During this year’s Seattle Design Festival, VIA envisioned how neighborhood streets can serve as places of community healing and ecological regeneration, particularly during a time of great uncertainty for the world. With this vision in mind, the project team recognized the unique moment of the transition occurring in Seattle as a result of the Stay Healthy Streets program, which closed 20 miles of streets to car traffic and opened them up for walking, running, biking, and playing. The project team was inspired by the idea that these newly pedestrian-oriented streets could allow for multi-functional, outdoor community spaces that allowed neighbors to safely gather amidst the pandemic and become an artistic element that reflected community identity. The project team was also drawn to the idea of creating a simple toolkit of street furnishings that could provide inspiration for the City of Seattle and communities to advocate for similar spaces in their own neighborhoods, and offer an easily constructible template for neighbors to make their own DIY furnishings.
Within the span of six months, the project team planned, designed, and constructed BEECON/BEACON as a temporary installation on a Stay Healthy Street marking the entrance to a culturally vibrant Central District neighborhood. Working in collaboration with Axis Cut Parts and the Seattle Department of Transportation, the team installed seventeen hexagonal planters filled with pollinator-friendly lavender and four hexagonal purple beacons of varying heights. This was all achieved within the space of two parking spots. During the Festival weekend, the project team talked with neighbors who were excited about having this type of space permanently in their neighborhood, as well as the possibility of it being implemented on other nearby streets. They also witnessed people interacting with the planters and beacons in many different ways – sitting, playing, taking pictures, and socializing with their neighbors. Through the use of QR codes embedded into our planters and beacons, they were able to direct others to an online survey where they received even more feedback about how this space could enable collaboration with local artists and provide more community uses.
VIA ultimately donated these planters to community members wanting to take a piece of this installation back home with them. It is our hope that in doing so, they can contribute to the team’s vision of community healing and ecological regeneration by sharing these planters – and their limitless possibilities – to their friends, family, neighbors, and loved ones.