In 1982, Tubs was a bathhouse that opened in Seattle’s University District. It’s risqué activities and reputation had been questioned in the surrounding community and eventually led to its closing in 2007.
Its ideal location with its access and proximity to main campus on Roosevelt Way nearly transformed the block into a high-end condo. However, the fall of the housing market led to the abandonment of the project and left the building as a shell of its former self.
Realizing a change was needed, the owner of Tubs ended up donating the site to local graffiti artists. These graffiti artists have since intervened and transformed the building into wall of expression, breathing life into what otherwise would be a bleak and grim facade. As its popularity grew, the owner considered the graffiti a work of art and therefore cannot be subject to such local graffiti ordinances for removal. 1
Its presence on Roosevelt continued to bring additional attention and further fueled its controversy with the community. The graffiti’s unique ephemeral quality has brought in many admirers as well. Its constant change consists of various illustrations of contemporary political statements, to cultural icons, and amazingly beautiful graphic forms (see images for more detail). The site has taken on a life of its own as even the surrounding parking lot, bushes, and other surface areas have also become a part of the site among the scattered spay cans, cigarette butts, and beer bottles around the parking lot and in the planters.
Our observation with this ever-changing site was that there was a great sense of liveliness and duality to the experience. This begs the question as to whether DIY urbanism brings delight or distain? Is it vandalism or art? Is it derelict or beautiful? 2 Our perception is that it infuses a dynamic quality to the area and is worth noting as our relatively gray skies are brightened up with this colorful intervention.
– Lindsey Gadbois & Erik Murilo