Parked at Piers 62 and 63 in the summers. You want?
  • City of Seattle
  • Parked at Piers 62 and 63 in the summers. You want?

If you can believe it, it's been almost four years since James Corner was chosen to be lead designer on Seattle's waterfront redevelopment. The project is so huge, it's been next to impossible to imagine anything concrete. Presentations have felt like advertisements for a daydream about a wish. The waterfront is currently so terrible—and the tunnel-borer so lodged—that a better future seems simultaneously inevitable and unimaginable. But hey, look at the latest picture above! Do I want a pool barge parked in Elliott Bay in summer? DO I EVER.

And I'm told that design details in general have become more specific. Corner is in town to present tonight. (The event lasts 5:30 to 8:30, but I'm told Corner will speak around 6:30.)

I asked Cary Moon, local landscape and urban designer who's head of the People's Waterfront Coalition, for a preview. She said, "As it's shaping up, the design represents the best of Seattle's persona to me: friendly, inviting, playful, practical, and unselfconsciously gorgeous."

The coolest part of City's Waterfront Week™ is a free conference about "Art, Design & Play" at City Hall Saturday, kicked off by a talk Friday.

Artists and writers are flying in from around the country to give half-hour presentations each. They'll cover subjects like control and freedom in public spaces, the history and ideology of playgrounds, and urbanism and desire. The lineup includes a curator, writers, a museum director, a Corner associate, architect/intellectual Alan Maskin, and mad-inventor-creator-artist Trimpin.

Full conference schedule on the jump.

Art, Design, and Play: A Waterfront Seattle Conference

Friday, March 7, 6 pm
Seattle Art Museum, Plestcheeff Auditorium, 1300 First Avenue
Liane Lefaivre: “The Child, the City and the Power of Play. Or, the PIP Principle”
Introductory remarks by Marshall Foster, Seattle City Planning Director
Lefaivre’s keynote looks at the role of children and play in urban design. She has coined the term PIP Principle to talk about a way of rethinking the way play is planned for in urban design. PIP stands for Polycentric, Interstitial and Participatory. The idea is that playgrounds form a polycentric net, or a distributed public space. The playgrounds themselves are small and placed in left-over, in-between spaces or interstices. And their location is based on a participatory approach involving kids, their parents, and everyone else in siting decisions. Lefaivre argues that the needs of children, and the need for play in general, are not given a strong enough influence in the design of public space and calls for designers and civic leaders to consider them and the PIP principle as central aspects of planning.

Saturday, March 8
Seattle City Hall, Bertha Knight Landes Room, 600 Fourth Avenue
10am Welcome by Hannah McIntosh, Waterfront Program Deputy Manager, City of Seattle
Introduction by Eric Fredericksen, Waterfront Program Art Manager, City of Seattle
10:30 First Session: Play and the City
Gabriela Burkhalter: “The Play Sculpture as Public Space”
Michael Gotkin: “Redefining the Landscape of Play: NYC Playgrounds, 1965-1975”
Tatiana Choulika on the role of play in projects by james corner field operations in New York, Chicago, and Santa Monica
12 lunch break - food trucks on Fourth Avenue
1 pm Second Session: The Art of Play
Alan Maskin: “Art, Artists, Design and Play”
Nigel Prince: “To demonstrate, represent and arrange”
Trimpin and Judith Caldwell on Artists at Play
2:30 Closing comments