2017 City / Nature for Urban Resilience: Greener Belltown, Bluer Sound

How can the infusion of a healthy “Nature,” and approaches that integrate multi-functional natural processes, help to create vibrant, healthful, climate-change resilient urban districts while also helping to restore downstream environments? How might Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood integrate green infrastructure to eliminate combined sewer overflows into Elliott Bay, in ways that also help to regenerate a healthy urban nature and equitably provide the renewing benefits that contact with nature can afford? How can such an integrative design approach help to create and sustain a democratic, just, public life, and foster a vibrant, creative urban neighborhood culture?

 

Inspired by our experiences of Copenhagen’s and Malmö’s planning policies and design trials for sustainable and climate resilient cities, the 2017 Scan|Design Master Studio worked with the Seattle 2030 District and the Belltown Community to begin to answer these questions.  We explored district planning frameworks that could be useful in integrating these questions into their planning processes. We developed design ideas and typologies to inspire retrofit of streets, urban spaces and buildings that employ natural processes to create a more liveable district, while solving the basin’s stormwater issues, and future City water and wastewater demands. We had the unique opportunity to work directly with people engaged in ongoing initiatives for Belltown: with a diverse array of community stakeholders and professionals who have been engaged in neighborhood planning processes over past months and years, and with urban habitat and green stormwater proponents; with Seattle Public Utilities at the beginning of their process investigating solutions to the basin’s combined sewer overflows; and with the 2030 District’s visionary goals and progress for reducing peak stormwater discharge and potable water use.

Guided by principles developed by Gehl Architects, and their offspring of Schulze + Grassov, we devised approaches to cultivate and enrich public life — both moving through, and staying in, the public realm of streets, plazas, parks and leftover spaces of the Belltown project area.  Additionally, we worked at district, site and detail scales to use urban design to address climate change impacts through:

  1. exploring opportunities to insert urban nature for biodiversity resilience and human health
  2. addressing social and cultural needs and amenities to cultivate social resilience
  3. artfully integrating water into the cityscape for hydraulic performance, urban nature and human delight