Re-Collective

Artists transform a highway ramp that over the years has welcomed skateboarders, divers, hermits, and marriage-seekers.

In Montlake, Seattle, there's an elevated section of highway jutting out of SR 520 that's abandoned and scrawled with graffiti. This is the "North Montlake Ramp," a lopped-off connector to the R.H. Thomson Expressway that was never built due to a strong neighborhood revolt (mirrored nationally) against highways in the '60s and '70s.

Over the decades the ramp could've just become another blah fixture in the city's roadscape. But this being Seattle, the community welcomed the odd structure with open arms, incorporating it into their lives and play. People transformed it into a dance floor, skateboard park, a swimming hole, and a kayaking course. Lovers got married under it. And an individual going by the name Captain Defect claims that among "other things, I built and lived in 'a house' inside that bridge."

Google Maps

It's good that Seattleites got in their quality time with the ramp, because sometime between this year and 2016 it's got a date with the wrecking ball. The city is scheduling $15 million to remove old, useless ramps as part of its larger renovation of 520. In this specific one's place will grow a new extension of the Washington Park Arboretum.

But a group of architects and designers calling themselves Re-Collective are not letting the structure disappear without a fitting tribute. Toward that end they've coated it with curved acrylic, like a fattening carnival mirror, that warps the surrounding water, lily pads, and floating garbage. They call it the "Gate to Nowhere," and through the fall it will stand in companionship with the ramp on its deathwatch.

Here's how Re-Collective explains the intervention:

for the public project, the architecture-artist group has wrapped a single support pier in acrylic mirror with stainless steel strapping to reflect images of water, trees and air against its brutalist form. the perceived effect is a distorted representation of the surroundings into abstract forms, varying dramatically in accordance with the amount of sunlight, weather conditions, and time of day. furthering the manipulation is the water below, whose constantly form ripples and undulates as animals, trees, and other forces of nature disrupt its condition. the designers encourage passage through the gate by means of a boat. 

At the project's website, people have expressed appreciation over this artistic sendoff. "I really like the idea. I have many fond and chilling [??!] childhood memories there and will actually be sad to see it go," says one. Chimes in another: "Love it! Was married under the ramps and I’m sad to see them go. We should protect more of our unstructured spaces. This looks like it will be a beautiful, elegant tribute to the structures."

For folks who won't be in Seattle this year, here are a few scenes of the "Gate to Nowhere." See if you can spot what's wrong with the last one:

Re-Collective

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: Dominque Walker, founder of Moms 4 Housing, n the kitchen of the vacant house in West Oakland that the group occupied to draw attention to fair housing issues.
    Equity

    A Group of Mothers, a Vacant Home, and a Win for Fair Housing

    The activist group Moms 4 Housing occupied a vacant home in Oakland to draw attention to the city’s affordability crisis. They ended up launching a movement.

  2. photo: A Lyft scooter on the streets of Oakland in July.
    Transportation

    4 Predictions for the Electric Scooter Industry

    Dockless e-scooters swept cities worldwide in 2018 and 2019. In 2020, expect the battery-powered micromobility revolution to take a new direction.

  3. Life

    The Cities Americans Want to Flee, and Where They Want to Go

    An Apartment List report reveals the cities apartment-hunters are targeting for their next move—and shows that tales of a California exodus may be overstated.

  4. photo: a pair of homes in Pittsburgh
    Equity

    The House Flippers of Pittsburgh Try a New Tactic

    As the city’s real estate market heats up, neighborhood groups say that cash investors use building code violations to encourage homeowners to sell.  

  5. Charts

    The Evolution of Urban Planning in 10 Diagrams

    A new exhibit from the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association showcases the simple visualizations of complex ideas that have changed how we live.

×