Once Seattle’s earthquake-damaged Alaskan Way Viaduct is torn down in 2016, there will be room for much needed public space. At that point James Corner Field Operations hopes to “re-center” the city along a linear park hugging a new multimodal boulevard no longer in the shadow of the double-decker highway.
James Corner presented his vision on May 19 in Seattle, where he detailed plans for the 26-block target area between the Olympic Sculpture Park and Qwest Field. Through a series of dramatic folding planes—in sync with Weiss/Manfredi’s folded sculpture garden—and terraced platforms inspired by tide lines that negotiate Seattle’s steep topography, Corner’s plan will draw visitors out onto piers designed around nodes of activity that maximize views of the surrounding Elliott Bay and city.
As much of an obstacle as the Alaskan Way was, “the viaduct did offer elevated views of the surrounding landscape,” said Tatiana Choulika, associate partner at Field Operations. “The folds allow you to maintain this high vantage point.” Among these folds are the Overlook, which spans the new boulevard, and the Belltown Balcony, a cantilevered platform with views of the bay. “We conceived of the folds as landforms tumbling down the hill,” she said. Together, the folds and tide lines break the larger park into more intimate spaces.
“Seattle’s waterfront has moved over time, not just from tides but also from development,” said Choulika. By rebuilding the seawall and redefining the shore once again, these tide lines help establish a restored habitat that will filter rainwater from the city.
In the end, the park reflects the culture of Seattle, said Choulika. “We didn’t want to just import a museum or a lawn. The design will be unique to the city.”