Seattle Permaculture Guild
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Note: This proposal was in reply to a 'Landscape Architect Sought for Neighborhood Project' posted through City Repair Seattle connections. The group (Palatine Art and Street Improvement Project) seeks someone to refine their ideas about improving a fence at a local daycare (among other neighborhood design ideas), work with stakeholders, and help implement it. Especially important for this project was tying in the public spaces and infrastructure in order to best use city money.
The PArSNIP Project Proposal submitted by Kelda Miller, 5/15/06
It is the interaction between diverse elements that create community. In a place that already has children and mountain views, restaurants and tai chi, nightlife and neighbors that know each other, what can be designed into the system to further those symbiotic bonds? And what elements strongly exist but are not yet seen?
The proposal that follows is inspired by the hard work of neighbors, but preceding many insightful conversations yet to happen. Many beautiful possiblities exist. Phinney Ridge is a powerful place, its views leading to an astounding sense of place, and its residents caring sincerely about each other. This proposal adds an offering: not just aesthetics but function, not just beauty but power.
In looking at all of the separate elements of the neighborhood block it is hard to imagine what the magical threads are that can bring diverse groups together, and not just in passing. What are a community’s bonds? The answer that follows is that each element (playground, taoist center, neighbors, etc.) have many resources to share, but that the current design does not encourage it. What follows is a design that can.
Early Learning and Development Center, offers playfulness and magic Low Involvement: • Parking strip torn out • Urbanite (asphalt blocks) from parking strip used as stepping stones and garden borders in the area, incorporating the ‘look and feel’ of Heart of Phinney Park. Also utilizing bricks from the old Greenwood buildings being taken down. • Wider garden beds near fence allow more interest than currently available. Herbs, berries, birdbath, vines growing along fence, both at playground and recycling/garbage station. • ‘Neighbor box’: like a regular mailbox but where neighbors can leave notes for each other. Adds an element of function: ‘I’ll give a thank you note to Chris’, or ‘I wonder if the kids made us valentines?’ Medium Involvement: • Water catchment from building’s roof piped to area west of recycling, waterfalling to a rock-filled ‘creekbed’ which runs under a stepbridge in sidewalk and is absorbed by raingarden/swale (as in SEAstreets). • Fence replaced by something playful (trolley, serpent, caterpillar) which offers fun nooks for the children to play in and peek through. Made from trex or conventional fencing with papercrete, materials will be appropriate for design yet- to-be-chosen. Author is unsure whether neighbors want to reach consensus on their own ideas, or be given a design that is acceptable to all. • Arbor extending from fenceposts to parking strip, for more vining crops and shade. Swinging bench without back so that one can either face the playground or street. • Sculptural podium for ‘Heart of Phinney’ artwork. • Announcement board secured to arbor post. Possible uses: events/announcements, neighborhood ‘to do’ list, directory (are any of my neighbors a plumber? etc.) High Involvement: • Cob built ‘creature’ built along with fence, sheltered by roof that extends over the sidewalk, providing a dry area for children and neighbors. • Incorporation of Elements: o Solar panel playing music when sun is out (especially fun for kids if they can ‘steer from below’ the panels away from or to the sun, to turn music off or on). o Fish pond or tank (potentially housed inside) with clear, water-filled tubes woven through playground fence to be able to watch fish swim ‘midair’. o Wind sculpture (or rainwater system) that moves gears that activate something in the playground (trolley wheels, caterpillar antennae). With all the parts safe yet easily viewable, to learn how it works o Worm bin in shady part of fence that has clear-plastic siding to learn how composting works. • Roof-sheltered gathering space for neighbors. Possible lending library, tea station, etc.
Palatine Space offers public space and group work for greater good Low Involvement: • For interested homeowners, concrete parking strips taken out and urbanite used as stepping stones/garden borders. Medium Involvement: • Stepping stones, etc. follow pattern set by ‘Heart of Phinney Park’ to provide continuity through the gardens • Some households have raingardens done in the pattern of SEAstreets. High Involvement: • Neighbors work together in clusters to have themes to their gardens (butterfly, medicinals, the color blue, etc) with each household having its own variation on the theme. • Some spaces to be used more publicly: benches, archways, signs about theme or neighborhood, perhaps even a small greenhouse or chicken run.
Neighborhood Space offers visitors, views, enthusiasm Low Involvement: • In vicinity of both 67th and 70th, inlay in asphalt information about the Olympic view that is seen from the location: names, stories about the particular peaks, etc. (This could start off a neighborhood trend so one could walk down Phinney/Greenwood and learn to name all the mountain peaks). • Add more interest to the roundabout on 70th and Palatine. More plants, windchimes, etc. Medium Involvement: • New condominium units on Greenwood incorporate ‘Heart of Phinney Park’ type landscaping with sculptural podium, etc. • Make use of public space on corners of 67th and 70th for benches. High Involvement: • Inlay in sidewalk miniature ‘trolley line’ (or some other symbol yet to be decided) that leads one to the old trolley station at 70th and Palatine. Incorporate historical and poetic quotes and pictures. • Businesses along Greenwood have concrete removed from parking strips and use them as on Palatine. • New condominiums use harvested rainwater from their roof to create a lush courtyard that is semi-public and a shady place for one to rest from the sun.
Taoist Institute offers peacefulness and knowledge Low Involvement: • Chinese medicinal herbs planted on frontage Medium involvement: • Parking strip removed to have a more extensive garden. • Artwork High Involvement: • Lawn on westside taken out to be replaced by herbs. With vines, potted bamboo etc, this creates an ‘outdoor room’ that ties into ELDC project. • Signage for self-led herbal tours • Outdoor sunset tai chi and xi-gong
Municipal Codes to consider: • Sidewalk handicap accessiblity • Emergency vehicle access with swales (SEAstreets, installed by the city, used ‘structural lawn’ which can be driven on if necessary) • Alternative fence structure sturdiness, especially if children will be climbing all over cob-built creatures. • Water catchment and child safety.
Past experience of author: • Collaborated with residents, business owners, activists, government etc to create a pamphlet ‘The Flood on the Hill: What residents of South Hill are doing about Urban Sprawl’ (2000) • Graduate of The Evergreen State College with focus on Sustainable Community Development (2001) • Certified Permaculture Designer with 2-year in depth training on the Bullocks Permaculture Homestead (ending 2004) • Worked as a leader, with many diverse groups, to develop and facilitate the Seattle Permaculture Guild. (2004 to present) • Worked with others, including the PNA, to organize sustainability oriented events, etc. (2005 +) • Familiarity with designing to code (albeit kitchen design). Inspectors joked about giving the temporary kitchen a ‘gold star’.(October 2005). • Teacher of Permaculture Design, etc. at Seattle Tilth Association and Wise Earth Ecological Land Trust (present) • Close personal friend of the Maykuts (white house on 70th and Palatine), and also of Albert Postema, (and others), long-time participants at the Taoist Institute.
In Conclusion: Just as a fruit tree planted near the top of the hill will roll fruit and seed down, replanting itself effortlessly across the landscape, so too could the design of the Palatine neighbors inspire all the neighbors around. Palatine is a quiet street that sits in a powerful place, and may be able to push the edge of what is required by all residents in their neighborhood design. Many thanks go to the PArSNIP group for their inspiration, may you find something here that entices you.
Personal Note: As some of you know, this proposal was created without the full site tour, with very limited time, and zero budget. I have complete confidence that if I were to be paid for my time I would be able to create completely professional documents, with well-researched municipal codes, funding, etc. But at this point it was impossible. Let what I’ve given so far be a testament to the kind of work I can create with almost nothing.
Kelda Miller 4710 University Way NE #607 Seattle WA 98105 206-324-3632 firstname.lastname@example.org http://seattlepermacultureguild.org