Waterfront Seattle is a partnership between the City of Seattle and the entire community to create an inviting new public waterfront for everyone – a Waterfront for All, that the entire region can enjoy for generations. The assignment for the design of the 26-block area is taken on by celebrated James Corner Field Operations, creator of the famous Highline on Manhattan. The impact from the project on the city and the civic undertaking is compared with the Seattle Worlds Fair 1962. Exactly 50 years later Seattle is going to be transformed again, and I would say this might even be bigger. The land area is larger and those 26 blocks at the water is truly the front porch of Seattle.
This blog, Home is Away, Away is Home has a main purpose: telling about the culture, development and progress of my two cities, Umeå on the north east coast of Sweden and Seattle on the north west coast of the United States. Cities, very different in scale although surprisingly similar in a lot of ways and with quite a few things in common.
One is the treasured and troubled waterfront in both cities, simultaneously undergoing major transformations. In Umeå about a 25 year process containing tons of arguing and emotional distress. There is no doubt though, that designing the Seattle waterfront is a much more challenging task. Except for two loved parks and a much liked and highly frequented community building for young people, the Umeå River 9-block waterfront has been a close to dead spot, a big parking lot, pretty much. The Seattle waterfront is an extremely charged place, socially and culturally, politically and ideologically. It’s not only a fantastic scenic spot loved by Seattleites and tourists, but a melting pot for business owners, ferry commuters, the professional sports teams, property owners, the tribes, shippers and builders, and the industrial port.
So, what’s going on this summer 2012? Well, July presented a progress report from, among others, the architect James Corner. The design on hand tries to reflect the observations from all those parts involved in the everyday waterfront life, and the price tag is 420 million dollars. And although, again, the scales are different, the wish list and the visions are very similar to the much smaller Umeå waterfront:
Promenades, parks, bicycle and roller stretches, possibilities to touch the water, cafés, ice skating rink, restaurants, outdoor stage for concerts and performances, improved easy access walking from downtown down to the water, and a desire for a prospering and fun place to visit even during our dark/gloomy snowy/rainy winter time.
So listen Umeå: a heated swimming pool on a barge, wouldn’t that be great even in Umeå?! Our cities share the same problem; Elliot Bay and the Umeå River are too dangerous for swimming but seductive on a hot day. A barge with a pool, changing rooms and showers, yes! The idea actually comes from Europe, existing in Copenhagen and Frankfurt.
And please give me an outdoor stage on the waterfront! There will be a Black Box in Kulturväven, the new building for cultural arts, and that’s fine. But oh how I would love a big summer stage that would capture and hold the light summer nights! A semi-outdoor transparent one, a building in see-through glass, seats in doors and the back open not to let anyone out. Black boxes are for our long black winters. Give us the exact opposite to celebrate the uniqueness and the magic summers on the 63rd latitude, a Light Box!