Thursday, January 19, 2012

Changing Surfaces

Changing Surfaces

Connor McGarry & Aimee Rozier

The focus of this photo diary is to bring attention to people’s ability to repurpose a space; whether it is intentional or not. Do It Yourself (DIY) Urbanism is about people’s perception and alteration of spaces to meet their needs.

Simply taping the word “love” over a conventional “way” on a one way sign can alter the meaning of the sign entirely (1/11/11). This sign, on 47th and 19th, exemplifies how a single word can change a person’s entire outlook of a space/progression of space. Easy as it is to discern that the sign has been altered, it is the next step that changes the way people think about this ordinary sign they normally see all over the city. Do you trust the sign and proceed as usual? Or do you discount the signs reputability and proceed in another fashion with caution. A simple change in surface calls into question the validity of something normally taken for granted.

The graffiti on the old TUBS building, at 50th and Roosevelt, expands further than the actual structure, marking the trees and mailbox on the street as well as the external utilities (1/11/11). The entire area has been transformed into a medium for graffiti artists. Here the change in surface is remarkable, the many layers of paint exhibit the personalities of numerous taggers. It is interesting to note that a sort of “critical mass” has been established here, where the surrounding buildings are left relatively “untarnished”, this is most likely due to a de jure ruling, labeling the TUBS building as set aside as a graffiti canvas.

The negative spaces between the painted pipes and wheels at Gasworks Park transition from children’s play area during the day into makeshift bedrooms and safe storage areas for the homeless at night(1/18/11).

User Constructed Transportation Tools:

An Emerging Ecosystem

By Lexington Griffith

Transportation is what allows urbanism to function and flourish. Without efficient and readily available transportation options, the critical mass of people and ideas that we call urbanism can not occur. The importance of movement of people and goods to planners and citizens alike can not be understated. Design is often centered around tenants of movement, resulting in much of the built environment that we are used to seeing today. With such recent focus on the re-emergence of the city core and its associated urbanity, it is interesting to view some of the things various “unofficial” groups have embarked upon to make movement that much easier.

One Bus Away

With a goal to bring real-time transit information to the Puget Sound region, One Bus Away was created by Brian Ferris, a graduate student at the University of Washington. Put in his own words, “[I] developed this site after too many late nights in the rain, wondering if the 44 would ever come” ( The application allows users to track where their buses are in real time at any stop in the region.

OBA main website page (

What originally began as a one man operation eventually garnered the attention of transit agencies around the Puget Sound who are now beginning to integrate the application into their own transit strategies. Simply put, the application showcases a non-institutional construction to improve the urban environment.

OBA screen on 3rd Ave – SDOT (

OBA Android Application

System Maps

Maps have always been used to describe and visualize the built environment on a macro scale. The construction of maps is an important factor in conveying and circulating information to others. With Seattle’s extensive transit system, many have found official transit maps confusing, or at worst, utterly unreadable. Looking at the image below, it is a mess of lines with little to no contextual information on routes.

King County Metro System Map (

In seeking to induce changes on Metro’s map making process, some have taken it upon themselves to create simple, easy to read route maps. The level of clarity and route information is infinitely better. Hopefully Metro takes notice.

Oran Viriyincy’s Frequent Transit Network Map (

Another Example -- Oran Viriyincy (

DIY Dumpsters

By Easton Branam, Vera Giampietro, and Annie Chung

Garbage is an inevitable byproduct of urban living. Cycles ofconsumption and production that take place in physically constrained locations (cities) depend upon practically infinite access to resources produced in geographically distant locations. “Since nearly all possessions end up asgarbage, the trash universe as a topic is virtually infinite.” (Chase 54) Consequently, what urban consumers do with their trash has virtually infinite implications for the spatial reality of a city. Garbage cans, rubbish bins, dumpsters – whatever you call them, they are everywhere. The receptacles for consumed articles are large and ubiquitous members of the landscape. To some, these receptacles are present only on trash day, when they must be hauled out to the curb for pick-up. For others they are a livelihood, a source of food, or a canvas upon which to mark territory or display art. The aesthetics and location of trash containers (variations from the standard being the DIY Urbanism concept for trash) also help determine the function and character of a space, as well as marking what areas are publicor private. Our photos reveal the additional (if they exist) functions of various trash bins, and the impact of their presence on the character and use of that space.

Looking for and appreciating the mundane or overlooked is what everyday urbanism is all about. What do we want to ignore more than our own trash? Trash as DIY urbanism can reveal opinions of how closely one should interact with or acknowledge their waste. Giving trash bins an additional function such as acting as a canvas for advertisement or personal expression directs our attention toward them. Decorating the trash can,the dumpster, and the alleyway (the realm of the trash receptacle) can be a celebration of that lowly part of our consumptive process – waste – and a direct acknowledgement of its importance.

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University District Farmers Market

Danny Valdovinos & Simon Thwaits

Every Saturday a group of farmers comes to the University Heights parking lot to set up tents and sell what they have grown and produced. It is one of several year-round farmers’ markets in Seattle. As you will see, merchants turn out every week no matter what the weather is. We went on a slushy Saturday to see what was for sale. These farmers offered everything from fresh fruits and vegetables and meats to hot veggie quesadilla lunches and produced goods such as juice and cheese. Of course, as the farmers themselves drive to Seattle to set up shop, everything sold at the market is locally grown or produced.

Farmers markets are an interesting example of DIY urbanism because they unite urban with rural. In an era where people often purchase produce that is grown either across the country or in another continent, these markets allow urban residents access to relatively locally grown foods.  In Seattle’s case, the farmers’ markets are certainly DIY urbanism, as they are set up and taken down all in the same day by the farmers themselves (perhaps an opposition to this can be seen in Los Angeles’ permanently constructed farmers market at The Grove). Without the farmers’ desire to sell their goods directly and without the demand from citizens, these markets would not otherwise be part of the urban scene.

Gum Wall 

By André Luiz Silva and Vagner Damasceno 

Why do you chew a gum? Soldiers chewed gums to relax during the Second World War, some people use it to clean their teeth when they are in a hurry, some people like it, just because it is sweet. However, if you go to Post Alley in Seattle, you will find a different way to use a gum.

The Gum Wall began around 1993 when patrons started to stick gums in the wall while they were waiting too much for a show at Market Theater. Theater company workers scraped the wall twice, but gave up when it became a tourist attraction of Seattle, and in 2009 it was considered the second “germiest” tourist attraction in the world. 

The existence of the Gum Wall encourages other kinds of urban art, as posts, graffiti and sayings in the rest of the alley. The fact is that as a kind of art expression, it changes itself with time, as well as, it is changed by some individuals in their everyday life without any previous concept or idea. In addition, as an urban intervention, it adds the alley’s wall some colors and texture, and also a distinct fruit aroma to the surround area. 

In our point of view, the Gum Wall is a good example of Do-It-Yourself, it’s a sample of how small actions can be powerful and how they can increase an environment - nowadays the gum wall is part of a local culture and it has been used as background for movies (Love Happens in 2009) and wedding photos. 


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A Diary of Observed Urbanism
by Gwendolyn Moruzzi and Tien Nguyen

            The inspiration on our Urban Landscape diary lead us to one of the most famous places in Seattle, Pike Place Market. The theme we have chosen for our diary is how the ideas of urban planners and everyday citizens create several contradictions but yet are able to coexist flawlessly.

University Lutheran Church and The City Church
50th and 16th Ave.

We started our day at 50th and 16th where we observed a contraction between the placement of “The City” church and the “University Lutheran Church”. Although the ideas these buildings represent contradict each other, they still exist within the same block like many churches around the community do. Churches are an example of urbanism because religion is given its power through human involvement and community, thus giving these spaces importance.

Busy Intersection on 45th and University Way

            Another contradiction can be seen at the University cross walks because of their coexistence between man and machinery. Crosswalks keep pedestrians and automobiles in rapid motion in each other’s general vicinity but prevent accidents from occurring. This is a form of urbanism because it allows urban planners to construct simple pathways that both machine and man can understand to control everyday traffic.

Graffiti Bridge on NE Campus Pkway

            As we rode the metro-bus we passed by street art that had been spray painted onto a bridge, this is an example of coexistence between different forms of public art. The refined art of creating a structure (like this bridge) combined with the art of an ordinary graffiti artist creates an interesting artistic entity. There is this 2 dimensional art working together in a 3 dimensional space; where architects and an ordinary citizen work together to create public art.

The View From Pike Place Market

        The view from Pike Place is phenomenal in its perspective relative to the Lake Union backdrop. This shows the relationship between the man-made city and the environment. A connection can be made bridging seafood caught in the wild to the seafood on the stands at Pike Place market. This is an important form of urbanism because the existence and success of the market relies on the human ability to produce and sell goods that come from the environment.

Work and Leisure on Pike Place Market

           Inside Pike Place we see another interesting contradiction between leisure and work. This can be observed as tourists shop as other people are going about their daily jobs. This is a form of urbanism because the idea of work and leisure is completely man made and Pike Place is just a facilitator of its practice.

Cosmopolitan Apartments Above Wine World on 45th St. and 4th Ave

We concluded the day with our final contradiction between public and private spaces. By looking at café’s and restaurants with apartment units above this can easily be seen. By having these two things in one structure it is an example of people merging their private space with public space. Developers produce these spaces in their attempt to create a place of dwelling while bridging a connection to public spaces for a unique urban lifestyle.
DIY Urbanism: Public Art (Graffiti and Murals)

By: Shelby Upton, Kyle Kurokawa, and Sara Hakanson

Do-it-yourself urbanism has become a way to leave ones own mark on society. Designers and artists have had to deal with the possibility of their work being altered by consumers and others who use the space. This has been done, not only in an artistic sense, but also in such a way that it has been classified as vandalism. To some, there is a fine line between “vandalism” (that which is not aesthetically pleasing) and “art”.

As we explored areas around the U-District, we discovered numerous examples of public art, or graffiti, that are examples of do-it-yourself urbanism. Whether in a park, on the wall of a business, or next to a busy road, open spaces everywhere have been covered with graffiti and murals of many styles and varying levels of artistic abilities. Each of these are examples of how individuals are taking the initiative to urbanize their surroundings and make them more interesting and beautiful.

Our first examples are taken from the outside walls of businesses. The Mac Store in the U-District (9th Ave. & 45th St.) has several images painted on its back wall, some of which have been altered with other graffiti. This makes the building more interesting and gives those who pass by something to admire. The next photo is a mural called “Larva Live” depicting a bug band (found on the south alley wall of the Trading Musician at NE Ravenna Blvd. and Roosevelt Way NE). This was painted in 2003 by local artist Scott Summers who has been painting murals professionally for more than 20 years[1].

The 4th and 5th photos were taken on the north side of the University Bridge in the U-District. These paintings have been changed and altered over time, but they have an organic, almost natural growing feeling which could represent the growth of a city, possibly into urbanization.

The next examples were taken at Cowen Park (5849 15th Ave. NE) and at “Tubs” (47th St. & 50th St.). The Cowen Park murals have been vandalized with graffiti but are still clear examples of do-it-yourself urbanism. “Tubs” is a business that was shut down in 2007 and the owners have decided to allow graffiti artists to cover the building. The owner has no plans to clean it up and enjoys allowing artists to express themselves[2].

Photo 1: 9th Ave. & 45th St., U-District, January 12th, 12:30pm, “Hidden Underneath”
Photo 2: 8th Ave. & 45th St., U-District, January 12th, 12:30pm, “Look Closer”
Photo 3: Ravenna Blvd. & Roosevelt Way NE, U-District, January 16th, 2:30pm, “Larva Live Bug Mural”
Photo 4: North side of University Bridge, January 10th, 2:00pm, “Nature’s Power”
Photo 5: North side of University Bridge, January 10th, 2:00pm, “A City’s Growth”
Photo 6: Cowen Park 5849 15th Ave. NE, January 16th, 1:45pm, “Colorful Abstract”
Photo 7: Tubs Roosevelt Way NE & 50th St., January 16th, 2:45pm, Side of building “Artist's Jungle”
Photo 8: Tubs Roosevelt Way NE & 50th St., January 16th, 2:45pm, Front of building “Artist's Jungle”




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