While society is becoming more complex, two social dynamics could have an enormous incidence in the way that public space will perform in the future. People have a growing concern about environmental matters while an increasing access to information in real time ( and to the mobile media technologies that make it possible) are defying the classical conception of public space, redefining our expectations and confronting it to evolving demands for a wide range of new social experiences. The Seattle Center HUB_ (Hybrid Urban Bioscape) is an innovative urban space that explores the value of urban hybridization as a design opportunity to address sustainable and technological issues in the definition of the contemporary public space.
A hybrid urban bioscape could be defined as a particular area hosting a delicate balance of urban and natural life and as the framework which integrates the symbiotic relation between those natural and built components necessary for its long-term survival. The HUB is called to be the most important public spaces near downtown Seattle, embodying its dynamic character and showcasing its strong sustainable identity. Harmonizing urban open space with landscape and ecology, and taking the introduction of an important amount of underground parking as an opportunity, The HUB represents by its strategic position in Seattle Center a great occasion to reconfigure the Euclidian spatial framework of the campus, creating an exceptional and lively metropolitan open space in a manner which is fundamentally different from the classical conception of public space as a void.
Hybridizing Urban Fields
The starting point for our proposal was to introduce an innovative approach to reach the same goals envisioned by the Seattle Center Century 21 Master Plan. Instead of conceive the demolitions, reconstructions, new buildings, the underground parking, and the major open space as separate elements, allowing some degree of integration for sustainable features we focused on defining this public space project starting from a sustainable approach.
Hybridizing architecture, landscape, ecologies, urban space, and urban media technologies, we allow the surfacing of a new kind of open space, which can be defined as a modern and integrated modern urban catalyst. A solar ribbon canopy will evolve unifying the existing buildings, creating the new ones, shaping the main new open space, and finally defining urban paths and new ways of interaction to intensify the social gathering. This new American urban hybrid, will acts as a large scale campus hinge, introducing new dynamics in the classical and balanced grid structure of the campus.
A linked campus
The Hub main strategy consist in taking the new layer added to the site, the underground parking complex, to transform this huge source of visitors in a real new gate for the campus. While doing that, special attention was paid to enliven the two main East-West interfaces (the Key Arena / new stadium area). The key issue was to define a new appropriate urban scale for this access, considering the role and functions that the new public space will have. Integrating the two different campus levels, the upper one (International Fountain) and the 5th Ave. N. entry level, the proposal reveals an exiting new landscape. A cascade of green fields is displayed: large terraces are completely horizontal allowing wide range of outdoors activities, and others are gently slopped serving as a natural amphitheater to enjoy concerts and have great views across the campus.
This configuration provides access from the green fields to a new public frontage, revealing new publics programs, allowing direct access from the parking level to the Center House roof terrace, and creating a real urban gate for the campus.
What shall be the shape and the fingerprint of the ZERO CARBON economy in the most important big cities open spaces? As well as in 1962, Seattle Center must inspire today the upcoming generations in an innovating way, showcasing a comprehensive vision of what a lively and sustainable future could be. All scales concerning the urban experience must be involved by this vision: from urban furniture which harvest rain water, or urban lighting powered by wind energy to the retrofitting of the principal campus buildings, including on site solar energy production. Actions and strategies in every scale could be replicable transforming the existing campus by the joint action of its different actors.
The HUB proposal wants to anticipate Seattle Center green future in the core of its major public space. The legacy that this proposal wants to project forward is to sustain a blueprint for Seattle’s role as a global hotspot in sustainable issues for the next half-century.
While the world is looking for alternatives to fossil fuels and CO2 reduction, Seattle has the potential to be a world leader in this raising Zero Carbon economy. Considering only its solar potential, Seattle receives more sunlight than Germany, the world leader in solar power. People involvement and environmental awareness is the most important resource to create a resilient city and to foster people to take action the education has a major role to play. The HUB seeks to integrate emerging sustainable technologies into the public space. A solar canopy will integrate solar PV on its top. A greenhouse biome host exotic plants and trees from other latitudes enhancing knowledge and becoming a major hotspot of biodiversity for the Lake to Bay Loop (between Lake Union and Elliott Bay). This new program also integrates an urban Algae bioreactor, attracting a very wider public to discover it.
Our experiences in today’s cities are no longer limited to physical spaces. From smart phones and wireless technologies, to GPS systems and social media, those evolving digital technologies are increasingly shape our everyday lives and our urban environment, turning our cities into ‘hybrid cities’. The HUB proposal seeks to overpass classical Euclidian paradigm to define a new kind of social interaction in this ‘sentient’ public space. The solar canopy will create a unique interactive media device which reacts to its surrounding environment. While providing shelter and shadow for the visitors, it will input public space with Seattle Center’s ambient and social data, amplifying people’s experience in the public space (augmented reality). Those nodes of contact between virtual and physical space created under the canopy roof will display images, sound, videos, and information, enhancing new ways of urban dialogue and fostering a shared sense of belonging and a strong sense of place and ‘ownership’.Location: Seattle Center, Seattle, USA Architects: Aétrangère Project name: Seattle Center HUB_ (Hybrid Urban Bioscape) Project description: New main Public Space for Seattle Center. Type: Open International Ideas Competition
Client: Seattle Center Foundation.
Program: Public space, parking, open air performance area, football stadium, sustainable facilities, office, exhibition space, retail, green area, restaurant, café.
Site Area: 36 500 sqm
Project Area: 10 000 sqm
Scope: Architectural, Urban and Landscape Concept Design
Project Year: 2012
Project Leader: Mario Caceres
Team: Mario Caceres, Architect and Urban Planner.
Christian Canonico, Architect and Engineer
Photo credit: AETRANGERE