In a press conference this morning, Peter Hahn, director of Seattle Department of Transportation announced that james corner field operations (undercased deliberately, for that is their name) will be leading the redesign of over 20 acres of public land along the waterfront once the viaduct comes down in 2016. "It's pretty clear this project is one of the greatest and most important in the history of the city," says Hahn. "We have the potential for creating a new heart for the city."
Over 1,300 people came out to Benayora Hall last Wednesday to see four finalist teams (selected among 30) compete for the opportunity to plan the new waterfront. Sitting among the audience was an eight-panel panel charged with choosing a design team. After the presentations, the panel was unanimous: James Corner and his team nailed it. They best fused the gritty, industrial working waterfront with Seattle's love of "Big Nature," as Corner put it.
"This project is really complex—it's not just design, it's creating part of the city," says Steve Pearce, spokesman for the SDOT. The team won't be designing a monolithic green park or simply a front lawn for condominiums and high rises. The team has to consider ecology, design, public life, art, neighborhood development, street engineering, etc. "It's a complicated formula. James Corner Field's package was the most powerful."
"Will there be condominiums and high rises along the waterfront? Clearly, the answer is no," says council member Sally Bagshaw, chair of the Parks and Seattle Center committee, responding to questions about private development's role in the redesign. "This is not Miami beach... we want to develop the spaces that are there."
"[James Corner] sees this as a career defining opportunity and will personal play a large role in the effort," says Hahn. "We now have the potential for creating a new heart for the city, connect the city to its historic waterfront."
"James Corner is a powerful design thinker... he has the ability and the intellect to push us for aspiring design, " says Pearce. "He's offering 30-60 percent of his time to work on this project."
"Just think of this connection we'll be making, all the way from the stadiums to the sculpture park," adds Bagshaw.
Check out james corner field operations here. Other projects include the High Line in New York City, Fresh Kills in New York, and the Qianhai Water City in Shenzhen China.
The waterfront redesign is a five year design process that starts now. field operations will interview four engineer teams next week to help with design and engineering. And then, "We'll be right into public process, I anticipate there's going to be a lot of public involvement in the next six months," says Pearce. The design team will meeting with the public to better understand what they want from their waterfront, as well as working closely with the seawall design team during this time to create a design that best optimizes the public's opportunities to interact with the water. The framework and conceptual plan for the waterfront will be completed over the next two years. Construction is slated for 2016-2018.
The panel tasked with picking james corner field operations includes Marshall Foster, planning director for the Seattle Department of Planning and Development, Steve Pearce from the Seattle Department of Transportation, Bob Chandler from SDOT, Nathan Torgelson from Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation, Ruri Yampolsky from the Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, Mary Johnston and Mark Reddington from the Seattle Design Commission and Central Waterfront Partnerships Committee, and Rebecca Barnes from the University of Washington.