Articles from Issue 32.3, Living by Design in the Pacific Northwest, will release online over the following weeks. Subscribe to receive ARCADE in print.

Cover illustration

Illustration (detail and adapted): Tom Eykemans

Seventeen years ago I moved to the Pacific Northwest. Growing up on the mean streets of LA, and then cosseted by the bountiful Bay Area for many years after, I felt ready to continue north. I’d heard tales of the Northwest’s majesty and the rugged individualism that had shaped and defined this region on the Pacific Rim. A friend would regale me with stories about his exploits climbing Mount Rainier, the Cascades and the Olympics; the terms thermo-this, Featherlite-that, the Puget Sound and Lake Washington always came up. But what did I know about the great outdoors? I had spent my youth trekking the Hollywood Hills, Laurel Canyon and the Sunset Strip, and swimming at the soft, sandy beaches of Santa Monica and Malibu.

But soon after I commenced my architecture and urban planning studies in San Francisco, I met a man from Seattle who further inspired me to explore this enchanting frontier-land on the northwest edge of the United States. It didn’t hurt that his father flew us to the Emerald City and wined and dined and seduced me into thinking it was a good time to head north, young woman!

Turns out he was right.

Much has happened in the last 17 years. In addition to offering easy access to any number of waterways, mountain ranges and heady, hedonistic summers, the Northwest has evolved into a cultural center with a strong sense of identity that goes beyond rugged individualism. In addition to its environmental riches, Seattle—considered the largest city in the Pacific Northwest and the fastest growing major US city—is a bona fide hotbed of technical innovation, bioresearch, philanthropy and civic leadership, not to mention its nearly embarrassing wealth of arts, design, gastronomy and sport. To be sure, the Pacific Northwest region is now home to a number of burgeoning world-class cities known for their independent spirit and progressive politics.

Because of this Northwest renaissance, we at ARCADE felt the time was ripe to turn our editorial eyes inward. So I reached out to a group of local practitioners and asked them to share what’s on their minds at this particular point in time, in this particular place. Indeed, some of us who live here can’t help but wonder what the future holds for this corner of the country. What will the region look like in 25 years when it may be home to as many as 1.7 million more inhabitants*? What are the implications for our urban and natural environs? We simply don’t know. So while we bask in the warmth of our riches, we must also take great care to make smart choices that safeguard the Pacific Northwest’s future. For if we don’t, who will?  

“I felt like lying down by the side of the trail and remembering it all. The woods do that to you, they always look familiar, long lost, like the face of a long-dead relative, like an old dream, like a piece of forgotten song drifting across the water, most of all like golden eternities of past childhood or past manhood and all the living and the dying and the heartbreak that went on a million years ago and the clouds as they pass overhead seem to testify (by their own lonesome familiarity) to this feeling.”—Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums


*ULI Reality Check Puget Sound Region