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October 9, 2013

Re-imagine Westlake Park at SAF event on Thursday

Renderings by Gensler [enlarge]
A series of terraces and steps in a new plaza would descend to meet the transit tunnel.

Seattle's Westlake Park has been in the news lately because of concerns about crime in the area.

The Seattle Architecture Foundation is offering people a chance to think about ways to improve the park design during an event at 6 p.m. tomorrow at 1201 Second Ave.

An informal competition to redesign the park is being held in conjunction with an exhibit of architectural models sponsored by SAF, with the theme World/City.

At the event Gensler will present conceptual ideas it developed as part of an internal project to re-imagine urban spaces in major cities around the world as town squares.

Gensler's Seattle office focused on Westlake Park: a bustling public plaza and downtown gateway that is traversed by tourists, shoppers and commuters spilling out of the transit tunnel station.

The plaza is sometimes referred to as Seattle's town square, and has been the site of political rallies, outdoor concerts and other gatherings. Gensler said that despite its ideal location, Westlake Park has few pedestrian amenities and is plagued by crime.

The one-acre site could be a transportation and social hub like those found in other great cities if the plaza were redesigned, amenities added and connections to the transit tunnel improved.

“We want people to be able to find each other in this space,” said Maggie Goodman, an interior designer in Gensler's Seattle office. “They can't find each other. They can't even find the transit tunnel.”

Gensler proposes cutting into the plaza to create a new entrance to the transit tunnel mezzanine. It would run beneath Pine Street at Fourth Avenue and connect to Westlake Mall.

Vehicles would continue to run on Pine Street, but people would use a new passage below street level.

The entrance would be a series of terraces and steps with a pattern inspired by the basket weave design now on the plaza. There would also be ramps, grass and lush landscaping.

Gensler envisions the space filled with workers at lunch hour, families at the new kids play area, commuters and shoppers taking a break.

Gensler said the new mezzanine entrance would be more transparent and help repair pedestrian connections. Vehicles would continue to run on Pine Street, but people would use a new passage below street level.

“Instead of stopping people with this barrier of cars and buses you can continue having this pedestrian experience,” said Goodman, who was project lead on the Westlake Park conceptual design.

By revamping Westlake Park, commuters and others may stay longer, Goodman said. “It can become a destination in its own right.”

The SAF event costs $10 for individuals and $35 for a team of four to participate in the competition. Drinks and light snacks will be provided.

Register at http://tiny.cc/6ron4w/.

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