Chihuly Garden and Glass

Some may argue that Dale Chihuly’s glass sculptures have become too mass-produced, with many similar-looking pieces displayed around the world. However, each of his garden installations has a unique quality, due to the ways in which the glass pieces are integrated with the landscape. One of the best examples is the outdoor component of the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum in Seattle, since this garden was designed for both sculpture and plantings, effectively combining and balancing the two.










Photos by Alice Webb

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Freeway Park, Seattle

I had the opportunity to visit Jim Ellis Freeway Park in downtown Seattle last June – an iconic public space designed by landscape architects Lawrence Halprin & Angela Danadjieva. It was the first park built over a freeway, and was conceived as a means of re-connecting neighborhoods that were severed from the downtown when Interstate 5 was built. The original section of the park was opened on July 4, 1976 – the nation’s bicentennial.

The park’s structures were designed in the brutalist style that was in vogue at the time, including board-formed concrete walls, planters, and fountain elements. Also, Halprin envisioned the character of this space as “freeway vernacular” (hence the emphasis on concrete), while representing the region’s mountain ranges with the various heights and shapes of the fountain structures. Waterfalls were a large part of the fountains during the early years of the park, and effectively masked the noise from vehicular traffic on the freeway below. However, due to maintenance and safety concerns, some of the fountains were shut off in more recent years. When I visited, no water was running, and I don’t know whether the fountains are turned on at all during the summer.

Plantings throughout the park were also designed to help mask freeway noise and to reduce vehicular pollution. The plant communities represent those typically found in the natural areas of the nearby mountains, and include many mature trees and broadleaf evergreen shrubs.

Urban parks built in this style in the decades following World War II have often suffered from neglect in recent years, but this space seems to be relatively well-maintained and appreciated, at least for now. I hope the interest and support for Freeway Park will persist into the future.


Main fountain structure in Freeway Park


Typical zig-zag walkway with seating


One of several park entrances


Smaller fountain structure next to one of the park’s plazas


Typical seating design


Main fountain structure, sans water

Photos by Alice Webb

An Urban Dog Park



I’m back from a blogging hiatus, and I’ve got a few sites to post about that I visited during a trip to Seattle earlier this year. The first is a unique little dog park on 6th Avenue, on Amazon’s campus but open to the public, tucked between a tall building and the company’s new “Spheres” near the downtown.

Most leash-free sites that come to mind are the suburban variety with large fenced lawns – although this one is small, it’s a valuable amenity for those urban-dwelling canines who don’t have their own yards to roam. Dogs who live in the city are probably used to smaller, cramped quarters anyway, so they don’t need a lot of space to run around and socialize off-leash.

This little dog park is the best-looking one I’ve ever seen – although the dogs don’t care, their humans probably appreciate the pleasant features of this space. Instead of being separated from the street and other areas with fencing, the designers took advantage of the grade change of the site and included a retaining wall which works very well as a barrier. This wall is an attractive metal gabion which includes a carefully-placed line of aqua-colored glass stones along the center.

The park also contains a little patch of lawn (artificial, I’m assuming); rocks (for peeing?); a dog-height drinking fountain; and a multi-level platform (perhaps so the pups can play “king of the hill”). And, of course, there’s the requisite doggy poop bag station. The whole park looks like it’s regularly washed down to keep things clean.

I rate this space as a win-win for both the dogs and their people.
 
Photo by Alice Webb