Friday, July 24, 2009

Portable Production/Design Charette

Not an hour after meeting Jay Standish -- the gentleman behind the design charette for Seattle's HUB, which will be held at our Park(ing) Day event -- I found myself in front of Madison Market, witnessing solar-powered sewing machine art being produced.

I connect the two events because Jay had mentioned the possibility of using solar power as an energy source for the design charette; P. Nosa, the Tucson-based artist, had already made it work. He told me his panel was manufactured by Kyocera, but I didn't ask which model he used. Nevertheless, as we at PPL explore ways to activate vacant space, the availability of electricity -- or lack thereof -- always comes up.

Returning to this morning's conversation with Jay: the design charette sounds splendid. A firm believer in place-making, he plans to set up a sort of pavilion in the back corner of the lot, where the ground is level. This space -- or place, rather -- will be covered and surrounded by furniture and objects that make it a ideal for discussion: comfortable seating, rugs, plants, bookshelves, etc. And though the charette will only take place for a portion of the day, the pavilion will be available as a meeting place throughout the day, similar to the function of the building we will be designing.

If you are interested in the charette from an organizational, layout, or participation level, please get in touch and I'll connect you with Jay. He's an intelligent and energetic individual that I'm confident will facilitate an engaging event within our event.

And if you're interested in seeing P.Nosa in action -- which I highly recommend -- he may be lurking around the Capitol Hill Block Party or Seattle Center today and tomorrow, and will set up at the Fremont Sunday Market before heading to Portland on Monday.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Where We're Headed

Let's talk about us, about PPL:

First, Park(ing) Day is looking better every day. Last night we had the first organization meeting and many great ideas were bounced around. Our grant writer is optimistic that we will receive a grant large enough to cover the required insurance, pay for some advertising, and to allow us to offer some prize money for the best parks.

Prize money? Yes, prize money.

Though we have yet to choose an actual tagline for the theme of the parks, it will revolve around the idea of "activating vacant spaces." Maybe you're an architect (ahem, Pb Elemental and Castanes, you're both invited) and have a grand idea for temporary living units and you want to display it in your park. Or perhaps you're an artist and a gardener (ROW Garden organizers, I'm looking at you), and your park is surrounded by conceptual sketches of ways to garden in a dim alley. Or whatever (SVR, you and your backyard chickens come to mind). The point is, if we win the grant, funds will be available to help reimburse some of creators of the best parks for the time and materials they put into their space.

And that's not all.

I'm meeting a gentleman in the morning who wants to run a design charette for a future community center as an event during Park(ing) Day. More details later, but, in general, we will likely set up an event where people can share their ideas about what such a center would provide, like copiers, computers, and large scale printers for local activist groups.

We're also talking music.

And maybe a movie as night falls.

Street food could arrive at lunch time, because even occupying an empty space burns calories.

I envision some temporary gardens to add some greenery to our space. Where will these gardens end up afterward? Maybe that's a whole new project in itself.

Another idea is a free yoga session in the morning as everything gets going, similar to Equalityoga at Pride.

And speaking of yoga...

We've also been talking to the owner of the Oddfellow's Building about offering community yoga in the old Seattle Running Company retail space on the corner of Pine and 10th.

View Larger Map

As with all our events, money for insurance and a little rent is the main hurdle, but we're working on finding some. One option is that the instructors will put up the money and we'll hope to recoup it through donations (hint hint). Another is that we'll obtain umbrella coverage as an arts organization, but that entails lots of paperwork. Wanna be our sugar daddy/momma?

More updates coming soon. Get in touch if you have any questions, comments, or donations (wink).

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dumpster Dipping

Someone told me about this recently, but I can't remember who it was. Today I received an email with a link to a New York Times article about converting disused dumpsters into swimming pools (don't worry, there's a plastic lining).

The first thing that popped into my head was, "what happened to all those dumpsters that adorned downtown alleys before Cleanscapes took over?"

Thursday, July 16, 2009

And Green Too

Turning to Google Maps for an aerial view of the lot -- the plan is to draw up some ideas for Park(ing) Day layouts -- I found this old view from above. Not only was this space vibrant in terms of human activity, it was also home to quite a bit of foliage.

Check out this other blast from the past, facing southeast on Summit.

Thanks for the reminder, Google, but now I need an up-to-date map. Maybe Bing can help?

Wow (for many reasons).

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Loot and Summer Street Scene

I picked up some interesting stuff today at the Aesthetic Life of Cities exhibit in Pioneer square. We'll start with what I paid for and end with what was free.

Pictured below are Where We Live Now: an annotated reader, which was edited by Matthew Stadler, and Metronome No. 10, which starts with a piece on "working portably" that is intended for artists who want to live and work portably, with minimal expenditures.

I am especially interested in the work of Saskia Sassen, some of which is included in the reader, and was referred to me by Stadler after bringing up the issue of technology and its relationship to the built environment (like this blog, y'know).

Secondly, I acquired four wonderful posters by Marc Joseph Berg that are a part of his You Can See For Miles project (the link is to a write-up that explains the premise of the project). Note the "tags" at the bottom of each poster, a feature that corresponds nicely to the meta information that I should be using to help with site navigation. They will be hung with care in four locations that are of interest to PPL.

In closing, make sure to head to Great City's Summer Street Scene from 5-8 PM on Bell St., between 1st and 2nd and 3rd Avenues. My eyes are set on SVR's booth and Skillet. I plan on being there from 5:00 to around 6:15 (gotta run to see Objectified at 7:00), so if you a guy wearing these, it could very well be me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

You Know...

...I wouldn't be lying if I said we might have access to this wonderful, wonderful machine for Park(ing) Day, courtesy of Madison Market. I picture it being the device that connects our central park to other parks around the neighborhood, delivering food, water, and transplanted participants. Nothing is finalized but I have started the conversation them. Wanna pedal?

(photo courtesy of Matthew McQuilkin)

Aesthetic Life of Cities

The following text is copied from, the project of Portland's own Matthew Stadler, and the group the brought Thomas Sieverts to Town Hall a few weeks ago. Tomorrow is the final day of the Aesthetic Life of Cities exhibition and I'll be arriving about 12:15. Please join me if you're interested; I'll be wearing very bright shoes.

7.3 - 7.15 art exhibition: aesthetic life of cities

An Exhibition Exploring the Aesthetic Life of Cities

July 3-15, 2009
312 Occidental Avenue
Seattle, WA, 98104
gallery hours: July 5-15, closed July 4, 12-6 p.m. Free

suddenly: where we live now will be on view from July 3 through July 15, 2009 in a storefront space in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood. An opening reception with curator Stephanie Snyder, director of the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery at Reed College, and participating artists Elias Hansen, Boris Sieverts, Michael Hebb, Michael McManus, Hannes Wingate, and Molly Dilworth will be held at the space on Friday, July 3 at 9:00 p.m.

Visual artists exhibiting work in the Seattle iteration of suddenly include: Marc Joseph Berg, New York; Zoe Crosher, Los Angeles; Molly Dilworth, Brooklyn; Elias Hansen, Tacoma; Michael Hebb, Seattle; Hadley+Maxwell, Berlin; Michael McManus, Portland; Boris Sieverts, Frankfurt; and Hannes Wingate, Portland.

In addition, a bookstore has been created in the space, offering works by suddenly artists and participating writers: Fritz Haeg, Los Angeles; Frank Heath, Brooklyn; Anne Focke, Seattle; Lisa Robertson, San Francisco; Thomas Sieverts, Frankfurt; Stephanie Snyder, Portland; Matthew Stadler, Portland; Storm Tharp, Portland; and Oscar Tuazon, Paris.

suddenly was born of German urban planner Thomas Sieverts’s observation that “the shaping of the landscape where we live can no longer be achieved by the traditional resources of town planning, urban design, and architecture. New ways must be explored, which are as yet unclear.” suddenly seeks to imagine the possibilities of spaces and experiences that have an indigenous history (the parking lot, for instance), but that exist beyond historical definitions of city and countryside, and conventional material cycles of development and disuse. Through a myriad of objects, texts, and activities constructed as symbolic and strategic alternatives, the artists and writers in this project are re-imagining our relationship to the built and natural environment—its materials, textures and histories. suddenly explores the where we live now as an independent identity to be reshaped in the hands and minds of its occupants.

suddenly comprises a set of exhibitions curated by Stephanie Snyder, an annotated reader edited by author Matthew Stadler, and a series of additional publications and public events by a variety of suddenly artists and contributors. The exhibition projects began on June 29, 2008, in Portland, Oregon with Michael Hebb’s Corridor Project expedition to Ross Island—a culinary expedition onto to an uninhabited island in Portland’s Willamette River. suddenly has since evolved in various forms in projects in Oregon, California, New York, and now Washington, and will continue around the globe for the next few years. For additional information, including event listings and audio recordings, and to order project publications, visit:

The visual art exhibitions and related projects of suddenly: where we live now are a collaborative initiative of the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

The mission of the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery is to enhance the academic offerings of Reed College with a diverse range of visual art exhibitions—both historical and contemporary—lectures, and colloquia. The Cooley Gallery is a secured, professional museum-quality exhibition space with environmental controls that meet the highest standards set by the American Association of Museums. The Cooley Gallery was established by a generous 1988 endowment from Sue and Edward Cooley and John and Betty Gray “in support of the teaching of art history at Reed College, as part of an interdisciplinary educational experience that strengthens the art history component of Reed’s distinctive humanities program.” In addition to its stated mission to support the teaching of art history, the Cooley Gallery works closely with the Reed College studio art faculty in order to bring art and artists to Reed that advance studio practice at the highest conceptual and material levels. Exhibitions are curated and organized by Stephanie Snyder ‘91, the John and Anne Hauberg Director and Curator, and often coordinated in collaboration with Reed faculty members and courses, with attention to the needs and interests of the larger Portland and Northwest arts communities. A schedule of three to four exhibitions during the academic year brings to Reed and the Portland community, work that “would not otherwise be seen in the region.”


This afternoon I took a trip down to Burien to see the B /IAS installation at the Burien Town Square. Click here for a article on how the project came to fruition on an empty construction site, much like the PPL.

As previously mentioned, the B /IAS is host to both sculpture and garden plots.

While it's true that I visited early in the afternoon on a Tuesday, I can't help but think of how many more people might visit such a space on Capitol Hill, given its foot traffic. Anyway, Burien has done a good job here and I hope we can learn from them; in all honesty, I'm a little embarrassed that they made something like this happen before us, but that's just me being a snob.

Click here for more photos.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Park(ing) Day is Approved!!

I just received an email from the property owner and we have been granted permission to host Park(ing) Day 2009 on the People's Parking Lot!

Planning will commence soon. Please let me know if you would like to help in the process or, more importantly, want to build your own mini park on the lot.

Park(ing) Day is September 18th.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Brave New World

A local architect and documentary filmmaker recently brought a segment of the upcoming AIA Design for Livability: Sustainable Cities conference, entitled Brave New World, to my attention.

In their call for proposals, the AIA writes that appropriate presentations will give "the opportunity to learn from radically different ways of thinking and problem-solving." This is, obviously, a wide-open topic that appeals us involve at People's Parking Lot. In case you missed the last post, our interests are myriad and, in all honesty, a bit overwhelming. An architect and active participant in all PPL endeavors summed up our mission today as to make empty/abandoned spaces into public-use/productive spaces (even if it is temporary).

The aforementioned gentleman's work meshes nicely with this mission statement. His current documentary project focuses on the Danish anarchist squatter group, Christiania. From the documentarian's website:

Christiania: Our Heart is in Your Hands tells the story of the “free state” of Christiania, a 36-year-old anarchist squatter community occupying an abandoned military base in the heart of Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen.

Christiania was born in 1971 when youthful idealism and a severe housing shortage incited hundreds of young people to “storm the gates” and claim 85 acres of deserted brick buildings, woods, ramparts and canals as their home. Finding it politically unpopular to evict the young settlers, the Danish government declared Christiania a short-term “social experiment.”

With the freedom to experiment, the Christianites built a distinct culture based on group consensus, and a thriving economy of restaurants, bars, cottage industries, and an open hashish trade. In every respect, Christiania became an alternative that challenged, inspired, and frightened the society outside.

36 years later, Christiania is still alive, despite increasingly uneasy relations with the Danish government, which plans to “normalize” Christiania. After years of struggle and compromise, many say that the end is near for this famous “social experiment”.

Christiania: Our Heart is in Your Hands explores this crisis from varied perspectives; longtime Christiania residents, government and police officials who argue the legality of Christiania’s occupation, and the Danish people, who view Christiania as a symbol of freedom that they both cherish and fear.

As of our last conversation, he is considering putting together a presentation and perhaps a panel for the AIA conference. Ideas for the panel have included assembling activists/writers/designers/etc. who have worked with squatter communities/tent cities/homeless and artists with an active interest in the occupation of disused spaces. If this sounds like you, please contact me and I will put you in touch with him.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bay Area Inspiration and Back to Seattle

As you probably know, the name of this website comes from Berkeley's own People's Park. Today's typical barrage of emails regarding this lot and other empty space projects around Capitol Hill has again turned my attention to the San Francisco Bay area.

First, a story about several projects taking place on empty lots in San Francisco. One, which is facilitated by Rebar, the creators of Park(ing) Day, even shares two-thirds of its name with our humble little project here in Seattle.

Secondly, another story that addresses empty lots in SF and other cities around the country, Seattle included. Evidently Urban Visions allowed vendors to set up a BBQ in a lot "one block from...Pike Place Market" back in May. I'll be getting in touch with them shortly.

Here in Seattle, we're still keeping busy with:

1) Park(ing) Day: I sent the proposal to Murray Franklyn yesterday. We have requests out for help with cheap insurance and grants to pay for it.

2) Madison and Terry: We're hoping to transform the grassy swath along Madison into something, and utilize the Virginia Mason wall mockup for that something. Maybe it's a garden and a shed or maybe it's a bike sharing node? The owner is in NYC and I have yet to receive a response.

3) Empty Retail for Artists: I'm working on a google map that shows spaces for lease, while also speaking with agents at CBRE and Catalyst (hopefully soon; this week?) about getting some activity in their empty spaces. Check out the Google Map (work in progress) in the sidebar.

4) 11th and Pine: Everyone seems to have a soft spot for this poor vacant building. The owners, at least as far as I can tell from public records, are Pryde + Johnson. They develop "green" buildings but don't seem to be having much luck lately: Hjarta Condos are now apartments and Ashworth Cottages are largely empty. Not that this means they will or should allow us to use their space -- I was thinking some temporary gardens on the roof? -- but I figure that a progressive sort of developer might be open to the possibility. We'll see.

View Larger Map

That's it for now, I think. As always, email, facebook, twitter with ideas or concerns.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

More Temporary Art

From the Office of Cultural Affairs, a list of temporary art projects around Seattle.

Art + Gardens

In Burien.

I have yet to visit the B /IAS project but will head down there this week to see some of this goodness with my own eyes.

Art in Vacant Buildings II

Just ran across this post about developers leasing vacant buildings in South Lake Union to artists. I didn't see any information about specifics but I like the idea.

On that note, I've been in touch with a friend at CBRE who is going to explore how this sort of arrangement might work for some other empty spaces. If you're an artist and looking for temporary space, send me a message and I'll add you to the list we are compiling.


One idea for a small portion of the Pine lot has been a bike-sharing station. Maybe it could start out as something small or maybe we could go straight for the full-fledged, euro-styled Bcycle system. I bet if Mike McGinn were elected mayor, he would be open to exploring an option such as this.

This video starts itself; click on it to pause.