Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New York architect presents design ideas for Seattle waterfront

Hundreds of people packed into a waterfront auditorium last night (Thurs.) in Seattle. They came to see concepts of what the city might look like, once the Alaskan Way Viaduct comes down.

It's the beginnings of a dream, in full color, with lots of glossy drawings - but the process of creating the future on Seattle's waterfront has only just started. 

That was the message from New York designer James Corner, who has been hired to help the city transform itself as it removes the viaduct built for Highway 99 nearly six decades ago.

"People do want a spectacular waterfront. They do see the potential for this new waterfront to transform the face and the identity of the city. So, just – continually imaging the waterfront as a kind of stage set for public life and designing it that way."

Since October, Corner says he's been spending a lot of time getting to know Elliot Bay and its surroundings, so he can create a waterfront design that's authentic to Seattle's culture – mixing industrial activities with things like people here like to see and do, like wading into tide pools or sipping coffee on a pier with a view of the mountains.

“Many cities are doing this, and the trick is to do it in a unique way to the city and location you're in. You shouldn’t approach these projects with a formulaic idea of what a waterfront should be."

The crowd he addressed included lots of architects and students of urban landscape design, who've been following the process closely. But there were also many Seattle residents who said they were looking Corner’s conceptual drawings for the first time. Bankers and barbers, engineers and landowners came with ideas and concerns about the future waterfront.

The city handed out surveys and sticky notes where people could put their feedback on the design.

Corner wrapped up his talk with a reminder: this is just the beginning of a big design process and the public is being asked to continue weighing in. The Viaduct is scheduled for demolition in 2016.

On the web:

Seattle Channel Video on Waterfront Initial Designs Directions Event

Seattle Planning Department's Creating a Great Waterfront

City's Waterfront public comment Facebook page

Click herefor a power point presentation from the event. 

Seattle Channel has posted its video on line -- click on "Seattle Waterfront Initial Design Directions Event" at the top of that page to see the footage.


Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to