Started as an ethnic enclave in the 1860’s, the Chinatown-International District in Seattle today is a place of immigrant histories, personal and family memories, community pride, and home to many elderly residents, restaurants and businesses. Being a multi-ethnic neighborhood located at the edge of downtown Seattle, it is also a place where forces of cultural and spatial contestations are manifested in the everyday environment, from the encroaching office development to issues of cultural representation in the design of streetscapes and public art.
Rather than focusing solely on physical solutions, this studio placed urban design in the larger context of community building, placemaking, identity formation and collective actions. As part of an ongoing effort to develop an urban design master plan to guide future development and improvement in the District, the primary goals of the studio were (1) to assist the local community organizations in setting goals for the master plan, and (2) to develop preliminary design strategies that can facilitate dialogues in the planning and design process.
Upon an evaluation of the diverse needs of the neighborhood and in recognition of the social process needed to implement the design, the studio took a decentralized approach of developing a series of smaller-scale proposals that target specific sites and issues within the District. Because of the relative small scale and specificity of the location and issue, each of the proposals can be adopted by a community organization as a pilot project. The approach would allow the local organizations to become more engaged in the planning and design process. It would facilitate and encourage more diverse expressions of cultural and place identities in the District and closer attention to issues that are particularly important to a specific part of the community.
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