A New Public Park for a Local Community
Lake City Park
A new park designed with the features most-desired by the community it serves.
Lake City Park is the newest green space in the heavily urbanized neighborhood of Lake City in northeast Seattle. This area is economically and ethnically diverse, and home to over 28 different languages. Seattle Parks and Recreation purchased the vacant lot that would eventually become Lake City Park in hopes of creating more usable open space for this community to enjoy. Just a few minutes from the town center, Lake City Park is easily accessible to a diverse group of surrounding neighbors.
Such varied populations would have different needs and desires for a park, so collaborating directly with community members was key to a successful design. We conducted a series of meetings, each in multiple languages, to gather input from children and adults regarding what programs best suited their community. Project artist Beth Gahan also worked with the community to create artwork that would reflect the spirit of the neighborhood under the 1% for Art Fund, which allocates capital funds for the inclusion of art.
Thanks to close collaboration with the residents of Lake City, the new park represents the themes of celebration, healing, and unity. The centerpiece of the park is Gahan’s “Rock Stack,” a cairn-inspired sculpture rising from the main plaza to greet visitors as they enter the park. This multifaceted piece is visible from all directions and is the distillation of the community’s desire for a welcoming, colorful, highly visible gathering place for activities. “Rock Stack” symbolizes the park’s overarching goal: building connections as a symbol of community growth and strength.
From the sculpture plaza, a wide, winding path connects visitors to all the new opportunities for outdoor activities, while large trees provide shade for hot days. The half basketball court, made from the same porous concrete used for all paving on the project, provides a space for all ages to enjoy the sport. A seat wall wraps along the adjoining path, providing a place for spectators to rest while cheering on athletes.
Further along, a mounded lawn rises from the ground until it hits the retaining wall, dividing the space from the play-climber structure. A custom climbing net connects the wall to the dome net-climber play feature as a novel way to increase activity and maintain the flow of each space into the next. Rock-climbing holds were installed onto the retaining wall so younger climbers also have options in exploring their mobility skills. The turf that covers the play area cushions any climbers that lose their balance while serving as an accessible surface for all users.
Across from the play area is a P-Patch community gardening plot where community gardeners grow fruits, vegetables, and flowers that can be shared with the rest of the community. Edible plants are also intermixed throughout the planting area for gleaning. These programs are at the heart of what this park is meant to accomplish – provide open space for this neighborhood to continue building community between diverse members.
We also focused on sustainability efforts that would help decrease maintenance needs and increase the park’s longevity. The porous pavement allows stormwater to infiltrate into the ground and not overwhelm the municipal stormwater system. Even though the park is lush thanks to varied and textured plantings, the plants are drought-tolerant to reduce municipal water demand. The park’s urban setting is surrounded by roadways and buildings, putting the space at risk of overheating on hot days due to the heat-island effect. Now, large street trees and landscaped areas combat the heat-island effect by providing plenty of shade and greenery.
With the help of collaborative design sessions and community partners, we were able to create a park that offered multi-generational appeal with a wide range of active and passive activities for generations to come, all infused with the hopes and desires of the communities living there.
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