Reclaiming the Void: The Humanization of the Space under the Freeway in Seattle's International District
Nguyen Dinh, Dong
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Elevated Freeways are perhaps the most monstrous type of infrastructure running through our urban fabric. Although they consume a great deal of resources in energy and land, most of them operate for a single purpose to carry massive amounts of vehicular traffic. The often hidden outcome of this technocracy is the space underneath the freeway which is an uninhabitable environment with a very low land occupation ratio. This urban void is often neglected and associated with negative connotations. The perception of this space is as a destructive and oppressive element in the fabric of the city. The massive structure and the space underneath, however, need to be perceived as a possible resource for public space. The potential of such urban void can be realized by its reclamation and transformation into a place of interaction which interconnects the communities. While architectural interventions beneath the freeway often merely infill the space, this thesis proposes to maximize the inherent openness of the elevated structure in order to repurpose the space underneath into an active place that evokes the spatial and psychological connection of the divided urban neighborhoods. This thesis contemplates a strategy for humanizing the dead spaces below Interstate 5 that has cut through Seattle's International District as a means of re-linking the divided urban neighborhoods. The proposed scheme takes the form of a series of retail storefronts, artist studios and a sculpture garden that reach out into the adjacent residential area. These programs are the extension of urban fabric blended into the space under the freeway in order to reclaim the giant dead space and transform it into a place for human activities. In other words, the scheme is the blend of urban fabric and freeway structure that seeks to transform these otherwise lost spaces below the freeway into a place for fostering vibrant communities. The resultant design depicts the coexistence of urban system and the system of elevated freeway and such coexistence indicates a way for evolution.
- Architecture