Jul 8, 2015

Recap: Seattle Design Festival Design Rumble

By Laura Aguilera-Flemming

The Seattle Design Festival isn’t until September, but Design in Public, the local organization putting on the annual two-week event, has already kicked things into high gear by generating ideas during its Design Rumble. Held in mid-June, the one-day workshop gave interested attendees (including designers and architects) and builders  the opportunity to develop public installations to debut in Pioneer Square during the festival’s first weekend. This year’s theme, Design for Equity, stems from the goal of giving people of all ages, genders, backgrounds, and income an opportunity to access design.

Five activity partners—Feet First, Taskar Center for Accessible Technology, Skate Like a Girl, MarketShare, and Alleycat Acres with Pike Place Market—each presented pitches to the room of designers and builders, describing their installation ideas and goals and soliciting feedback. Here’s a closer look at their proposals.

To see how each project is coming along, stop by the Design Rumble Report-Back #1 this Friday, July 10, at DLR Group, starting at 6 pm.

Feet First, an organization that promotes sustainability and community, hopes to improve walkability along Seattle’s waterfront. Ideas included isolating the waterfront from construction madness, promoting physical activities such as interactive sports for adults, and highlighting the history of the area—the past, present, and future.

Tapping into Seattle’s tech-centric side, Taskar Center for Accessible Technology wants to develop an installation to support and engage those with disabilities. The organization, founded by University of Washington’s computer science and engineering department, talked about creating an interactive play kiosk that involved experiences with all five senses, including an obstacle course for the public to better understand the challenges of living with a disability.

Fighting the stigma that “girls can’t skate,” Skate Like a Girl is a non-profit organization that focuses on youth, play and performance, offering kids of all genders the chance to learn how to skateboard on their own or with a parent. Open to any and all ideas they opened the floor to the designers, who came up with a skate-able performance installation, a skate ramp with multiple uses, an urban jungle gym, and interactive hands-on art.

MarketShare, a non-profit organization working to build an international food market, helps empower immigrant and refugee entrepreneurs and teaches them how to operate their own small business. For SDF,  MarketShare hopes engage the public to actively support their cause, eventually working to create a physical international food market in the area. Contributed ideas for the installation included a modular kitchen space, growing produce in office buildings, a terrain transport vehicle, or interactive farm tools.

In a similar vein, Pike Place Market discussed their involvement with farm development and helping to support refugee farmers through collaborative sales channels. They discussed the need for infrastructure for farmers who have to haul huge loads of produce every day. Alleycat Acres is an organization that supports community-run produce farms in vacant property lots to take advantage of underutilized land in Seattle. They recently started growing produce on small planting strips in the Seattle area, calling them Alley Kittens. Their ideas included protecting produce from car fumes, a mobile toolshed, and Plexi-glas raised gardening beds.

In the months leading up to festival kickoff each team will meet to continue the brainstorming process, eventually coming up with final plans for each installation, designing and building them to be public-ready for the September Block Party. Contractors including Lease Crutcher Lewis, Mallet, Howard S. Wright, and Hoffman are donating time and supplies to help build the installations.

Stay tuned for our Q&A with Design in Public program director Susan Surface, with insight about this year’s festival, the broad possibilities for its theme, and what she’s looking forward to in September.

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