April 19, 2001
Designing for the journey
By MANDI ROBERTS
We are often in motion from one place to another. Sometimes the journey is long and leisurely, for enjoyment and recreation. Often it is short, rushed and purposeful.
Landscape architects at Otak are designing “in between” places on fast and slow trips from one location to the next: Lewis and Clark Trail Interpretive Program, Shoreline Interurban Trail, Tacoma Light Rail Transit, Discovery Trail in Pacific County, the Chinook Byways and Swift Water scenic and heritage corridor plans, and streetscape designs for cities of all sizes, including 156th Avenue in Bellevue and West Main Street in Battle Ground.
While accessibility and safety are at the top of the list of technical design considerations, the landscape team is concerned with creating an experience that is captivating and memorable for all.
Lewis and Clark Trail
The epic journey of the Lewis and Clark Expedition was one of amazing teamwork, friendship, fortitude and commitment. The purpose of the Lewis and Clark Trail Interpretive Program in Washington is to capture these stories and interpret them in a thought-provoking and meaningful way for the traveling public.
An important goal of the project is the ongoing involvement of American Indian tribes whose ancestors lived along the trail 200 years ago. Native people were here for thousands of years before the expedition came through, and it was an event that would forever change their lives. Interpreting the stories of the Lewis and Clark Expedition from the perspectives of the tribes allows us to really understand these changes that took place, and to help fill in the blanks of that missing information in the journals.
The accounts of the explorers themselves have inspired us for nearly 200 years. David Nicandri, director of the Washington State Historical Society has said that “Lewis and Clark were some of the most ‘writingest’ explorers of their time, leaving behind pages and pages of detailed descriptions of their journey. Yet, in many cases, the details surrounding the actual stories of their daily experiences are sketchy or missing.”
Otak is developing an interpretive guide called the “End of Our Voyage” to navigate people through the experiences along the Lewis and Clark Trail. Working closely with the Washington state agency team that includes the Historical Society, Parks and Recreation Commission, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Transportation and Tourism Office, the design team is also creating over 50 pieces of interpretation to be located at historic points along the trail in Washington.
Design is still in the early stages, but one intent is to create interpretive kiosks and panel designs that are reflective of the landscape that was here when the expedition passed through this area westbound in fall 1805 and eastbound in spring 1806. The early design concepts show the use of indigenous materials, such as basalt from the Columbia River Gorge and cedar and fir timbers from the Pacific Northwest forests. Some of the designs are reflective of the styles of American Indian architecture, reminiscent of structures such as the tule-covered pole and mat lodges and timber covered longhouses. It is anticipated that some of the first interpretive elements will be installed and ready for public viewing by early summer 2002.
Shoreline Interurban Trail
In the early part of the last century, people often traveled through the Puget Sound region by trolley, many taking the Interurban streetcar between Everett and Seattle to and from work on a daily basis. The Shoreline Interurban Trail will follow this historic route of the streetcar through the city of Shoreline.
The streetcar era represented a different time and place in American society, when geographic communities were more close-knit. When the automobile came, the way people traveled changed dramatically. They were more apt to be alone in their cars on the highway rather than sharing the ride with their neighbors on the trolley. Eventually, street car systems all around the country closed, and today all that is left are the remnants of these historic corridors.
The Shoreline Interurban Trail will celebrate the historic era of the streetcar through design treatments, interpretive elements and public art works.
Interpretive waysides will be created at modern-day “stations” along the historic corridor. These will be places slightly off the beaten path of the trail, where people can stop and rest and view interpretive panels that tell the stories of the streetcar era and Shoreline’s history as a farming community. It also follows the arrival of the automobile era and the development of one of the busiest highways in the Pacific Northwest — state Route 99 (Aurora Avenue). The Interurban Trail parallels Aurora for much of its course through Shoreline, crossing it near 155th.
The trail itself is being designed in accordance with federal and state shared-use design standards. When completed, it will provide a continuous route for pedestrians and bicycles throughout the city, eventually serving as a link between segments of the Interurban Trail to the north in Edmonds and to the south in Seattle.
Tacoma Light Rail
Otak led a team of consultants in the design of the five stations and streetscapes within the various neighborhoods along the light-rail line in Tacoma. The project, which is currently under construction, will introduce light-rail between the Tacoma Dome area and the northern part of the theater district and Old City Hall area in downtown Tacoma. Otak’s landscape architects collaborated closely with local artists Nanda D’Agastino and Nate Slater on the design of landscapes surrounding each station. At the 21st Street station, across from the Washington State History Museum, sculptural pieces reflect the history of tools and technology in the Tacoma region. They will be carefully installed in an undulating landscape, creating the impression of artifacts being unearthed by the modern day development. Tools and technologies related to American Indian fishing, logging and shipbuilding are at the heart of the design of the station and surrounding environment.
Other collaborative creations at stations along the light-rail line include human-scale railroad spikes fashioned into seats at the Tacoma Dome Station; giant, brightly colored fishing lures at the 25th Street station; colored glass at the 15th Street station in the International District; and theater-style lighting and seats at the Ninth Street station.
Each of these projects is part of an effort to create exciting and memorable experiences for people in transition from one place to the next. They will capture travelers’ attention for a moment or an hour, weaving roads and trails into history and into the lives of travelers.
Mandi Roberts is a principal and director of landscape architecture and planning at Otak.
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