Saving Seattle's Neighborhood Authenticity Through Better Buildings

A short documentary examines how to prevent South Lake Union from becoming another blah maze of featureless buildings.

Who knew that James Howard Kunstler was so horrified by the Baltimore Convention Center? When the author of The Geography of Nowhere thinks about walking its western perimeter, a block's journey next to a wall of sturdy brick and glass, he says he wants to "run shrieking from the street."

Kunstler gives his thoughts on how ugly buildings are degrading American life in a new documentary pondering the fate of Seattle's South Lake Union, a developing waterside area that's home to sloops and schooners, biomedical facilities and Amazon's sprawling campus. (Also the S.L.U.T.) Filmmaker and Seattle resident Eric Becker has assembled a brain trust of architects and urban thinkers to opine on the growth of the neighborhood, which seems headed down one of two paths.

In the future, it could either become a charming hive of activity with real neighborhood authenticity, like the Meatpacking District. Or, because Seattle's construction codes favor large buildings that extend all the way to the sidewalk, it could turn into just another blah warren of featureless megaliths. Obviously, Becker's interviewees favor buildings that have porous fronts offering shops and attractions. Also, they think Seattle doesn't talk amongst themselves enough, so they propose seeding South Lake Union with parks and other open spaces to encourage social interaction. Anything less, as one architect says, "kills authenticity."

Have a look at Becker's "Placemaking & Seattle":

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