Sea Organ

30 09 2011

I stumbled across this project recently and was really taken with its ingenuity:

Sea Organ is an architectural and experimental musical object located in Zadar, Croatia. Is a pipe organ that has a set of 35 musically tuned tubes located underneath a set of large marble steps played by the sea waves. The movement of the sea pushes air through, and depending on the size and force of the wave, it produces a somewhat random but harmonic sound. Designed by architect Nikola Basic in 2005, who recently received the European Prize for Urban Public Space for this project.

What do you think? Would this work in Seattle?


Oct 27 Experience the Waterfront Meeting

21 09 2011

Waterfront Seattle design update and idea sharing event.

October 27, 2011Bell Harbor Conference Center

Event kicks off at 5pm with food and music.

Big Move

21 09 2011

I have been a bit MIA lately, mainly because I moved away from Seattle! I have recently relocated to Boston, MA, where I am working at a great architectural firm and getting to know the city.

Seattle was a great city to learn from and I am looking forward to keeping up to date with the waterfront redevelopment.

I met with the Boston Society of Architects last week and they are interested in showing the ‘Smart Seawalls’ exhibit next year at their new location. I will update as I hear more info!

I will be keeping up to date with the Seattle Waterfront Development so stay tuned!


Seawall Design Alternatives Completed

7 06 2011

Replacing the seawall that protects downtown Seattle is a complex project, but it has now moved one step closer to construction as the City has completed defining the range of alternatives that will go into the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The two alternatives bracket the options, from a relatively lower cost project that provides basic structural stability and core habitat enhancements, to a higher cost alternative that pulls the seawall inland to provide increased habitat and design flexibility. The City will likely select a hybrid of these two choices that will provide the best solution to address critical public safety needs while integrating the long-term vision for the Central Waterfront, habitat and environmental enhancement, improved public access, and economic vitality of the waterfront, while being mindful of costs for the project as a whole.

The existing seawall includes three types of structures. The southern two zones, in front of Pioneer Square and the Ferry Terminal, are gravity walls with piles below them. The third zone, in the center of the project, has a timber relieving platform and a steel master pile covered with a wood facing. The fourth zone, in front of the Aquarium, has a pre-cast concrete wall face tied to the timber relieving platform. Each of these existing structures helps to define the two potential wall alignments.

There are two alternative designs for the 3,840 feet of seawall scheduled to be replaced. In Alternative A, the seawall stays near its current location. In Alternative B, the wall is pulled back from 15 feet in the southern two zones to as much as 75 feet adjacent to the Aquarium, allowing options for a different relationship between the water and land. Along with these alternative wall alignments, there are two types of structural solutions for replacing the seawall. The least expensive option involves jet grouting to improve the soil behind the wall. The second option, using drilled shafts, is a more proven technology but also more expensive.

The tradeoffs in flexibility, cost, and relative risk will all be analyzed in the coming year, and a decision is expected in 2012. Construction of the central seawall will begin in the latter half of 2013 and last approximately three years. During construction, there will be a plan for preserving access to waterfront businesses. Construction will occur during the winter months, both to keep the waterfront open during the summer and because of restrictions on working in water during fish migrations. During construction, traffic on Alaskan Way would be moved under the existing viaduct.

Much analysis and many decisions remain before the Seawall project is ready to go out for funding. The current level of design has increased the projected cost by at least $50 million, and possibly as much as $100 million or more. Reasons for the cost increases include the greater expense for drilled shafts, adding 234 feet of length to the project at the northern end, and shifting some costs to this project that had formerly been assigned to the Central Waterfront project.

The increases in projected costs suggest that it was probably a wise decision not to go to a public vote in 2010 or 2011, since the ballot measure would not have been sufficient to cover the costs, and the City would have had to either go to a second vote or find funds elsewhere. Unfortunately, the increased cost will make a successful 2012 ballot measure even more challenging.

The City continues to pursue two possible funding resources. The King County Flood Control District Board has agreed in principle to fund $30 million of the project, although that will have to be confirmed at the time that the funds are needed. And the Corps of Engineers is continuing to work in conjunction with the City and there is still a possibility of federal funding, depending on the national political picture.

Repairing and replacing the seawall remains a high priority for the City. The City is approaching it carefully and thoughtfully to make sure that the right project gets selected and completed.


May 19 Waterfront Presentation PDF

23 05 2011

Check out the new and imporved waterfrontseattle website, and the PDF of the May 19 Presentation.

May 19 James Corner Seattle Waterfront Presentation

20 05 2011

I was able to attend last night’s festivities at Bell Harbor Marina in downtown Seattle. This time around they had food carts and music on the Pier and it actually was sunny! Again they had stations to vote for different ideas and a new existing conditions physical model.

After the intro by Marshall Foster, James Corner outlined the scheduling and overall feedback from the last meeting:

  • They are in Concept Design Phase, which will last until the end of 2012

Questions about the future of the new waterfront:

  • What do you want to see? Parks, Natural habitat, Strolling, Sitting, Viewing, Health + Fitness, Walking, Playing, Concerts, Lounging
  • What do you not want to see? Obstructions of the water, tourist chain restaurants
  • Where do you want to be? Unanimously it was near the water

For this preliminary design concept meeting, Corner presented 3 scales of design:

  • City: Recentering Seattle around Elliott Bay
  • Urban framework: connecting the city to the waterfront
  • Waterfront: Creating/Revealing  Tidelines and Folds


On the zoomed out scale, James showed several diagrams showing how rings connect things around Seattle


James continued his diagrams of the 8 districts along the waterfront and how important it is for them to be brought down to the waterfront and have their own character. He also discussed his approach on public transportation: keeping the main routes N/S for automobiles and public transit, and opening up healthy E/W connections for pedestrians. He strongly mentioned how Seattle needs to make a decision and make the waterfront pedestrian focused (all renderings showed streets and bike lanes with pedestrian crossings that were dominant)


Tidelines: were used as an organizational framework to hang features from. The tidal nature of Seattle fascinates the design team and they want to demarcate the tides and water depths with the new design. The great elevation difference between certain areas of downtown and the waterfront pose a problem, specifically in 4 areas he pointed out (Belltown, Pike Place Market, Colman Dock, and Pier 48).

People want a closer relationship to the water so he created different section diagrams that could be applied to connect the two elevation (steps, terraces. overlooks, furniture) to interlace the public and water realm. He also talked about canopies and how they could collect water and be used for storm water management solar panel housing.

He showed renderings of the 4 connections (Belltown, Pike Place Market, Colman Dock, and Pier 48) and how folding plates could be used to connect each elevation (some with over 80′ difference) using beaches, baths (he really liked the outdoor baths, how would that work when its always raining?!) parks, galleries, etc, to activate the waterfront.

I do enjoy how he is trying to respect the different neighborhoods and give them an identity on the waterfront, making the solution a non-linear design that should be very exciting.


  • (provoke, inspire, rethink)
  • (accessible, safe, vibrant, ecological, sustainable)

They also had an update about the Seawall on a board: exciting to see new alternatives being worked out that include carving into the land and not keeping the seawall where it is currently.

A NEW THING I LEARNED ABOUT SEAWALLS: James Corner mentioned that biologists they have been speaking to said that when you drip fresh water along the seawall, this helps create habitat which in turn helps the juvenile salmon: i.e. the canopies that hold water could redirect it along the seawall! Awesome!

All in all, the renderings were very vague, almost too vague that they all began to look like the Olympic Sculpture Park. But as Corner repeatedly stated, this is concept design and should not be seen as final ideas.

His ideas on framework and the overall concepts were very strong, excited to see the next go-around!

Waterfront Seattle May 19 Event

7 05 2011