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ASLA 2003 Analysis and Planning Honor Award

The Blue Ring: Seattle’s Center City Open Space Strategy, Seattle, WA
Landscape Architect:
Mithun, Seattle, WA
Client: CityDesign, Seattle, WA

Seattle’s Center City shows the impact of steady and dense population growth. The Blue Ring is Seattle’s open space strategy for the Center City. Drafted as a 100-year vision and a 10-year implementation strategy, the plan guides the development of a public open space system vital to the quality of life and economic prospects of a rapidly growing city. The Blue Ring coordinates a large number of plans, private developments, and capital improvement projects in the Center City and shapes a collection of current and future places into a coherent, healthy public realm. Representing years of grass-roots efforts, it fosters an ongoing dialog to shape a public space that is comfortable, sustainable, and teeming with activity.

The Blue Ring strategy seeks to connect Seattle’s citizens with the water’s edge at Lake Union and Elliott Bay. The plan addresses and anticipates the open space needs of an evolving downtown that lacks usable open space and lags behind other major cities in proportional open space. It links existing, planned, and proposed public and private open spaces and destinations with pedestrian-friendly streets. This strategy supports the linking of urban open spaces by bringing people to the water and highlighting the city’s watersheds. In addition, the plan identifies new paradigms in which streets, light, air, and water are treated as open space, and time is identified as the fourth dimension of open space. By employing public resources efficiently, the plan allows for different uses at different times of the day, not only for festivals and parades, but also for the cycle of daily life. For example, a street that carries minimal traffic in the evening could be closed each day for basketball, bicycle riding, and strolling. The plan includes sustainable principles and provides a conceptual framework and art study for Westlake Avenue, a catalyst project for incorporating these strategies into “the world’s greenest street.” Ultimately, Center City can make a positive contribution to the regional ecosystem by providing a pedestrian-oriented environment and increasing greenery and permeable surfaces.

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Right click to download full size image The Blue Ring 100-year vision, coming a century after the Olmsted Brother’s “Green Ring,” supports linking urban open spaces using water — the bodies of water that geographically define Seattle as well as the rain — as its organizing principle. The Blue Ring will connect to the suburban Green Ring using streets redeveloped to provide open spaces. Images by: Mithun
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The Green Ring, built from 1903 to now. Images by: Mithun
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The Blue Ring, proposed 2003: The Blue Ring strategy will help build a new open space legacy by establishing concepts and implementation strategies for connecting the Center City’s assets and amenities, eventually forming a legible and cohesive urban space system as a complement to the Olmsted Brother’s Green Ring in the outer neighborhoods. Images by: Mithun
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Watersheds are an important part of any ecology, even an urban one. The Center City includes three watersheds. Awareness of the urban environment as an integral part of the Puget Sound Watershed is part of a comprehensive perspective that includes social, economic, cultural, and ecological aspects. The Blue Ring is intended to be a touchstone for this connected, comprehensive view. Images by: Mithun
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Possible alternatives for reorganizing street right-of-ways. Images by: Mithun
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