Back to the Root: Designing a Culturally Responsive Open Space for Seattle's Chinatown-International District
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ABSTRACT The City of Seattle was seeking for a design team for the Hing Hay Expansion in early 2013. At that period of time, the community of the Chinatown-International District was busy gathering future participation in the Expansion Project. Critical issues of the community, such as safety and cultural identity, have always been the most discussed topics in the area. I started this thesis in the hope that I can contribute my personal efforts on the interests of exploring multi-cultural landscape and, as a result, to the community. The thesis research used various surveys for collecting general ideas of the park usage, organized two focus groups to congregate thoughts from different ethnic communities that were once active on the S King Street, the core of Hing Hay Park neighborhood and interviewed business owners of the local commercial core in order to gather their insights to the park design. Additionally, behavior mapping and observations were conducted in this thesis research for understanding the current conditions on how people utilize the park and its programs. The collected data was analyzed and interpreted into guidelines, diagrams in order to support the design concepts. In short, while users of the park are longing for more organized year round activities and special recreational design features, they also appreciate the multi-ethnic cultures of the community and have great desire to see a unique design for the pan-Asian community of Seattle. I used bamboo and its root (actually is "rhizome" - the underground stem of bamboo) as the design concept and image in response to the fact that the Asian community have been rooted in Seattle's Chinatown International District over a hundred years and as the connection among the various ethnic Asian cultures. Plenty of artistic and novel design elements were integrated into the site. The site design also includes a strategic lighting plan for increasing night-use quality and safety for the community. To conclude, this thesis aims to design a user-friendly open space on the focal spot in the District. Hing Hay Park is defined to serve a large community of Seattle and, as well, its local neighborhood for its critical position in the District. One of the design targets is to use lighting to scare away negative activities, such as drug dealing. As a consequence, it embraces more users to utilize the park even during non-programmed hours. Finally, it is important to represent the cultural characters of the pan-Asian community in their central gathering place. A final design with historical memories and cultural elements are integrated into the context of Hing Hay Park in this thesis.