Urban + Informality: Framing Resilience | Winter 2020

Course Instructor

Manish Chalana + Julie Johnson

Course Date

Winter 2020

Course Type

Built Environments Interdisciplinary Studio

Fifteen graduate and three undergraduate students participated in the studio and developed compelling analyses of and proposals for informality in Central Seattle. The studio focused on urban informality through interrelated themes of housing, livelihoods, urban agriculture and arts/culture.

As these students were formalizing their projects for the end-of-quarter presentations, the University of Washington ended in-person learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The resulting upheaval and uncertainty led to canceling the students’ final presentations, and instead committing to presenting their studio report.

Urban + Informality Studio Report

Climate Changed Urban Agriculture | Autumn 2019

Course Instructor

Julie Johnson

Course Date

Autumn 2019

Course Type

Advanced Graduate Studio

As evidence of accelerated climate change and continued increases in greenhouse gas emissions mount, so does concern for food security. Patterns of drought, extreme heat and flood events, coupled with an increasing population impact regions across the globe, and portend challenges for Puget Sound.
Regenerative agricultural practices and other emerging approaches hold promise for large scale farming, and local urban food production may contribute to diverse aspects of community resilience. As such, the studio was framed by this inquiry:

How may we shift the paradigm of what, where and how food is grown in our cities such that urban agriculture permeates our landscapes as a critical infrastructure advancing resilience through food security, biodiversity, environmental justice, and community connections?

This graduate landscape architecture studio explored the challenge in the context of metropolitan Seattle. Pedagogical goals of the studio included:

  • fostering a collaborative and supportive studio community, to share expertise and support collective endeavors.
  • experiential learning about diverse urban agriculture systems and practices.
  • focused consideration of the projected impacts of climate change on our region.
  • creative design explorations that challenge current assumptions, use systems thinking, and cross spatial and temporal scales to advance climate resilience.
  • framing and development of meaningful design proposals in response to local urban agriculture site needs and climate impacts, in partnership with site leader(s).

This Autumn Quarter 2019 studio document was created to share the speculative and site-based projects developed, as described on the next page. Care has been taken to correct errors in the work, but some errors or omissions may exist. Thanks to all the students for formatting their projects for this document, and special thanks to those who created the document template, coordinated sections of the document and completed the final document assembly.

Download the PDF

Staying in Place: Designing for Community Resilience

Course Instructors

Rachel Berney
Julie Johnson

Course Term

Winter 2018

Course Type

Built Environment Interdisciplinary Studio

Course Description

The studio and seminar were framed to engage students in concepts of resilience across different scales and through outreach with community members and others. The concept of “staying in place” expresses a response to catastrophic events as well as a claim to one’s local community. Drawing upon this duality, the studio investigated design for community resilience at the Mount Baker Light Rail Station Area. The development of this light rail station, SDOT’s strategies for “Accessible Mount Baker,” and other emerging initiatives provided a robust foundation.

The studio and seminar focused on defining dimensions of community resilience to support “staying in place.” Working with local stakeholders, the studio drew from relevant theory and precedents to propose opportunities within and beyond the neighborhood in the context of current planning initiatives, anticipated development opportunities, and potential upheavals to existing systems.

Learn more about the studio at bakerhub.be.washington.edu.


Course Instructor

Julie Johnson

Course Date

Spring 2017

Course Type

Graduate Community Design Studio

Course Description

Looking to a more resilient future in the face of climate change and food production as ecological infrastructure, this studio explored where and how urban agriculture may be practiced in Seattle’s Rainier Beach neighborhood, notably on civic landscapes, towards a system of productive landscapes.The design process and proposals address issues of social justice and environmental health, and envision multiple benefits of healthy food and environments, ecological learning, community-building, and evolving beauty.

See the final studio booklet, Urban Agriculture as System.

Transit + Civic Landscape Systems

Course Instructors

Julie Johnson

Course Date

Winter 2017

Course Type

Graduate & Undergraduate Studio

Course Description

Looking to foster more resilient urban systems and healthier neighborhoods, this studio took on design processes that engaged community members in civic landscape design, focusing on the systems that support residents’ day-to-day life and improve ecological and cultural qualities across timeframes and spatial scales.  The surroundings of Seattle’s planned North 130th Street Light Rail station served as the neighborhood of focus, with connections reaching east to Lake City and west to Bitter Lake neighborhoods. The students collaborated with varied community members, particularly those active in the local Neighborhood Greenways groups.

Students examined how to enrich, expand, diversify, and connect civic landscape systems in the context of this future station and related development as a new Urban Village, particularly addressing pathways, parks, schools, community gardens, wetlands and other habitats. As they tested concepts of resilience, they sought innovative design approaches to address systemic change—coming from multiple sources and offering multiple benefits towards ecological and social well-being and justice.

LARCH 402+503 Studio Booklet


2014 Neighborhood Design Studio


Winter Quarter 2014 | Greenwood-Phinney | Instructor: Julie Johnson


In January-March 2014, the University of Washington Landscape Architecture’s Neighborhood Design Studio focused on the Greenwood-Phinney neighborhood of Seattle to identify and envision ways of improving the neighborhood’s streets and open spaces. The Greenwood-Phinney Greenways group served as a key stakeholder for the 12 Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) students in this studio led by Associate Professor Julie Johnson.

The students learned about the neighborhood and gained insights on their design ideas from community members. They got underway by exploring and analyzing aspects of the neighborhood, identifying opportunities, and visiting local precedents. Students met with community members one evening in mid-January at the Greenwood Branch Library, to learn more about the neighborhood’s features and potentials. Community members were invited to three subsequent design discussions at UW’s Gould Hall, addressing initial design ideas, design schemes, and refined proposals.

As part of their initial scoping, the students identified three interrelated systems to address designs for a healthier Greenwood-Phinney neighborhood:

  • movement systems –to support safe and appealing pedestrian and bicycle networks;
  • civic systems –to engage diverse groups in shared play, learning and stewardship; and
  • ecological systems –to improve urban environmental conditions such as stormwater, habitat, and urban agriculture.

While each student undertook an individual design project, their work overlaps and connects with others’ projects spatially and programmatically. They sought to coordinate these relationships, to cross scales, and to suggest short term as well as longer range potentials. The projects include design proposals for certain streets to support walking and bicycling, such as greenways, as well as open space interventions to enrich ecological and community life towards a healthier neighborhood.

Following the studio’s presentations in March, a community member initiated potential for the studio to display their designs as part of the Phinneywood Art Walk May 9 and 10. Collaborating with community members, the studio transformed a vacant commercial space at the corner of N. 85th Street and Greenwood Avenue N. into a series of interactive exhibits augmented by Greenways and community venues. Visitors were encouraged to add “sticky note” comments on the students’ boards, to afford a visual conversation on the varied proposals. Greenways and community members provided information on Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, a children’s play space, a space for watching videos on improving streets, a comment wall for people to express their ideas for the neighborhood, and refreshments.

This booklet presents the students’ design proposals for a healthier Greenwood-Phinney neighborhood, as a resource and catalyst for continued community dialogue and action. The proposals have grown from feedback provided by community members, designers, others. We thank all who met with us to share and discuss ideas throughout the quarter and at the final presentations:

Community and Greenways Representatives (including designers):

Teresa Damaske
Cheryl Klotz
Justin Martin
Kate Martin
Gordon Padelford
Robin Randels
Jan Satterthwaite
Cathy Tuttle
Jim Walseth
and all who took part in the January 16 meeting at the Greenwood Branch Library.


Designers (not already listed above):

Michael Carey
Sue Costa
Melanie Davies
Andrea Fitch
Eric Higbee
Kristin Kildall
Clara Pang
Elizabeth Powers
Makie Suzuki
Victor Velarde
Fred Young


Agency and Organization Representatives:

Jen Cole
Lisa Quinn
Susanne Rockwell
Thomas Whittemore


UW Students, Faculty, Staff:

Leann Andrews
Ted Sweeney
Lynne Manzo
Ben Spencer
Ken Yocom
Julia Yu
Visiting scholar Yaping Zhang


Thanks from Neighborhood Design studio:

Gabriel Cash
Luna Cheng
Wesley Chiu
James Day
Sara Hakanson
Kyle Kurokawa
“Evan” Yuan Lin
Mickala Loeffelbein
Connor McGarry
Ali Masterson
Autumn Nettey
Aimee Rozier
–Julie Johnson, Associate Professor

2013 Neighborhood Design Studio


Winter Quarter 2013 | Lake City | Instructor: Julie Johnson


With the Lake City Greenways group as the initiating stakeholder for UW Landscape Architecture’s Neighborhood Design Studio studio, 16 students (from landscape architecture, urban design and planning, and architecture) learned about Lake City and envisioned its potentials as a healthier neighborhood. Landscape Architecture Associate Professor Julie Johnson led the students through a participatory design process, such that the students gained insights about the varied places and needs of this neighborhood, as well as their own design responses, through community interactions. Greenways leaders gave students an overview and led walking tours. Students facilitated small group discussions at a community meeting, and some undertook a workshop with youth, to learn more about the neighborhood and potentials. Students undertook site visits and thematic analysis of the neighborhood to enrich their understandings. Two students participated in an event led by a Public Health class involved in the Little Brook neighborhood of Lake City, and one of these students created an online survey for Lake City residents.

As they developed conceptual ideas for particular places or connections, students received feedback from community members, a city staff member and designers in the design studio. Studio visits from agency staff and a designer also helped guide their design ideas. Later in the quarter community members and others returned to discuss students’ schematic designs with them, which informed the development of their final design work. This work was presented to a range of community members, agency staff, and faculty in March 2012.

The studio projects grow from the proposed network of greenways identified by Lake City Greenways. Students have extended these to make connections among civic and open space destinations, including schools and parks. Some students focused on new civic spaces, while others are revitalizing existing ones with ecological, cultural, agricultural, and play-oriented interventions. Wayfinding and identity are central to several projects, including one focused on the Lake City Way spine and another charting a loop trail system. Another offers typologies and places for urban agriculture throughout Lake City. These projects connect with one another to create a synergy of community places and connections. Eight interrelated themes that contribute to making a healthier Lake City are addressed among the projects: greenways wayfinding green infrastructure learning, urban agriculture culture play ecological systems

Special thanks to several people who shared insights with the studio, including:

Community & Greenways representatives
Ruth Anderson
Janine Blaeloch
Dave Morris
Tim Motzer
Phil Shack
Cathy Tuttle
Mark von Walter
all who participated in the January 17 Community Meeting small groups
youth who participated in the February 16 Design Workshop; Amber Trout who facilitated this workshop

Agency representatives
Dongho Chang
Rebecca Deehr
David Graves
Colin Drake
Gretchen DeDecker
Pam Emerson

Design professionals
Jason Breitling
Cameron Duncan
Betsy Jacobson
Jennifer Richter
Dave Rodgers
Kara Weaver
Benjamin Barrett
Elizabeth Umbanhowar

UW faculty and students
Dan Abramson
Marty Curry
Jeff Hou
Lynne Manzo
Nancy Rottle
Luanne Smith
Amber Trout
Daniel Winterbottom
Jack Thompson
Tiffany Sin and the rest of the Master’s in Public Health students working in Little Brook

2012 Neighborhood Design Studio

Winter Quarter 2012 | Ballard | Instructor: Julie Johnson

map of proposed ballard rapid ride route

Download the Ballard Studio Booklet

In Winter Quarter 2012, the University of Washington’s Landscape Architecture 402/Neighborhood Design studio engaged students in the Ballard/Crown Hill neighborhood, to envision how mass transit changes could be a foundation for designing a healthier neighborhood, within transit station areas and connecting with pedestrian, bicycle, and open space systems. METRO’s Rapid Ride D Line, scheduled to operate in autumn 2012, and a possible streetcar line identified for Ballard, provided the spatial framework. Members of the Ballard District Council and Ballard’s Neighborhood District Coordinator generously shared insights at the start of the studio and participated in reviewing the students’ proposals.

Taught by Associate Professor Julie Johnson, the studio’s 17 students conducted a neighborhood analysis through field work, meeting with community representatives and drawing from data. They studied and shared relevant design themes and precedents as references for their design work. Six groups selected a particular D Line station/stop, with one group focusing on the possible streetcar line. With an overarching goal of designing for a healthier neighborhood, ideas among their design visions included new development, a network of greenways, innovative bicycle parking, rain gardens, urban agriculture, and public art that would provide orientation and identity.

In addition to an interim and final presentation at Gould Hall, the students presented their visions at the March 14, 2012, Ballard District Council meeting.

This booklet presents the students’ design proposals for the six METRO Rapid Ride station areas and a proposed streetcar alignment with three stations indicated on the booklet cover.

The studio benefitted greatly from insights and contacts shared by Rob Mattson (Ballard’s Neighborhood District Coordinator) and from the insights of a group from the Ballard District Council that Rob assembled, a METRO Transportation Planner, City Staff, a Ballard Greenways representative, design professionals, and others affiliated with UW. Thanks to all these individuals.

Read about the Neigborhood Design Studio in the news