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Seattle Science Fiction

The Comprehensive Plan SEATTLE 2035 is: “A 20-year vision and roadmap for Seattle’s future. Our plan guides City decisions on where to build new jobs and houses, how to improve the transportation system, and where to make capital investments such as utilities, sidewalks, and libraries. The Comprehensive Plan is the framework for most of Seattle’s big-picture decisions on how to grow while preserving and improving neighbor-hoods.” Basing its plan on the data of demographic, social, economic, and environmental change, the city’s office of urban planning extrapolates from facts to create a vision of Seattle’s urban future.

This studio asked what if designers don’t base design on given facts but on speculative fiction? What if we don’t begin by analyzing present conditions to predict future settings but start by imagining future possibilities – however fantastic – to reveal our hopes, dreams, and desires? What if we translate our imaginaries into architectural design, into a project of social, cultural and environmental change? In this studio students used a variety of science fiction and fantasy movies, suggested and self-selected, to learn from their imaginativeness, from their narrative strategies, from their visionary and visual powers — to rethink design strategies for Downtown Seattle.

UW Shell House

This studio focused on the creative adaptive reuse of one of the UW campus’s most iconic- yet unknownbuildings – the ASUW Shell House. Highlighted in the award winning book (and soon to be feature film), The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Quest for Gold at the 1936 Olympics, the ASUW Shell House was first built in 1918 by the U.S. Navy during World War I on a site that was an important location for indigenous tribes, especially for local waterway connections across Lake Washington. This was a time when the UW campus was activated as a military zone and the building was to be used as a seaplane hangar, yet it was never used and was transformed into the home for UW crew from 1918-1974. It also was the location of the shell-building shop of world-class designers and builder George Yeoman Pocock, who was recruited to build racing shells for the team in 1912 before the war. For the next half century, nearly every collegiate and sport rowing program in America used wooden shells and oars built by Pocock that were constructed out of his shop in the UW Shell House.

ASUW Shell House renovation is currently in the beginning phase of fundraising and schematic design, therefore students have been working on imagining the site for uses by all communities; public use, student spaces, historic exhibits and landscape connections to the water and campus. As the first Seattle Landmark on the UW Campus, we will also explore these implications, yet will investigate all creative pathways to design a vibrant, connected, functional, building that will connect its rich history to the future of the UW Campus.


In this studio students were tasked with creating a studio for a photographer in the Ballard neighborhood. The goal of the building is to foster the photographer’s exploration of ideas and techniques of a particular photographer whose work has been inspirational, and will present the artist’s idea of image making to the public.

Students were challenged to go beyond the traditional graphic representations of the site – plan, section and elevation – each student individually analyzed the larger site context photographically. Students evoked the style of a particular photographer in documenting the neighborhood allowing for an unconventional way to explore the context of the site and draw inspiration for the resulting architecture.

Public Access

“I sometimes dream of a larger and more populous house, standing in a golden age, of enduring materials, and without gingerbread work, which shall consist of only one room, a vast, rude, substantial, primitive hall, without ceiling or plastering, with bare rafters and purlins supporting a sort of lower heaven over one’s head—useful to keep off rain and snow… a cavernous house, wherein you must reach up a torch upon a pole to see the roof; where some may live in the fireplace, some in the recess of a window, some at one end of the hall, some at another; a house which you have got into when you have opened the outside door, and the ceremony is over; where the weary traveller may wash, and eat, and converse, and sleep, without further journey; such a shelter as you would be glad to reach in a tempestuous night…” Henry David Thoreau, Walden, House Warming, 1854

The Public Access studio emphasized inquiry with spatial section, structural form, tectonic syntax, material choice, systems integration and, in particular, detail development. The studio explored the relevancy of technical issues to design ideas, articulated detailed depth through design development, practiced critical observation and construction problem solving, and operated within a deeply regional context.