Masters Thesis | Armature Urbanism

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University of Washington Abstract Armature Urbanism: Trail Design in the Contours of Metropolitan Infrastructure Heide S. Martin Chair of the Supervisory Committee: Assistant Professor Thaïsa Way Department of Landscape Architecture ‘Vacant’ and interstitial lands are prevalent in cities across the nation and the globe. They lie within previously dense residential or commercial cores and at the edges of urban developments and infrastructural frameworks. They are defined by patterns of hydrology, topography, and other systems which limit development. This thesis reassesses the meaning and value of such lands in Seattle and examines ways that they can and do serve social and ecological functions within the urban fabric. I am interested in the unique and sometimes odd landscapes that evolve between the dramatic, dynamic edges of infrastructure, the intimately scaled and inhabited spaces of our cities, and the urban ecologies that define the city. This project explores how minimal interventions and design can make these spaces accessible while retaining their inherent character and richness. I have focused on the potential of the path as a minimal move, a thread that weaves together spaces, making place, without erasing existing character and yet offering access of a kind. I propose a multi-use trail that will connect the existing spur of a bicycle path known as the Chief Sealth Trail into the South Seattle and Downtown Seattle trail networks. By exploring the idea of a path, the richness of edges, and the potential of interstitial/forgotten land, this project suggests investigations of sustainability at a series of scales. The framework of a trail pushes design into the broadest levels of regional connectivity, while also necessitating attention to moments, transitions, and narrative. This project questions how “high performance” network level landscapes can be designed to remain accessible, emotive, and grounded in the textures of place, and demands an urgent recognition of the popular imagination of complex, transitional landscapes as places of inspiration, freedom, and mystery.

Armature Urbanism trail design in the contours of metropolitan infrastructure

heide s martin


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