2009 King Street Visioning Project

Featured at the Parallel Cases exhibition at the 4th International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam, the King Street Visioning Project is a collaborative effort between the University of Washington and multiple community organizations in Seattle’s Chinatown/Little Saigon/International District. The project addresses future transformation and revitalization of the district, using King Street as both a site and a catalyst. As the main pedestrian spine, King Street connects the historic Chinatown, Little Saigon, and further to the rest of the city. The street is lined with historic single-occupancy hotels, restaurants, and ethnic groceries, as well as industrial warehouses and vacant lots. It is terminated by a transit hub on one side and bisected by an interstate freeway on the other. The street lies at the crossroad of a series of layered and shifting population patterns and circulation paths. It exists as a tie to ethnic history and cultural activities of the district and beyond.

Despite such richness, King Street lacks the dynamism found in Asian neighborhoods of North America. The goal of this project is to develop a series of proposals that invite discussion within the neighborhood for future improvement of the street. Rejecting a static master plan, this project addresses King Street as a dynamic and changing landscape. Specifically, it develops temporary and incremental tactics to activate specific sites, layers, and networks (social and spatial) in the district. It formulates strategies that strengthen the existing vitality and continuity of ethnic identity and cultural activities in the district in the face of new development and zoning change. The project built on a series of community workshops that ‘listened’ to the everyday voices in the district. Based on these voices, a program of Activate, Identity, Connections, and Greening is developed that address both the spatial and temporal dimensions of change, and focuses on not only the physical streetscape but also the broader interconnections, spatial layers, and social networks within the neighborhood and the city.

To find out more, visit http://courses.washington.edu/kingst/

BE Lab 2009: Taoping, China

The 2009 BE Lab (Built Environment Laboratory) is an interdepartmental sequence of courses offered by the College of Built Environments, at the University of Washington, Seattle, on the topic of earthquake recovery in Sichuan, China.

In this inaugural BE Lab, UW students and faculty will collaborate with partners at Sichuan University, the design and planning firm Werkhart International, and the people and government of Taoping Village and Li County, Sichuan, to address challenges that include: resilient building reconstruction; ecologically sensitive site design and watershed management; cultural heritage preservation; and sustainable tourism development.

To find out more, visit the course website

2007 International Childrens Park

Located in the Chinatown-International District, the International Children’s Park is one of three public parks developed in the 1970s in the district as results of community activism for improving the blighted neighborhood. The park has provided a much-needed open space for recreation and gathering in a dense inner-city neighborhood. However, in recent years, the park has suffered from lack of use by local residents despite the expressed desire for more open space in the neighborhood. Factors such as poor visibility into the park and lack of flexibility for programming have often been mentioned by people who are familiar with the conditions of the park.

Working with the Friends of International Children’s Park (FICP) and other community partners, the goal of this studio is to assist the community stakeholders in bringing people (children, adults, residents, and visitors alike) back to the park. The design and community process for improving the park is funded by the Neighborhood Matching Fund of the City of Seattle, awarded to the FICP. The products of this studio contribute directly to the ongoing planning and improvement of the park. As a listed project under the new Parks and Green Space Levy, passed by Seattle voters in 2008, the project will be implemented within the next five years.

To find out more, visit http://courses.washington.edu/replay/

2007 DIYism Workshop: Taipei

Sanzihou is the site of a former American military housing compound in Taipei. As a peri-urban neighborhood mixed with an iconic Cold War landscape developed during the Korean War, Sanzihou is a contested site at multiple levels. On one hand, preservationists and developers have battled over plans to redevelop or preserve the area. On the other hand, residents and students engage in a different kind of contestation as they battle over the lack of adequate housing and other public amenities. In 2007, UW students participated in a Design Charrette organized by the Organization for Urban Re-s (OURs) in Taipei to envision the future of the area with a focus on reconciling preservation and the everyday life of the local residents. In the 5-day charrette, teams of students examined the reuse of a suburban-style American military housing complex as a part of plan to address the future development and conservation of the Sanzaihou neighborhood in Yangminsan.

Focusing on a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) approach, the student projects explored ways to improvise the everyday landscape in the neighborhood for improvement. The focus on the everyday provided an alternative spatial discourse and practice that addresses the needs and assets of the community and unleashes the social and spatial possibilities in the landscapes of the contemporary city.

To find out more, visit http://blog.yam.com/szh2007

2006 Night Market Eventscape

From selling food and clothing to public performance and entertainment, night markets represent an ephemeral yet persistent urban phenomenon in East Asia. In the Pacific Northwest, “night market” as a popular form of leisure and shopping experience and as a way of community revitalization has emerged in Vancouver and Richmond, BC, and more recently in Seattle. The phenomenon reflects the growing presence of Asian American community in the region and its translocal cultural practices. In Seattle’s Chinatown-International District, a community-driven effort has been made to develop a night market as a regular activity in the district. The night market would create a gathering place for the community as well as catalyzing economic development in the district.

Supported with a grant for internationalization of undergraduate curriculum from the UW Office of Undergraduate Education and International Programs and Exchanges, the studio investigated the cross-cultural landscape of night markets in the Pacific Northwest. Specifically, it collaborated with the WILD (Wilderness Inner-city Leadership Development) Youth Program to develop designs that would support the planned night market in the Chinatown-International District. Envisioned as temporary site installations, the designs provide functional support for the night market event as well as helping to interpret the stories embedded in the immigrant communities of the district.

To find out more, visit http://courses.washington.edu/nightmkt/

2005 Field Studio Meinung, Taiwan

Located in a valley of tobacco and rice fields, Meinung is one of Southern Taiwan’s most scenic and culturally important townships. However, like most rural townships in Taiwan and many developing regions, Meinung is also facing challenges from a globalized process of economic restructuring, influx of tourism, and urbanization. How can design and planning offer tools for local communities to respond to these forces? How can designers and planners work with local activists to develop alternative visions of local development and conservation?

This month-long field studio worked with one of the most dynamic and resilient community organizations in Taiwan, the Meinung People’s Association (MPA), to develop design and planning strategies for cultural and environmental sustainability for the township. Formed in early 1990’s as the leading organization against a proposed major dam, MPA has led the local community in successfully defeating the proposed Meinung Dam. In recent years, MPA has expanded its role through various community building projects to improve the livelihood of the predominantly Hakka community.

In this studio, students from University of Washington formed interdisciplinary and cross-cultural teams with local activists, university students and residents to develop catalytic design projects as well as planning frameworks to address composite sets of urban and rural issues. Projects included renovation of historic buildings and landscapes, design of a riverfront street market, and conservation of a valley for ecotourism and agro-forestry. The hybrid nature of these projects challenge the disciplinary and cultural boundaries as well as the conceptual divide between urban and rural.

To find out more, visit http://courses.washington.edu/meinung/



2005 Seattle Waterfront

In spring 2005, the Department of Landscape Architecture at University of Washington was contracted by the Seattle City Council to examine possibilities of creating near-shore habitats in the Central Waterfront while providing public access and amenities. The project was carried out through a design studio in which students were asked to design for two specific sites on the waterfront-the Waterfront Park and the Piers 62/63, where the depth of water is most suitable for habitat functions. With an emphasis on enhancing habitat value using built structures and strategic interventions, the studio produced a range of design strategies and devices that recognize the physical constraints and possibilities of the urban sites.

In terms of creating near-shore habitats, the strategies included accretion and erosion of materials to allow for gradual building of shallow water conditions along the concrete edge. Another set of strategies included design of floating structures to simulate conditions of different tidal zones for different habitat environments. The structures that support the accretion of materials and functions of the floating platforms in turn also allow for public use of the water’s edge. They provide not only access to the waterfront but also opportunities to learn and observe the dynamic changes at this urban edge.

Summarized as 9 BIG MOVES, the work produced from the studio informed and challenged the ongoing debate concerning the future of Seattle’s Central Waterfront that has predominantly been focused on transportation priorities rather than ecological and greater public values.

To find out more, visit http://courses.washington.edu/ecodsgn/

2005 Design Rescue: Aceh

On December 26, 2004, a series of earthquakes caused tsunamis impacting nine countries in South Asia and leaving more than 100,000 dead and a further 2 millions forced from their homes. Over 10 countries are affected as far away as Somalia and Kenya with Aceh province in Indonesia and Sri Lanka said to be worst hit (Architecture for Humanity).

This studio was an attempt to assist local and international efforts to rebuild communities and ecologies in the region, with Aceh Province as a particular focus. The goal of the studio was to explore how landscape architects can engage in the current and long-term recovery efforts in the region. This studio was also part of a network of individuals and programs around the world that are currently investigating strategies and approaches toward sustainable community and landscape recovery in the tsunami-impacted region.

The results of the studio included a set of prototypical designs to envision a long-term, community-based recovery and rebuilding process focusing on conditions in Aceh. Individually tailored to address a set of issues and conditions, these prototype designs are meant to enable local communities to take actions and to be adapted to address specific needs on the ground. Together, each design can also support each other to address diverse needs in the communities and the interrelated nature of the recovery and rebuilding efforts. Local communities and aid organizations are welcome to adapt and improvise these design strategies.

To find out more, visit http://courses.washington.edu/larescue/

2005 International District Open Space

Located in South Downtown Seattle, the Chinatown, Japantown, Little Saigon -International District is one of the city’s most historically important neighborhoods. It has been the hub of Asian American communities in the Pacific Northwest since the late 1800’s. Today, it continues to support a vibrant community of multiethnic residents and businesses, as well as those who have moved out of the district but maintain strong collective and personal ties. Like many parts of the city, the district is currently faced with a series of imminent changes that can significantly influence its future livability as a community of diverse cultures and populations. They include increase in housing density, changes of current land use zoning, and new and expanded transportation and other development projects. What can the community do to respond to these coming changes?

As part of the service-learning curriculum in the Department of Landscape Architecture at University of Washington, this studio investigated ways to enable the community to maintain and improve its livability and culturally diversity. Specifically, it focused on the development of a set of open space initiatives. In recognition of the diversity and complexity of the neighborhood, the studio worked on multiple areas within the district, with different stakeholders including organizations and residents. Students developed multiple strategies as well as holistic concepts to address the diverse needs in the community. They also developed creative ways to engage the community. The studio considered both the institutional and community building processes of creating open space. It examined ways through which open space supports a livable and diverse community and ensure these objectives and mechanisms are embodied in subsequent design and development.

To find out more, visit http://courses.washington.edu/cosi/

2004 Field Studio: Quanzhou, China

The UW Community Planning and Urban Design Field Studio in China was a 4-week, 8-credit course that brought students in urban planning, landscape architecture, architecture and related fields such as China Studies, Geography and Anthropology, to deal directly with issues that confront urban design, planning and management in China and many other developing countries. The central focus of the studio was to explore how design could help to articulate diverging stakeholder interests in development at the community level, to help municipal policy-makers acknowledge this diversity of interests, and to explore ways that the urban planning decision-making process could become more inclusive of community.

In this field studio, UW students teamed up with local Chinese students to work directly with two communities in the coastal city of Quanzhou, in the southeastern province of Fujian. One community is a neighborhood designated for preservation in an economically and demographically declining corner of the city’s historic center; the other is a burgeoning village at the city’s expanding and increasingly industrial periphery. Each presents a typical set of urban problems in China. The student teams worked with these different sets of problems, by conducting surveys and proposing design and development strategies in collaboration with local residents, authorities, scholars, and professionals. Their ultimate goal was to establish a public discussion on appropriate development goals for the city’s diverse communities.

To find out more, visit http://courses.washington.edu/quanzhou/2004/