Friday, February 13, 2009


Here is a nice little park near the UW campus. In the background you can see the Henry Art Gallery and Suzzallo Library; Gould Hall, home to the newly renamed College of Built Environments is a block away to the right.

Problem is, the park is in a median, with two lanes of traffic on each side running the length of the park, two on the near end, and four on the far end. Note the meandering path down the center of the median that is ostensibly a place for contemplation.

I've heard the park referred to as "a waste" and "hated." At the time, I thought these words rather harsh, but I've grown to feel the same. It goes without saying that a place for contemplation and respite looks much more like this (Kyoto, Japan):

In the same vein, and near Seattle Pacific University, one can find this charming stretch of retail, restaurant and office real estate, adjacent to Nickerson Street. Again, good intentions fall victim to the surrounding street alignment. I, for one, don't care to walk to and from any retail, restaurant or office location that is five feet away from four lanes of barreling traffic, and I doubt many other people do.

I recently asked, as many do, for whom or what are we building our city. Both of these examples point to vehicular traffic as the primary recipient of all that hard work, while a little bit of humanity is wrangled into the leftover space. Not a new observation, I know, but a powerful one nonetheless.

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