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EXPERIMENTING IN PUBLIC SPACE: New Technologies & Making in Seattle's Landscape Architecture

"it was a Cinderella rich in industrial residues and toxic hydrocarbons..."

-Rich Haag's vision for Seattle's gas works as a new type of public park, offered an alternative reading of a toxic post-industrial landscape in the city.

In 1958 Richard Haag joined the Department of Architecture at the University of Washington. Fifty years later, Haag is recognized nationally as a leader, mentor, and designer of sublime landscapes. As a design activist, Haag's design process fostered new ways of thinking about landscape architecture and ecological design. Haag's investigations into process and analysis by means of grounded speculations suggest alternative potentials for land stewardship. His engagement with the role of design in landscape remediation and reclamation opened areas of inquiry into the adaptive reuse of post-industrial sites for researchers and practitioners in diverse fields including ecology, environmental science, and microbiology as well as those in cultural studies and geography and, of course, design. Haag's investigations re-oriented the balance of art and science in the practice of landscape architecture and subsequently shaped emerging theoretical foundations in ecology and design. His work thus reflects contemporary issues at the same time as it established alternative practices and discourses.

As the second in a series of three exhibits curated over as many years, this exhibits builds on the legacy of Gas Works Park in and near Seattle. As designers, scientists, aestheticians, historians, and advocates we develop alternative languages of landscape and place through our words and images. This collection offers glimpses of the ways in which Seattle’s community of landscape architects have pushed the boundaries of practice to experiment in new technologies in landscape architecture as they address the multiple layers of public space. It features the various roles that landscape architects play in working with public spaces, particularly those that are suspect such as toxic post industrial sites.

Cities, with all their complexities, offer powerful opportunities to critically engage distinctions between built and ecological systems, to investigate the intersections of technology, politics, culture, and context, to press the importance of social justice in sustainable urban agendas. Public spaces must be an integral component of future cities if we expect to create a sustainable world. In this urban framework, future public spaces must be ecologically resilient, economically productive, intellectually rich, and, most importantly, serve as agents of productive change. These urban places will likely not look like the plazas of the 20th century, but they should remain as inspirational and dynamic as Gas Works Park. How have landscape architects engaged the question in their work in and near Seattle in the past four decades? This exhibit is meant to inspire and provoke just such a discussion amongst designers, planners, advocates, and citizens.

The exhibit can be viewed at AIA Seattle, 1911 First Avenue, Seattle, Monday through Friday from 9:00 to 5:00. "Experimenting in Public Space: New Technologies and Making in Seattle's Landscape Architecture", hosted by AIA SEATTLE is curated by Thaisa Way, faculty in the Department of Landscape Architecture, Tera Hatfield, MLA candidate, and Mackenzie Waller, M’ARCH candidate of the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington.

Made possible by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts

Good design makes a difference

American Institute of Architects

A Chapter of the American Institute of Architects