Seattle Center open space – public vs private use

According to the Seattle Times over 400 people attended a community meeting to discuss plans for the 5 acres next to the iconic Space Needle. The site was formerly the Fun Forest amusements  and the land was recently returned to the public. Bids where called for north area and the Seattle Center is entertaining the possibility of a children’s garden that was proposed by the Seattle Children’s Museum’s.

The current proposal for the south area is to allocate 1.5 acres of the land to a new 44,000 square foot Dale Chihuly glass-art exhibit proposed by the Wright Family who own the Space Needle. This proposal according to Seattle Times reports was popular with the attending crowd.  However, there was some opposition in the crowd including Iain Robertson noted by Seattle Times as ‘landscape architect’ but I think it may also be the same Iain Robertson who is Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Washington and on the Board of Directors of the Seattle Parks Foundation who was quoted in the Seattle Times as saying

…..Seattle Center is not the right location for a glass exhibit and that the city would be foolish to give up nearly 2 acres of open space.

“For us as a city to replace that [open space] in the future would cost an enormous amount of money,” he said. “You just don’t get a chance at this much open space in the center of the city.”

Also cited in the Seattle Times article was the Director of the Seattle Center Robert Nellams who said

there must be a balance between creating more open space — which is what was envisioned in the Center’s 2008 master plan — and generating revenue.

The Seattle Center Century 21 Master Plan was adopted in August, 2008 with an estimate of $567 million which was to be funded by a levy.

It seems as though this proposal will make the residents and stakeholders of Seattle have to deal with all too common question in these recent hard economic times of public versus private use of public land.

The current proposal brings into question the goals of the Seattle Center Master Plan and its vision. Master Plans are often well thought out documents produced over a long period of public consultation by the city and consultants to develop a vision for the next 20-100 years. To make a decision based on economics and adjacent properties owners assertions alone seems foolish.

The current proposal for Dale Chihuly glass-art exhibit seems at odds with the Seattle Center Master Plan which states

A combined ten acres at the Fun Forest and Memorial Stadium, currently paved over or walled off, is opened up, connecting the people and activities that were once isolated at its edges. The carnival rides that sit empty most months of the year are replaced with landscaping, performance spaces and play areas that invite people in to create their own active experiences.
Master plan Overview – Seattle Center Century 21 Masterplan(Page 21)  – (link to pdf)

The use of public space in key landmark locations needs to treated with the utmost respect as decisions made now can change the way a space is used for decades. I am not against the use of public land for private use if it generates revenue for the city and provides for the community but it must be in keeping with the long-term goals of the city.  We all know as designers that there are too many white elephants dotting the landscape across the world to remind us that bad decisions can haunt a city in the future.

By Damian Holmes

[SOURCE: Seattle Times - What to do with Seattle Center parcel draws a big crowd]
[SOURCE: Seattle Times - Goodbye to grand plan for Seattle Center?]

[SOURCE: Seattle Center Century 21 Master Plan] Link to pdf

China to reach 50% urban population by 2015

Recently Li Shouxin, director of the Development Planning Department stated that China’s urban population had reached 622 million by the end of 2009, with the urbanization rate standing at nearly 47 percent with the urban population growing by just under 1% annually over the last five years.

Zhang Qin, deputy director of the Urban-Rural Planning Department under the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD), said the rapid urbanization of China will continue for 15 to 20 years and China will become an urban society during the “12th Five-Year Plan” period (between 2011 and 2015 ).

The process will create a market of at least 1 trillion yuan ($146 billion) in the coming 20 years, according to a report by the Xinhua News Agency.

[SOURCES: People's Daily Online and Global Times]

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Gulf Landscaping opens in Abu Dhabi

Gulf Landscaping 2010 starts in Abu Dhabi, UAE today with His Excellency H.E. Rashid Mubarak Al Hajeri, Chairman of the Department of Municipal Affairs inaugurating the event which will showcase both the theory and shared best practice for those involved in the Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 vision.  Speakers involved include Masdar architects Foster+Partners and SWA Group, landscape architects for the 11-hectare green oasis including plazas, pools and promenades that surround the Burj Khalifa. Gulf Landscaping is held in the centre of a cash rich market with an estimated US$1000 billion of projects planned or underway in the Gulf, with the UAE alone accounting for a third of this. Gulf Landscaping takes place at ADNEC, Abu Dhabi on 29, 30 and 31 March 2010.

World Landscape Architect is a supporter of Gulf Landscaping 2010.

International Green Construction Code launched

Version 1.0 of the International Green Construction Code(IGCC) was launched by the International Code Council. Of interest to Landscape Architects is Chapter 4 – Site development and land use which

provides requirements for the development and maintenance of building and building sites that encourage natural resource conservation and environmentally responsible land use and development.

This chapter addresses soils, land use and conservation, storm water, irrigation, graywater, vegetation, building site management, transport, bicycle & vehicle parking, hardscape, vegetative roofs, lighting. Version 1.0 was undertaken with American Institute of Architects (AIA), ASTM International, ASHRAE, USGBC and IES with the inclusion of ASHRAE Standard 189.1 as an option for jurisdictional requirements. Version 1.0 of the code is open for public comment and then a Version 2.0 will be released in November 2010.

The IGCC aims to significantly reduce energy usage and greenhouse gasses. Enforcement of the code will improve indoor air quality and support the use of energy-efficient appliances, renewable energy systems, water resource conservation, rainwater collection and distribution systems, and the recovery of used water (greywater).

The IGCC emphasizes building performance, including features such as a requirement for building system performance verification and building owner education to ensure the best energy-efficient practices. A key feature of the new code is a section devoted to “jurisdictional electives” that will allow customization of the code beyond its baseline provisions to address local priorities and conditions.

Read more and download the IGCC (pdf or word format) at the [SOURCE: ICC] via Dexigner

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New ‘Future Cities Laboratory’ for Singapore

ETH Zurich, a Swiss University and the National Research Foundation of Singapore have signed an agreement for the “Future Cities Laboratory”. This set the seal on the structure of the new platform for urban development in Singapore.

In this project, it is collaborating closely with scientists from the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University. An agreement was signed in Singapore on 19 March 2010 forms an important link between the NRF and ETH Zurich as they build up their joint research activities. The plan is for the interdisciplinary research platform for sustainable urban development in Singapore to be staffed by September 2010.

The research focuses on three key scales: sustainable building technologies, the city as an urban system, and the relationship between urban and rural environments. The new strategy of the “Future Cities Laboratory” consists of combining these key points in an appropriate way and researching their interactions. The architects, planners and scientists see and design the city as a dynamic system in which people interact and in which resources such as energy, water, space, capital, materials or information are constantly in flux.

[SOURCE: ETH Zurich]

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