A Design Block installation from the 2016 Seattle Design Festival. (Credit: Trevor Dykstra)

With neighborhood crawls in Capitol Hill and Georgetown included in a packed schedule of events, the Seattle Design Festival is breaking out of the Downtown core.

Today is the kickoff for Design in Public’s 2019 Seattle Design Festival (SDF). Now in its ninth year, SDF is the largest design-related event in the Pacific Northwest, gathering 120+ partners and over 30,000 attendees to more than 80 citywide events, many of which are devoted to topics that are near and dear to readers of The Urbanist.

SDF kicks off with an opening party today, August 16th, followed by a design crawl on Capitol Hill this weekend. This year SDF has intentionally set up exhibits and activities outside of the Downtown core to give the festival more a citywide presence.

Each Seattle Design Festival has a theme. For 2019 the theme is Balance, with an emphasis on how us humans can better achieve balance with the natural world, as well as what we can learn as designers from how balance exists in nature.

Here’s an overview of the 2019 festival, along with some recommendations on design crawl and partner events focused on topics related to urban design.

Key Festival Dates – August 16–25

Opening Party, International District – August 16
Capitol Hill Neighborhood Crawl – August 17
Georgetown Neighborhood Crawl – August 22
Design Discussions:
Living in Harmony with the Things We Create – August 19
Creating Thriving Cities – August 23
Partner Events – August 16-25
and ending this year with a Block Party at Lake Union Park – August 24 & 25

Capitol Hill Neighborhood Crawl, August 17th

Walking on Freeways: Lid I-5 Study Area Tour, 1-3pm, 7th and Marion Street, RSVP

WALKING TOUR: You’ll see how Seattle’s unique topography and the freeway configuration will influence design. Walk through history with existing lids at Freeway Park and the Convention Center. Hear about design challenges and opportunities for future lids in the area related to land use, street design and freeway ramps, pedestrian accessibility, transit routes, structural engineering, stormwater, earthquake preparedness, and more.

SKETCHING SESSION: Do you enjoy sketching or want to practice drawing outside on a summer day? We are coordinating a group sketching session with the event, led by professional designers. In addition to registering for the main walking tour, please contact us if you plan to participate: email mail@lidi5.org. Sketching skills or interest is not required to join the main walking tour.

(Credit: Seattle Design Festival 2019)

Schemata Workshop Open House with Neighborhoods for All Display, 3-6pm, 1720 12th Avenue

As part of the Capitol Hill Neighborhood Design Crawl, come visit Schemata Workshop’s storefront office space. “We will serve as a Hub and scavenger hunt stop for the event where you can enjoy some light refreshments and snacks while observing the current work our offices is doing – much of it related to affordable housing, co-housing, and urban planning in Seattle.”

Schemata Workshop is also hosting an exhibit from the Seattle Planning Commission, who will share data and findings of their Neighborhoods For All report. Neighborhoods For All looks closely at the housing challenges facing Seattle, as well as the historical practices that led to our current racial disparities in housing

(Credit: Seattle Design Festival 2019 )

Seattle’s Freeway Revolt Revisited, 8:00PM – 10:00PM, Freeway Park – Seneca Plaza, 600 Seneca St,

Join us for a screening of Minda Martin’s documentary “Ramps to Nowhere,” which dives deep into the community activism behind Seattle’s Freeway Revolt of the 60’s and 70’s. The event will open with a panel discussion with prominent Freeway Revolt activists, the Lid I-5 team, the Freeway Park Association and others. We will explore the tension of balancing community needs and urban development, and as well as balancing infrastructure and green space. Screening will begin at 8:30pm and a short Q&A with the filmmaker will be held afterward.

(Credit: Seattle Design Festival 2019)

Georgetown Neighborhood Crawl, August 22nd

Equinox Studios, 3-11pm, 6520 5th Avenue S.

The Georgetown Neighborhood Design Crawl consists of concentrated events, open studios, exhibits, interactive workshops or participatory design interventions that are meant to activate and celebrate the neighborhood. Design professionals, residents, business owners, and community groups are all invited to activate and celebrate neighborhood identity through a series of design-related events. Equinox Studios, will be a center for various open studios, so this is a great place to get started in your exploration of the neighborhood.

(Credit: Seattle Design Festival 2019)

Recommended Partner Events

Tipping the Paradigm: Shifting the Balance toward Timber Construction  Olsen Kundig, August 20th, 4:30-6pm, Center for Wooden Boats, 1010 Valley St, RSVP

What if we could shift the building industry’s perception of materials, bringing timber (once again) to the forefront – making steel and concrete the outliers? However, timber actually holds more environmental benefits than both concrete and steel. Responsibly sourced timber offers design professionals a material that could help arrest the progression of climate change. Bringing together experts in the sourcing, fabrication, design, engineering and craft of timber, this panel discussion aims to build awareness of the positive potential of wood across a range of construction types. In exploring the design possibilities and benefits of timber, we can change the way building materials are selected, inspiring market demand that can change the industry.

Community Engagement and Civic Transformation
AIA Seattle Diversity Roundtable, August 20th, 6-9pm, DLR Group, 51 University St, Register

Following on two years of convening conversations with Office of Community Planning and Development regarding investment in our communities of need, AIA Seattle’s Diversity Roundtable brings together three women leaders in built environment to talk about how their investment in cultural convening and community spaces provide lessons and perspective for how we might further catalyze communities of color in Seattle to be in control of our own destiny as development continues in our neighborhoods.

Curating the Street Level Experience: The Work of Graham Baba Architects in the Pike/Pine w/ Jim Graham
AIA Urban Design Forum + Graham Baba, August 20th, 5:30-7pm, Chophouse Row Courtyard, 1424 11th Ave

Join us as Jim Graham, principle of Graham Baba Architects, shares his vision for breathing life into urban streetscapes as elicited by the firm’s thoughtful work in one of the city’s most dynamic and culturally-exciting neighborhoods. The work of Graham Baba along the Pike/Pine corridor in Seattle is predominantly composed of privately-developed projects. However, the projects engage the streetscape and delicately mix public and private space to create inspiring, privately-funded spaces available to all.

[IM]BALANCE: Responding to inequity by building compassionate communities
Architects Without Borders Seattle + BLOCK Architects + Facing Homelessness, August 21st, 6-8pm, Bill and Melinda Gates Discovery Center, 440 5th Ave. N, RSVP

Architects Without Borders Seattle (AWB) and The BLOCK Project have partnered to build communities of compassion throughout Seattle, engaging individuals and their neighborhoods to welcome someone experiencing homelessness into their lives. Community engaged design has the power to mitigate the cyclical trauma of homelessness – coming closer is the first step in addressing the imbalance.

Panelists will include members of Architects Without Borders Seattle, BLOCK architects, Facing Homelessness and a BLOCK host family – members of the community that said “Yes, in my backyard.”

The BLOCK Project seeks to end homelessness in Seattle by building one 125 square foot off-grid tiny house on every single family lot in the city, and making these homes available to people who are currently unhoused. (Credit: BLOCK Project)

Recycling the Beauty of Puget Sound, August 21st, 500 Mercer St, Tickets $10
Seattle 2030 District

The Seattle 2030 District and Boeing welcome you to explore how we can recycle the beauty of Puget Sound to make Seattle more resilient and sustainable. This summer, we created a design competition challenging students, engineers, and architects to come up with innovative ways to capture rainwater and reuse it in building operations. These solutions will help mitigate stormwater runoff, conserve of our City’s potable water supply, and improve the performance of our buildings. Come engage with the winning design team, who transformed the roof of the Expeditors Headquarters in downtown Seattle into a water recycling project, keeping over 400,000 gallons of stormwater out of our sewers and reducing their demand on municipal supply.

The Transportation Situation: Harmonizing micro-mobility, rideshare, public transit, and city growth. August 21st, Teague Design Studio, 110 Union, Suit 500, RSVP

Seattle is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. We also have one of the highest rated public transit systems, expanding at an exponential rate. Add to that the permeation of ride sharing services adding more cars to our streets, and dockless bike sharing taking up real estate on our sidewalks. Capping it all off, we loom on the verge of adding scooters to our transportation tapestry. With advancing technology, seemingly endless ways to travel, Seattle’s exploding population, and a rapidly developing infrastructure, our city’s numerous mobility options need a healthy balance in how they’re going to expand and work together to benefit the public. Join us for an evening panel featuring experts from Lime, ReachNow, Seattle Department of Transportation, Sound Transit, D’Artagnan Consulting, and Teague. We’ll discuss our current transportation situation and the steps that need to be taken by government bodies, private companies, and consumers alike to ensure that Seattle and its transit solutions grow sustainably and harmoniously. 

The Garden of Secrets: Blending Innovation with Inspiration | Screening & Conversation, August 25th, Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave. Tickets $5-15
University of British Columbia Botanical Garden + TEALEAVES

Join UBC Botanical Gardens and TEALEAVES, along with a series of industry experts for a screening of the documentary The Garden of Secrets. The screening will be followed by an intimate conversation on biomimicry and biophilia and how designs inspired by the natural world strike the perfect balance between innovation and environmental respect, contributing to the betterment of humanity and a greener future.

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Natalie Bicknell Argerious (she/her) is Managing Editor at The Urbanist. A passionate urban explorer since childhood, she loves learning how to make cities more inclusive, vibrant, and environmentally resilient. You can often find her wandering around Seattle's Central District and Capitol Hill with her dogs and cat. Email her at natalie [at] theurbanist [dot] org.