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2010 Archive

Last week, four teams presented their qualifications for the redesign of the Seattle Central Waterfront in front of more than 1,200 people.

As one of the firms on the MVVA team, we don’t want to add much commentary before the project is awarded, but we wanted to post these two video links on-line because we think that people might find them interesting:

Video of Ken Greenberg walking through the Lower Don Lands

Video of MVVA discussing material reuse at Brooklyn Bridge Park

(Also, if you are looking for books about any of the leaders of the four finalist teams, you should go to Peter Miller Books!)

Who are you and what do you do? I’m Richard Borbridge, and I make great places. In some circles they call that an ‘urban designer’, my paperwork says ‘city planner’.

What made you decide to go into your field? Lego, SimCity, a failed week of electrical engineering, a year in Europe and a preference for the issues of people over plants.

What did your family think of your chosen field? I grew up in a “you can do anything you put your mind to” kind of home. I think meat packing might have been off the table, and professional sports were unlikely in any case.

Who is the teacher who had the most influence on you and why? Sheri Blake helped me redefine community – introduced me to participatory design process and showed me the vital potential of empowering consultation. Ted McLaughlin transformed sustainability from a buzzword into a worldview.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced along your educational path? (academic, financial, motivational, family or peer pressure, outside distraction, etc.) Two hours of sleep every Tuesday morning – the day the newspaper went to press. History class is a blur, but I learned everything I know about Adobe Creative Suite between midnight and 3 am.

What inspires you? Consensus, sunny sidewalks, desire lines, little old buildings on big ol’ streets.

What schooling is required for success in your career? First – Planning, in my mind, is a generalist’s domain, and I love that any wacky bachelor’s degree – and a passion for cities – gives you the educational foot …

How to bike in a city that’s built for cars

by Jen Kelly, Business Development Coordinator (and blogger at New Pioneer Square)

Yesterday, I attended zipcar’s “low car diet” ceremony to kick off living car free. At the end of the event, I handed over my car keys (or rather, the “token” car key they handed me) to Council member Mike O’Brien.

(he left his pants rolled up throughout the ceremony…he must be a true biker)

I am a resident of Pioneer Square — hands down the easiest neighborhood to be without a car. Not only do we have light rail, the free bus zone, the water taxi, bike paths, and the ability to walk to downtown neighborhoods, but we will also soon be getting the streetcar.

Although I work only two underground tunnel bus stops from where I live, starting this low car diet has inspired me to give biking in the city a try.

I have the bike, a helmet, a lock, a bell, and plan on buying saddlebags, and other great bicycle accessories. One big problem: I’m absolutely terrified of biking in downtown Seattle. 

Most bikers that I see in the city not only wear great looking spandex, but seem to be fairly aggressive and comfortable weaving in and around cars. That doesn’t even start to get into the animosity that seems to exist between bikers and car drivers.

As PubliCola’s BikeNerd put it, I’m a biker, not a cyclist.

My only previous experience of biking in a city happened when …

Friday Feature: Angie

Sep 10, 2010

Who are you and what do you do? Angie Tomisser, Interior Designer

What made you decide to go into your field? Looking back, I see that I had a love for interiors from a young age. I would scavenge the house for odds and ends to use as furnishings for my Barbie house. I would deconstruct toothpaste boxes and reconstruct them back into a sofa. Pizza box stands became end tables. I spent more time working on my Barbie environment than I did playing with the dolls.

As I got older I struggled with the decision of what to do with my life, attending college with no real direction. I originally planned on majoring in business, then switched to radiology. Both of which I believed would bring me great riches, but I soon came to realize that neither were a good fit.

Many of my Satruday mornings were spent at a book store surrounded by design books. Though I greatly enjoyed my weekend ritual, interior design never seemed to be a realistic option…surely not one you would study in school.

At that time, I was still seeing advertisements on television where Sally Struthers would pedal her “as-seen on tv interior design certificate” which made the profession seem like a joke, not to be taken seriously. Lucky for me, my husband had been looking into architecture schools and come across some very professional interior design programs. He suggested that we look into it, and we did…here I am.

What did your family think of your chosen field? As with …

Monday News Roundup

Sep 07, 2010
Monday News Roundup

high-rise staples (Swiss Miss)

Seattle Waterfront Proposals Presented September 15th (note: we’re on MVVA’s team for the waterfront) With all the disagreement about how to replace (or not) the viaduct’s car capacity, there’s been very little discussion of what the waterfront will actually look like. The entire purpose of burying the freeway, after all, is to create a wonderful urban space.Luckily, that’s about to change, as Seattle has chosen four architects (out of 30 applicants) to present their visions to the public.

Straightforward Street Art Makes the Case for Cycling (GOOD) You just have to click the link to see the art. Safe to say I would buy a t-shirt with this on it.

Victoria to focus on new urban villages (Times Colonist Victoria residents made it clear they want more village centres like the one on Cook Street in Fairfield.

Killing me slowly: the health and emotional toll of long commutes (Sightline) If all commutes can kill, at least I’ll go down with the wind in my hair, a smile on my face, and feeling fit and energized (and smug, apparently).

Bike lane good for business? (Straight) Hornby bike lane will get more people “spending more money” downtown, VACC says

Job creation through smart land use + transportation (Switchboard NRDC) The nation’s workforce has an important stake in smart, environmentally sound development and transportation. At a time when unemployment has reached disturbing levels, public policy should take advantage of the job-creation benefits of a robust agenda for …

Friday Feature: Peg

Sep 03, 2010

Who are you and what do you do? I’m me. I do what I can.

Who is the teacher who had the most influence on you and why? Dr. Charles Young, who taught Architectural History and was the pre-Architecture advisor at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. When he asked me why I wanted to pursue architecture, I didn’t have a clear answer – it was just an instinct, blind faith and curiosity. But he gave me a direction – a direction of inquiry and geography – and told me to head west, because that’s where things were happening. (With the support of my husband, I took that advice. Here I am.)

What inspires you? Sunshine, a breath of clear air, smiling people; the unending potentiality of possibility.

What schooling is required for success in your career? There are various paths, but I did a four-year BA in Communications and Business before taking the professional MArch program at UBC, which took me another four years. Then the internship ordeal, which took another few years. And then there’s the professional development seminars –(will it ever end!?)

What is the best advice you were ever given? Give your best. Never settle.

Did you always want to be in this field or did you have other career aspirations growing up? I didn’t discover architecture until the summer after my freshman year at university. Previously, I thought I wanted to be an animator, a journalist, or an entrepreneur. My high school …

Co-operative, eh?

Aug 26, 2010
Co-operative, eh?

by Jen Kenefick, VIA Architecture

I decided that I would write a little blog about co-operative housing mainly as a fact finding exercise because it is a type of housing and way of living that I know little about.

From what I can gather, co-ops are quite prevalent here in Canada and in Northern Europe and they do exist in Ireland (where I’m from), although they are not particularly common there. When I asked my housemates (also Irish) what they thought about co-ops, they didn’t know what I was talking about. Another Irish friend asked if it had something to do with social housing.

One of the main problems I had in understanding the concept of co-operatives is where they differ from social housing. Are all co-operatives government assisted to some degree? Are all the residents in receipt of government help of some kind? Why would someone choose to live in a co-op if one could afford to buy privately? Another big one was if you don’t actually own the property, when it comes to selling up, how do you make a return or profit on your investment? After all, owning your home yields potentially the biggest source of investment return you can get.

While my initial thought was that co-op was just another term for social housing, after some reading, I now know that not to be the case. There seems to be many different types of co-op housing, not-for-profit, market rate etc. Many require a small amount of investment from a member …

Who are you and what do you do? Charlene Kovacs and I’m an Architect.

What made you decide to go into your field? I knew since I was 15 after taking an aptitude test in Junior High School when architecture came out as the 2nd career choice. Criminology came out ahead of architecture, but I didn’t really know what that was. I’ve always loved to draw/doodle/rearrange spaces, etc. so it was all good from there.

What did your family think of your chosen field? My dad was a Mechanical Engineer, so it naturally fit — although he is way more black and white than I am.

Who is the teacher who had the most influence on you and why? Christine Macy, who was a sessional tutorial instructor at UBC. She had a very refreshingly current approach to architecture, which was exactly what I needed at that time.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced along your educational path? (academic, financial, motivational, family or peer pressure, outside distraction, etc.) At first I didn’t want to put in all those years, but once I started, it was actually fun, especially all of the friendships I made along the way.

What inspires you? Seeing the built form completed and watching the faces of the people who occupy the spaces.

What schooling is required for success in your career? When I went through, I needed an undergraduate degree – mine was in fine arts. After that, it was three years at architecture school with an additional semester in Barcelona, which was the …

Tacoma’s Brewery District

Back in March, our resident Urban Planner, Kate Howe, wrote a great blog post that gave an overview of Tacoma’s Brewery District. She talked about some of the background of Tacoma and includes brief information on the study that we recently completed for them.

The Brewery District Development Concept Study aims to provide an actionable framework to transform this downtown Tacoma warehouse district into a sustainable neighborhood based on the adaptive re-use of historic buildings, local creative production, and a population mix of students, artists, and local workforce. This will be achieved via a series of progressive interventions, from the temporary and small scale to larger scaled public/private redevelopments. Implementation strategies are focused on both placemaking + activated uses.

One result of the study, completed in April 2010, includes the introduction of spaceworks tacoma. A joint initiative with the City of Tacoma, Shunpike, and the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce, spaceworks is “designed to activate empty storefronts in downtown Tacoma with art and creative enterprise.”

Once property owners offer up their empty retail locations, Shunpike works with participants to “transform them into dynamic points of interest with creative energy and artistic enterprise.” An article in The News Tribune says that property owners are hoping that businesses that use the temporary space will potentially turn into full-fledged businesses.

In addition to spaceworks, there has also been lively interest in the Study’s two identified catalyst opportunity projects which were identified as follows:

  • A 1905 City Shops and Stables (24,000 SQFT) and …

Friday Feature: Wolf

Aug 13, 2010

Who are you and what do you do? Wolf Saar. I’ve been an architect for about a quarter century and am the new Director of Practice for VIA Seattle. I’m also on the City of Seattle’s Design Review Board for Capitol Hill, the neighborhood that I live in together with my wife Leilani, an interior designer, and 3 teenage kids. I recently joined the Board at AIA Seattle as Treasurer and have served on the Professional Advisory Board of my alma mater, the School of Architecture and Construction Management at Washington State University, for over 10 years. I’m born in Argentina, grew up in BC and went to college and eventually settled here in Washington.

What made you decide to go into your field? I originally had a passion for drawing cars and considered going into automotive design but, after my dad leased office space in his building in downtown Cranbrook, BC to an architectural firm, I saw that I could pursue my love of drawing and design in an area that probably had wider opportunity and more depth. Thus, my passion for architecture began to grow but I still doodle car designs when in meetings and have an interesting collection of die cast toy cars at home.

What did your family think of your chosen field? They embraced it. My mother, an artist and former art teacher, loved the drawing side and my dad was constantly looking for opportunities to expose me to things architectural. Not an easy feat as, by the time …