Towards A Region Of Short Distances
Organized by Urban Design Forum & Young Architects Forum AIA Seattle
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The intent of this competition is to award cash prizes. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, sponsorship for prizes is ongoing and will be announced before the submission deadline. Winners will also win one of three awards: Best Overall Design, Most Daring, and Most Practical, be on display with other notable entries in digital format, and will be published via a digital book of notable competition entries that can continue to inspire the future of our region for generations to come.
Background: Before the Second World War, central Puget Sound cities grew around neighborhood nodes that were naturally limited to walkable radii around transit access. Development after the 1940s prioritized automobile mobility. Automobile dependence became a hallmark of late-20th and early-21st century American life, and the Seattle metro area is no exception. Much of the area within the central Puget Sound Urban Growth Area is auto-dependent. Strip-mall highways surround miles of cul-de-sac subdivisions in suburbs such as Mill Creek and Maple Valley. Even some older neighborhoods within Seattle city limits such as Laurelhurst, View Ridge, Magnolia, and Beacon Hill have vast areas that are not conventionally walkable due to single-use neighborhoods, highways, and terrain. As we densify without improving walkability, automobile dependence increases and further strain is placed on our infrastructure. As we move toward independence from automobiles, the structure of our urban environment must change so that no urban places are dependent on the automobile. In a post-coronavirus world, this strategy of short distances is important for public health to reduce the viral transmission that naturally occurs at large, amalgamated suburban centers. What is a Microneighborhood? A microneighborhood is a small concentration of services, businesses, and third places, ideally served by transit. It exists separate from other urban structures such as corridors, larger neighborhood centers, or downtowns. It provides a central place for an otherwise homogeneous single-use neighborhood, and increases the walkability of an otherwise unserved residential area. Our region already has many small microneighborhoods of varying sizes, forms, and levels of income. These are typically a block or two long; even single buildings such as corner stores can provide central places in what are otherwise unwalkable areas, and serve as. Please refer to the “Resources” section for a list of these emerging neighborhood nodes in Greater Seattle. Design Challenge: How do we incrementally reshape our region to eradicate urban automobile dependency? A “City of Short Distances”, in which most needs of daily life are a short walk or bike-ride away, is the logical path forward for our region. We seek ideas that explore seeding areas of the greater Seattle region plagued by poor walkability with incrementally developed “microneighborhoods” at walkable intervals to restructure our region.