American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2007 Professional Awards
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These 20 and 100-year plans for Seattle's Gren Infrastructure represent the combined work of all twenty-three Green Futures Charrette teams. UW studio leaders created digital maps of each team's ideas for their individual study areas, which were then joined together to create these all-city plans. (Betsy Severtsen, GIS and Drawing)
Reflecting its community roots and green intentions, the 100-year vision is called The Living Lattice: A Network of Neighborsheds. (Betsy Severtsen, GIS and Drawing)

We divided the city into urban watersheds and assigned teams to investigate a particular watershed study area in-depth. Framing the analysis in this way, we increased ecological awareness and created surprising social connections. (Open Space Seattle 2100)

Typical Study area analysis and resulting plans. The West Seattle team proposed dense urban centers on the ridgelines and restoration of nearshore habitat after rising waters flood homes along Puget Sound. (West Seattle Team and Meriwether Wilson)

Images from the Green Futures Charrette, which engaged over 350 professionals and citizens in 23 watershed-based teams. (Photos: Steve Hartson, Hartson Photography)

Green Futures Charrette participants on the Downtown Team envisioned a return of the tidal salt marsh that sits over a shallow earthquake fault. The marsh also doubles as a water biofiltration chain. (Kenichi Nakano and Pietro Potesta, Downtown Team)

One team envisioned a year 2100 where self-sufficient "eco-villages" would reclaim the street from cars in order to treat their wastewater in roadside "living machines." This water would then be used to grow produce, ensuring urban food security. (Vanessa Lee, Ballard Team)

To make the charrette results as "real" as possible, each team was asked to clearly identify actions and implementation strategies to make their visions a reality. Here the Magnolia team sketches out their vision. (Magnolia-Interbay-Queen Anne Team)

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Open Space Seattle 2100 Envisioning Seattle's Green Infrastructure for the Next Century, Seattle, Washington
Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Washington, and the Open Space Seattle 2100 Coalition, Seattle, Washington

"Extremely smart and effective and an important topic for every community. This is an excellent approach to scale, from large to small and is so comprehensive and thorough. It will have a real impact!"

— 2007 Professional Awards Jury Comments

Project Statement

Led by landscape architects, this grassroots collaborative planning process directly engaged hundreds of multidisciplinary professionals and citizens to create long-term plans for Seattle's interconnected "green infrastructure." Both visionary and analytical, the project innovated urban watershed-based planning units, calculated long-term future scenarios, and incorporated diverse stakeholder input. The resulting plans depict comprehensive 20- and 100-year green infrastructure networks in flexible, layered GIS maps and propose an illustrated framework of transferable near-term strategies adopted by the City.

Narrative Summary

Project Background, Goals and Objectives
After celebrating the centennial of Seattle’s Olmsted Plan in 2003, many city residents were left wondering, “Where is the vision for our next century of open space?” Despite palpable public interest, neither civic resources nor municipal will were evident to engage the question.

Without funding, client or mandate, Open Space Seattle 2100 (OSS2100) took up the mantle to engage the design/planning profession’s role as public advocate and educator. Stepping in to fill an evident void, we rallied thousands of dollars of grant and donor funding (including an ASLA CIP grant), engaged a wide spectrum of academic and professional design communities, provoked earnest interest and action from elected officials, and stoked the flames of popular imagination through the more than 350 participants in the Green Futures charrette. In doing so, we have begun to create a new paradigm for the ways that Seattle conceptualizes, funds, and prioritizes green infrastructure expenditures. But more than that, the ripple effects of Open Space Seattle 2100 and the resultant plan, The Living Lattice: A Network of Neighborsheds, has firmly rooted itself in the civic imagination of the city, and momentum continues to build for implementing a comprehensive, long-term green infrastructure plan for the city.

Not seeking to find “answers,” our process was built upon the promise of engaging the public to ask un-asked questions. Through research, we brought precedents of open space typologies and systems from around the world to the fore. With invited lecturers, we energized and excited the broader public community by introducing innovative approaches and perspectives. By the end of the process, the bounding energy of the public’s engagement was overwhelming. Through the charrette process, a cohesive vision materialized, and has been formally integrated with the city’s future planning efforts.

But more important, this process empowered the community of landscape architects and design professionals to step out in front of policy makers and elected officials to educate and inform the public, thus encouraging the City to initiate dramatic new goals and approaches for effectively implementing sustainable infrastructure. As word of this effort spreads, cities both regionally and nationally are now adopting the 100-year planning concept, and are explicitly looking to our process of engagement as a model.

The primary goal of Open Space Seattle 2100 was to generate awareness and action towards transforming urban space into a city's sustainable "green infrastructure," to:

create a bold integrated Open Space Plan with implementation strategies for Seattle's next hundred years which will enhance the health and well-being of both our cultural and natural environments. This vision of a regenerative green infrastructure will strive to create a healthy, beautiful Seattle while maximizing our economic, social, and ecological sustainability.

In this year-long process, objectives were to: raise awareness of predicted future scenarios, such as climate change and new demographics; proactively propose new integrated design and planning solutions; forge a striking vision of a potential interconnected network of open spaces; and to highlight the leadership role of landscape architects in (re)shaping the quality and sustainability of urban development. In the process, other objectives were achieved including illuminating connections between open space, density, livability, and sustainability; creating a context where diverse professionals and citizens would convene to exchange ideas and develop new relationships; and catalyzing a long-term advocacy coalition and planning process to advance the quality of Seattle's integrated open space.

Programming, Inventory, Analysis, and Public Engagement

This phase included:
1. Preliminary consultation with numerous stakeholder focus groups, including City staff, non-profits, underserved and minority groups, and concerned citizens. This was followed by the formation of a coalition advisory group of over 50 organizations. This group assisted in crafting eight Open Space Principles that were subsequently endorsed by Seattle City Council, and helped articulate our goals, objectives, and the future scenarios that charrette participants would use.

2. For the first time in Seattle city-wide planning, we used the underlying anatomy of the landscape as the basis for partitioning the city. By dividing the city into 18 urban watershed study areas, we broke new ground in approaching urban planning by using watershed units rather than political boundaries. This natural framework helped participants to transcend traditional social rivalries while illustrating critical ecological and mobility connections within and between watersheds.

3. Inventory and Analysis was conducted for each watershed study area, using GIS, research, and local knowledge. We produced "dossiers" of background information and a carefully developed large-scale GIS "Opportunity and Constraint" maps for each watershed study area. The analytical base mapping displayed relevant spatial information to inform charrette participants, illustrating information that is typically not considered by city residents as they conceptualize the city, including existing parks and open spaces; water bodies and buried streams; projected urban growth areas; designated transportation, bike and pedestrian routes; land cover and uses; and hazard zones such as earthquake faults and steep slopes. Some teams mapped predicted conditions, such as higher shoreline water levels anticipated for year 2100.

4. Research and Development of Planning Tools. In addition, we produced the "Green Futures Toolkit" to inspire and inform charrette participants. The Toolkit contained case studies of over 16 exemplary urban open space systems, an illustrated typology of 23 open space types, and a menu of implementation mechanisms, as well as the Charrette Brief conveying future scenarios and production requirements for each team.

5. Public Education: We sponsored a four-part public lecture series with nationally-known speakers addressing issues of environmental and social significance, and a local panel to convey important technical and environmental issues. In all, over 1000 people attended the public lectures. We also posted the full Green Futures Toolkit on our website ( and maintained a blog summarizing relevant issues, research, and events.

Design as a Planning Method
The project merged both planning and design methods, borrowing the design charrette model and developing design ideas while adhering to sound planning principles and protocols. With the involvement of numerous design professionals on each team--often led by landscape architects--the design process easily came into play during the 2-day charrette. We gave the 23 teams future scenarios and copies of the Green Futures Toolkit and asked them to concur on goals, propose concepts, and develop interconnected green systems that linked to neighboring watersheds and to overall city networks. Over the course of the two days, teams drew 100-year and 20-year plans with priorities for immediate implementation. This positive collaboration and common ground resulted in strong overall concepts and rich illustrative drawings. Follow-up development by student leaders further illustrated, extended, and tested design ideas and prototypes.

At a planning level, we converted plans from the charrette into GIS databases, using consistent criteria and legends for each watershed so that all 18 watersheds could be merged onto drawings showing the whole city, on both 20-year and 100-year horizons. These databases are deeply layered, so that they can digitally reveal the richness of ideas represented in each area of the city. We further analyzed the plans to identify a hierarchy of potential connective pedestrian and bicycle corridors, from regional gateways and "Lake to Sound" trails, to inter-and-intra-watershed loops.

The depth and range of the teams' design solutions provided fodder to craft a set of 17 strategies for urban green infrastructure transferable to any city. We grouped these under the themes of Create an Integrated Green Infrastructure; Promote Ecological Open Space; Balance Density and Community; and Provide Democratic Access and Use.

We documented these illustrated strategies, the final collated plans and ideas for each watershed study area in a 230-page report, titled Envisioning Seattle's Green Future: Visions and Strategies from the Green Futures Charrette, which can now be found in libraries and neighborhood community centers throughout the city. We also produced and broadly distributed a 16-page Executive Summary with the same title, containing the full report on a cd.

Outcomes, Implementation, and Value to the Client
With commitment and a clear implementation strategy developed by coalition representatives, Open Space Seattle 2100 has already effected a host of outcomes and catalyzed a series of actions:

Actions by the City of Seattle
Seattle City Council unanimously endorsed the project's Eight Open Space Principles. Most recently, the Council passed a multi-pronged resolution directing City departments to incorporate OSS2100 goals and green infrastructure concepts into their planning and to identify a citizen's advisory process to assist the City in implementing green infrastructure strategies. As a result, already the City is developing a process for employing a sustainable infrastructure approach to Capital Improvement Projects (CIP), integrating departmental projects and including social and environmental benefits in their asset management program. The City intends to emphasize management of the 30 percent land cover in public ownership (including street rights of ways) as multi-functional open space; this represents a dramatic paradigm shift from traditional, myopic departmental views. The City also will evaluate cost-benefits of green infrastructure and identify best practices in other communities. Additionally, the GIS databases from The Living Lattice plans are being used in the current Bicycle Master Planning process.

Non-profit and University Advocacy and Research
Spin-off from the OSS2100 process has catalyzed and informed numerous non-profit efforts in the city. Two new non-profits have taken on advocacy of the OSS2100 strategies as major components of their missions. Several local groups are using the specific watershed plans in their ongoing planning efforts and are beginning to use grant opportunities to implement some of their visions. Ideas from the charrette have been added to the recently completed "Bands of Green" 20-year trail proposal sponsored by the Seattle Parks Foundation. A new university institute to focus on green infrastructure research and design has formed and has partnered with the city to investigate the potential for stormwater mitigation and other ecological approaches to the design of city streets.

Replication by Other Cities
In the past six months the project has been disseminated locally, nationally, and internationally, in numerous publications and presentations. San Francisco, Wichita, KS, Kobe Japan, and local communities are already explicitly borrowing our principles and processes, and we are being asked to apply the process at both larger and smaller scales locally.

Public Benefit
Perhaps most significantly, citizens' views of what is possible in their city's future have changed. One seasoned open space advocate observed, "Life is not the same after being asked to envision Seattle's open space in 100 years." The City's Director of Planning takes the long view, commenting:

"I hope that 100 years from now, people will say they appreciate the farsighted legacy that Open Space Seattle 2100 left to the city."


The Madison Transect Team united three watersheds, connecting the Puget Sound (top) to Lake Washington (bottom) with a densely populated ecological street. (Mithun Madison Transect Team)

Pages from the Executive Summary document identify common themes and strategies from the charrette teams' work. (Open Space Seattle 2100)

Pages from the Executive Summary document identify common themes and strategies from the charrette teams' work. (Open Space Seattle 2100)

Example plans for a watershed-based study area represented in GIS from the project report. (Kari Stiles, Duwamish Team)

Evaluation of the Duwamish plan indicates that, if implemented, it would triple pervious surfaces, dramatically reduce combined-sewer overflows, and increase habitat quality and quantity. (Elizabeth Powers and Melissa Martin)

Overlaying the 100-year vision, we identified a hierarchy of potential trail/greenspace connections, from regional gateways, lake-to-sound connectors, and watershed linkages. (Elizabeth Severtsen)

Open Space Seattle 2100 produced and distributed a righ set of documents during the year-long process: The Green Futures Toolkit and website prior to the charrette and a 230-page report and a 16-page Executive Summary afterward. (Open Space Seattle 2100, Brice Maryman photo)

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