows applications which are still active or have been cancelled or issued in the past five years. The graphics do not show a total sum history of demolition application permits. We apologize for this oversight—ARCADE.