community · design · environment · Social

UW exhibit celebrates parks, public spaces reclaimed from unusual uses

A bit older news, but still interesting, and a great way to get into the unofficial summer season; from UW News:

Gas Works Park, Seattle WA

Thaisa Way, a UW associate professor of landscape architecture, and several of her design students have curated “Experimenting in Public Space,” on exhibit May 9 to June 24 at the American Institute of Architecture design gallery in downtown Seattle. The exhibit explores Gas Works and 11 subsequent parks and public spaces in a series of sketches, photographs and architectural renderings.

In 1962, a parcel at the northern tip of Lake Union was a toxic waste dump, the result of an industrial plant that turned coal to natural gas. By 1976, however, it was Gas Works Park, the result of a gutsy experiment in landscape architecture led by Richard Haag, a University of Washington emeritus professor of architecture.

Gas Works and subsequent projects established Seattle as one of the first American cities willing to recast industrial sites into places to celebrate.

“Gas Works was a radical move, especially since Rachel Carson’s book, ‘Silent Spring,’ had just been published, and people were alerted about environmental pollution,” Way said.

Haag convinced the city that not only could unusual and sometimes polluted land be reclaimed but that it should be. Instead of the wide, rolling vistas of trees and flowers created across the country by the Olmsted brothers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, however, Haag celebrated the city and all its right angles. The gas works boiler house eventually sheltered grills and picnic tables, and the gas compressor became a play barn, all with a water’s edge view of Lake Union and the downtown Seattle skyline.

Among the projects featured in the exhibit are Freeway Park, Waterworks Gardens and the Olympic Sculpture Park.

Read more here.

I’m excited to see a celebration of open public park spaces, especially those reclaimed from formerly unappealing and otherwise unusable spaces. I find myself at Gas Works Park a lot in the summer, and love having so much green open space in the city I live in!