Thank you to Mithun for cosponsoring ARCADE's website and e-newsletter.
ARCADE’s Board of Trustees is pleased to announce that we have hired Sarah Jo Ward as our interim executive director. Sarah has been on the board for nine months but has been a part of ARCADE’s community since moving to Seattle. Her background is uniquely suited to helping us navigate through this period of change. She is an organizational change and learning expert with experience in a variety of settings including nonprofits and arts organizations. In addition to being a graduate of the University of Washington with an M.Ed and a Ph.D in Learning Sciences focused on organizational change and strategy, she got her start in journalism and publishing while living on the East Coast prior to starting her graduate work. She currently lives on Bainbridge Island and is working on starting a small farm.
We are excited to work with Sarah Jo as we examine our mission and values and plan for ARCADE’s future. The board looks forward to continuing ARCADE’s role in our ever-changing city. As always, if you have questions, please do not hesitate to reach out. You can reach ARCADE’s board president, Jason Bergevin, at [email protected]. You can reach Sarah at [email protected].
In February, ARCADE celebrated the launch of Issue 37.1, The Simulated Metropolis: Art and Identity Within the Network. Party guests mingled at 9th & Thomas and said farewell to ARCADE's Executive Director and Editor Kelly Rodriguez and Managing Editor Erin Kendig, who will be greatly missed. Thank you to everyone who came out to celebrate the new issue with us, to our volunteers, and to all who contributed to this issue.
Special thanks to our event sponsor Site Workshop; to venue host 9th & Thomas and Scott Redman; to Michael Stearns of Hybrid3 Design Studio for taking event photos; and to grantmakers 4Culture and Seattle Office of Arts & Culture for supporting ARCADE.
Here are a few shots from the launch party. Visit our Facebook page to see more photos. Share, tag and enjoy!
Thank you to Andrew Buchanan/Subtle Light Photography for co-sponsoring ARCADE's website and e-newsletter.
In my previous post about the demise of Seattle’s notorious viaduct, I tried to revel in its undoing. But, honestly, after rereading the article, I came away a bit unfulfilled. I felt my limited literary chops didn’t adequately express my disdain for what I referred to as “a hideous monster that sucked the soul out of Seattle.” I asked ARCADE’s managing editor, Erin Kendig, for another shot at it.
After scouring Thesarus.com for better deleterious (found that one there!) adjectives concerning SR 99, I happened to run into Susan Jones, the founder of atelierjones LLC.* She has truly been an architectural pioneer in Seattle. While the rest of us espoused the importance of vibrant city dwelling in the 1990s and 2000s, at the same time commuting from our cute, single-family neighborhoods, she was living it. From 1991 to 2015 Susan’s family resided in the iconic Hillclimb Court on Western Avenue. Designed in the early 1980s by Olson/Walker Architects, it is still one of my favorite urban housing projects in Seattle. More importantly for this article, it faces the viaduct.
I asked Susan if she would meet me later to share her thoughts on living next to the viaduct for over two decades:
Ron: Let’s meet to talk more about this in the next two weeks. I want to give you time to think about your exper—
Susan: Shush! Ron, do you hear that?
Ron: Hear what?
Susan: That’s right! You don’t hear that hideous monster anymore! Like you said, ding dong the witch is dead! A new peace has come over downtown Seattle for the first time in seven decades!
Ron: Wow, you have a great point there. Let’s talk a bit about your experience living in Hillclimb next to the viaduct. Such a vital building in our architectural history. You lived on the west side, didn’t you?
Susan: “Live” might be a stretch. And it has nothing to do with the design. You are right about its iconic nature. But it was next to that dang viaduct. Let’s start with the noise. It became a way of life. The thundering ramp-up started at 4 a.m. with the first wave of commuters.
Ron: That is early!
Susan: Yes! I used to tell incredulous friends that the viaduct was just like having an ocean outside your door—really, just white noise! So lovely. Just like the sands of Big Sur. And usually, right around 10 p.m., when the traffic finally calmed down, I could almost convince myself that I actually did live by the sea … sort of.
Ron: You must have a vivid imagination …
Susan: Just as my family started to get used to the strange late-evening calm, we’d be interrupted by an alcohol-induced, excitable, hyper-crowded car screaming down the almost quiet road (Yes, 2 a.m. was actually, really, mostly silent, except for those screaming last-callers)!! It was typically around 4 a.m. when I could really start getting some sleep, but then the early bird special started again.
Ron: That sounds a bit rough, especially with children. You had mentioned something to me years ago about the grime of the viaduct. I had never really considered that before.
Susan: The filth! Not just dirt. Not just pollution. Imagine a mother of two worrying about all of those diesel particles lodging deep down in the beautiful newborn lungs of her children.
Because of the tire grit, we could honestly never open our windows despite being just 200 yards from the ancient, beautiful arc of water that Princess Angeline made her home on for decades. And I don’t mean just grit—that is too nice of a word. I mean the kind of greasy, black fibers that would lodge in between the once-good window seals and accrue over years in your window frames, down to the floor, onto walls. And that is if you never, ever opened your windows, EVER!
Ron: What about the views? You have to admit you had some of the best views in Seattle.
Susan: Some folks in our building had the good sense (and the deep pockets) to live above the viaduct’s top level. The problem was we didn’t. It was the courtyard that really sold us. Seemed simple and beautiful enough. Semipublic space for small kids to ride small bikes, play kid soccer and baseball. Moms and dads sharing glasses of wine in the terrace watching their five-year-olds wobble around on training wheels. That kind of thing. All good, urban community living.
The problem started when we looked west. What we saw was mainly a wall colored a kind of brown/green that can only be described as “pock-marked moldy old concrete” above our eye level. It was like being smacked in the head, over and over again, with the relentless rush of the cars and cement. And the smacking continued on our lower deck, except here we could actually see the cars, the trucks, the sirens, the crotch-rocket motorcycles screaming as we woke up to feed our babies during the night. Between the top deck on our foreheads, and the lower deck on our necks, I thought of it as a guillotine!
Ron: So Susan, I feel like you are really getting at the emotions I tried to express in my previous post, but on such a great visceral level. I am getting the impression you didn’t participate in many of the viaduct memorial celebration events last month.
Susan: (She doubles up laughing, then stops, looks very seriously into my eyes, which turned out to be a bit intimidating). Ron, you know me. I am usually a very sensible, amiable, and open-minded person, but that monster got to me. The viaduct being dead might be the greatest personal urbanistic milestone in my life! Now, just get that sucker down!
How does one put a dollar value on children’s lungs, or the 15 years of lost sleep, or the oozing grime, or not even being able to open a window?
I just have a deep gratitude to all who worked so diligently to get the thing down. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! Just get the thing down.
Ron: Wow, this has been amazing, Susan! I didn’t even have to buy you a drink or lunch to get all of this great information. You just basically wrote the article for me!
Susan left our encounter whistling something I initially couldn’t make out. Then it hit me: It was Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead …
*Though Susan’s contribution to this article is undisputed, Ron was not able to confirm that his encounter with her actually occurred exactly as noted.
Thank you to Mithun for cosponsoring ARCADE's website and e-newsletter.
It’s hard to know exactly what to call SuttonBeresCuller’s Mini Mart City Park. When Brendan Kiley wrote about the project for ARCADE in 2009, he also remarked on this challenge, ultimately deeming “sculpture” its best descriptor. At that time, the Seattle-based artist collective had leased a defunct 1930s-era gas station across the street from Boeing Field, and their intent was to transform the site into a temporary art intervention. In the ten years that followed, environmental testing revealed the property’s soil was saturated with petroleum and other hazardous materials; the artists also determined the original gas station building was unsalvageable. Such challenges would have prompted many to abandon Mini Mart City Park. Instead, SuttonBeresCuller has since turned it into something that more resembles a living, breathing entity. The now-permanent, community-minded cultural space that was finally able to break ground in 2018 cleans the soil on the land where its stands. It speaks to the Georgetown community it inhabits. And, it confronts its own history as a foundation for its future existence.
After purchasing the property in 2013, the artists began working with local architects goCstudio to design a new version of the site’s original filling station that could address the project’s full slate of needs. In the conversation that follows, Ben Beres and John Sutton of SuttonBeresCuller, along with architects Aimée O’Carroll and Jon Gentry of goCstudio, discuss how Mini Mart City Park evolved into the version expected to open by the end of this year.
Erin Langner: How has the design for Mini Mart City Park changed over the ten years it’s been in progress?
John Sutton, SuttonBeresCuller: It is still first and foremost an art space. It’s going to house exhibits, residency programs, things along those lines. But, Georgetown is a very small neighborhood; it only has about 1,500 residents. And, we kept hearing that the community wanted not only an art space but a flexible community space where they could gather for different events and meetings.
When we began talking to Jon and Aimée early on, a big question was how to make a small structure that harkens back to the original filling station, because we really wanted to reference the history of that site—to keep the footprint very similar and nod to its original gas station architecture. But also, how do we create a space that’s flexible enough to allow for art, community events and different things?
So, it became a building inspired by the original gas station, but it also has sliding walls, a courtyard, and a park that blends into the interior space. We’ll have a pivot window in this concrete, cavernous building that’s playing on what would have been the station’s drive-up window, but it will be a walk-up window. The front awning where the cars used to pull up and fill their tanks will become a very active public courtyard; when it’s raining, it’s a place to hang out. Because this is a new organization, there’s no existing model, so we wanted to build a space that can grow and change and allow us to figure out ideas as they come to life.
EL: There are aspects of this project that echo the Olympic Sculpture Park, another former brownfield site that’s been transformed into a space focused on art and the environment.
JS: Yes, the Sculpture Park was definitely an influence. There was also a hilltop in the original design that referenced Gas Works Park. Gas Works Park was the state’s first major landscape remedial project, which involved cleaning up all of the contaminated soil on the site, mounting it up and putting a cap over it instead of hauling it off-site. And, that hill became an iconic piece of Seattle’s landscape, where everyone hangs out and watches the fireworks.
Thinking about the remedial aspects drove our project for the first eight years. When we signed the lease on the property in 2008, we knew there was some residual soil contamination. We knew we wanted to address it, and we received funding to do some initial environmental assessment. But, we were initially thinking more in terms of creating a proposal, rather than going in and cleaning the soil ourselves.
Ben Beres, SuttonBeresCuller: I will never forget the day of the testing. I was kind of excited, thinking, we can get going on this. And then, when we turned the corner there was a blast of diesel smell. And we were like, Oh, shit.
JS: The assessment basically uncovered a plume of petroleum contaminants that no one knew was there. That led us to the history of the neighborhood—the spills and other upstream contaminants that were migrating through our site.
One of the proposals recommended to us was to remove the contaminated soil from the property and put in a 20-foot steel curtain that would basically let all of the contaminants flow around our site. But that would mean we would just create a clean island in an otherwise environmentally polluted area. That would have cost millions of dollars, and it wouldn’t have cleaned the soil; we would have just moved it from here to a landfill in eastern Oregon, a process that would have consumed more petroleum than we were trying to clean up in the first place. As artists trying to propose a viable model for how small brownfield sites can be dealt with, spending millions of dollars to not clean anything up was irresponsible on many levels.
So, we worked with environmental consultants to come up with the plan we have now. A second building will include an air-sparge and vapor extraction remediation system to clean the soil and the ground water that’s passing below the site. This system is pretty proven and reliable, but it’s not really used on small sites like this incorporated into the project itself. Usually it’s used on old landfills and big brownfields in advance of redevelopment, so this is new.
We will keep the system for the full life of the property because it will continuously be cleaning up the groundwater and surrounding soil. It’s not going to address the whole neighborhood, but it will improve groundwater that passes through the site. We also eventually want to incorporate solar panels and other things that will offset any environmental costs of Mini Mart City Park’s existence.
EL: Why was the filling station aesthetic so important to this project? How did goCstudio work with that priority?
Aimée O’Carroll, goCstudio: Originally, there was talk of keeping the filling station that had all of these different lives, since it had been part of Georgetown for a long time. We looked to some precedents at other filling stations that had been reused for all sorts of different things, and originally SuttonBeresCuller had been talking about this as a model for other gas station sites around the country. Even though it was determined that the building wasn’t staying, we wanted to keep that sentiment.
BB: The initial idea of using a filling station sprung from us being artists, looking for available space that was inexpensive. We realized how there are hundreds of thousands of derelict gas stations all around the country. We were going on road trips and finding them, and so often seeing these small brownfield sites that were abandoned. When the project began ten years ago, a lot of our work involved recycling, taking old space and making it new, so it just felt like a natural progression. Oh, here’s something that no one wants. How can we use it? How can we make this cool? How can we create art out of detritus and the bad shit that people have left behind?
JS: Originally, we wanted to keep the old gas station, but going through the permitting process, every avenue made the building impossible to salvage. So, how do we recreate something that reflects that old building and its historic use? It was iconic to the neighborhood. The main entrance to Boeing Field was right across the street. But, as the neighborhood changed and as Boeing Field expanded, they rezoned one side of street, so everything around us is now residential. The commercial district disappeared, but there’s still this remnant of what once was.
BB: And we’re watching everything in town get knocked down anyway. It’s a way to keep the tiniest bit of nod to the history. It’s not the same building, but it’s the same idea.
Jon Gentry, goCstudio: From an architecture standpoint, if you stripped the building away and had a black and white drawing of it, it’s very simple in the proportions, like the kind of work that we do. We wanted these elegant looking openings and clean lines, sort of like you’re carving out a front room, you’re carving out a courtyard. But we were also very conscious to absorb as much of the SuttonBeresCuller spirit as we could, to make this a truly collaborative effort. So that’s what led us to the current rendering. It’s interesting, we had another version that was done early on, and we totally had to revisit it because it ultimately didn’t feel right in terms of the architecture’s expression.
BB: Do you know what that was—what was off?
AO: I think the iconic vision of the gas station wasn’t quite as instilled in that version. And I think that became, as we worked together and talked more about it, much more of a driving force for how we were envisioning what this thing would be and its importance in Georgetown. And, once we started diving into it more deeply, we ended up with the larger covered space at the front, the more iconic signage and incorporating more opportunities where SuttonBeresCuller and other artists could add their own touches. The more we worked together, the more that came together.
JS: We’re being very intentional. We’re trying to create a space that isn’t just for an arts audience. We want people to discover something through the arts that they otherwise wouldn’t. It’s important to us that it offers and comments on many different things. There are the environmental issues, the remediation, the technology that’s being incorporated, and the native plantings from the Duwamish Valley that we are adding. We’re trying to create a project that is attractive and interesting to people from different backgrounds but also provides an opportunity to engage in other cultural experiences. So, somebody who came in to see an art exhibit might think about all of the environmental questions it raises and will want to learn more about the history of the Duwamish Valley.
EL: Do you ever think about all of the art that could have been made during the time you were tied up in the bureaucratic processes that were part of this project, or do you see it all as art?
JS: This project from the very beginning has helped define itself and our practice. We have become bureaucrats and lobbyists and accidental activists. And that’s just part of the process of making things—you just discover new avenues. We created an organization, we’re board members, we’re fundraisers. We’re all of these different roles.
BB: I also think this project might have kept SuttonBeresCuller together. It’s been 19 years since we started collaborating. There have been times when things had slowed down, or there were no sales, or things were frustrating, but then this project was still going. We owe it to the community, funders, Creative Capital, 4Culture, the King County Brownfields Program, the City of Seattle, ECOSS, the EPA and so many others—to all of these people and organizations who have been involved and really want it to succeed. So, we knew we had to stick this out, to be stubborn about it and make it happen.
We’re looking forward to some exciting ARCADE happenings on the horizon. Here’s a look at what’s coming up.
Issue 37.1, The Simulated Metropolis—Launching February 28
This February, we’ll be releasing ARCADE Issue 37.1, The Simulated Metropolis. Arts writer and curator Leah St. Lawrence has pulled together a compelling and beautiful feature highlighting artists, curators, and writers who use emerging technologies and social media platforms to carve out space for self-expression and community. The issue is a feast for both the eyes and mind, and our volume 37 designers, Rationale, have created a bold, modernist layout.
We hope you’ll join us on February 28, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., for our Issue 37.1 launch event at 9th and Thomas, a new project in South Lake Union. We’ll unveil the issue, toast the contributors, and celebrate the eventuality of spring.
ARCADE’s First Design Criticism Workshop
Design criticism plays an important role in our cultural ecosystem. It has the power to enrich and deepen our appreciation and understanding of our designed environments, objects, and systems. With this in mind, we’re very excited to present, in partnership with Hugo House, ARCADE’s first design criticism workshop. Taught by Professor Ayad Rahmani, the workshop will take place the weekend of June 1–2 and focus on narratives that produce fresh insights about our designed world. Registration will be available soon! Join us to brush up on your writing skills, gain new storytelling tools, and sharpen your ability to critically engage with all that is designed.
ARCADE’s First Book Publication—Gordon Walker: A Poetic Architecture
As enthusiasts of Northwest modernism, we’re thrilled to present ARCADE’s first book publication—Gordon Walker: A Poetic Architecture. Written by Grant Hildebrand and designed by Lucia|Marquand, the book will be released this July. As the book’s photographer, Andrew van Leeuwen, says: “It’s an apropos time to see Gordon’s work as a measuring stick for where we’ve been and where we’re going. There is a poetry in this work that has become a casualty to the challenges of doing architecture today. There are so many factors competing for an architect’s focus and bandwidth that sticking to a system of beliefs is more important than ever. This book is a road map of the architectural beliefs respected by many in the Pacific Northwest.” (There’s more insight where that came from; the aforementioned quote is from a longer conversation with members of the book’s team that you’ll find in our winter issue.) More information coming soon!
Thank you to Nussbaum Group for co-sponsoring ARCADE's website.
By Ron van der Veen
Photos by Nathanael van der Veen
… Ding dong the witch is dead
Which old witch?
Well, the wicked witch
Ding dong the wicked witch is dead …
I found myself humming this Wizard of Oz anthem over and over on January 11, 2019, the final day of the viaduct’s 65-year reign of terror on Seattle’s waterfront. For some, this day marked the end of a historic engineering achievement that significantly aided Seattle’s emergence as a world-class economic force. For others, this was the day their elevated, unobstructed, 50-miles-per-hour view of Mount Rainier died. And I am sure there was a vast demographic from West Seattle that panicked at the realization that their commute time into the Emerald City had just tripled.
Yes, there are a lot of people who will miss the viaduct. But with all due respect: it was a hideous monster that sucked the soul out of Seattle from the day it was initially conceived in the early 1930s. Ding Dong, the witch is dead …
As I noted in an earlier ARCADE article about the 520 replacement bridge, great cities of the world like Seattle merit wonderful celebratory portals. After spending so much of my professional life within walking and listening distance of the viaduct, I owe the new Evergreen Floating Bridge a huge apology for calling it one of the least-designed overpasses in human history. The viaduct comes from the same sinister DNA and is even worse!
A King5 television story from early January describes how one of the great Pacific Northwest modernist architects, Paul Thiry, felt about the viaduct when it was being planned. According to the Historic American Engineering Record, in 1947 Thiry prophetically stated that the viaduct was “… a horrible thing to do to a city … Forget building the viaduct and build a tunnel under downtown instead.” During the overpass’s design review by the city planning commission, Mr. Thiry and numerous other civic leaders vehemently urged the state and city to build a tunnel, redevelop the waterfront, and save the city from “an unsightly structure along our very valuable waterfront.” A bit ironic, isn’t it?
It is interesting to note that calls for the demolition of the viaduct came as early as the late 1960s. A commissioned study done in 1969 advocated again for the tunneling of Washington State Route 99 so the waterfront could be developed with parks and amenities. Variations on this theme persisted over the decades, promoted by a wide variety of stakeholders, and I imagine it doubled in price every time a proposal was considered. As one historian noted (also in the King5 story), this short innocuous stretch of highway has evoked "the strongest emotions—both positive and negative—of any roadway in the country."
Over a decade ago, as the Seattle Times reports, architect and civic activist Art Skolnik unbelievably filed multiple applications with the Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation to have the viaduct named to the National Register of Historic Places. Along the way, there have been other proposals to save all or remnants of the roadway as an homage to its place in Seattle History. I have always advocated treating it like the unified Germans' approach to the Berlin Wall: completely annihilating it and wiping it from our collective memory.
In a few years from now, we will finally truly appreciate the alternative vision that urban planners and city advocates expressed in the late 1940s. All those who love the Seattle waterfront are already reaping the benefits of not listening to the shriek of traffic and breathing air free from the poison of 90,000 cars per day (though some traffic will return when Alaskan Way is expanded). One of the most picturesque urban waterfronts in the world will finally be visually connected to our great urban core. There will be parks, links to the water, habitat restoration, salmon run enhancement, a multitude of wonderful pedestrian centered spaces. Sound almost too utopian? Think Emerald City!
As I walk along Western Avenue this afternoon with a now only temporarily obstructed view of Puget Sound I can actually hear myself humming a tune. It’s been a soul-sucking 65 years since a Seattleite could actually do that. Ding Dong, the witch is dead!