When was the last time you stopped to appreciate the most mundane parts of where you live?
Have you ever hike along the woods off the highway?
Can fences be used to connect instead of divide?
These are a few of the questions brought up in a lecture Jean and I attended tonight by urban planner Thomas Sieverts and put on by Portland-based Suddenly.org.
Thomas's theory is that we need to come to terms with the already established sprawl of our urban environments and recognize the inherent charm and potential in the in-between state of being it creates. His suggestion is that we begin to shape our culture in a way that appreciates and enhances interactions of people with their location.

-How can we make the best out of the situation and be better aware of and enjoy the places we live?
-Can spaces between buildings become spots for gardens or for people to mingle?
-Can big commercial businesses use the parking lots to house community events like flea markets, fairs, or skateboard competitions?
Thomas posed these questions and more through a narrative photo tour through a Tigard, OR, an apparent suburban wasteland (similar to Burien, WA) of big box stores, fast food, and lower-middle class residences. The photos highlighted the hidden beauty of forests situated between strip malls, spaces between buildings, unofficial walkways, and well-intentioned. Some were beautiful examples spontaneous human resourcefulness others audacious attempts to insert "beauty" in an altogether bland location (think trimmed hedges in parking lots...what's the point?). All were scenes you could witness if you'd just notice it or take a thoughtful walk around a neighborhood near you....or keep it simple and get your ass out of the car. :DBillboard on I-5 between Seattle and Portland. It's always changing with some ridiculous messages on it. I love reading it every time we go by.
Playful signs on a roundabout by Hiawatha neighborhood off of S Rainer Ave in Seattle.
The point behind it all is that there's a natural desire to express human needs no matter the location and that we all need to recognize them and demand them, but it's also what we choose to see and appreciate what's around us.
Will there come a time where living in an abandoned strip mall or Costco building is just as desirable as livinging in industrial warehouses?
This whole lecture has opened up so many design potentials on this subject, and our heads are spinning with ideas for Brite!!...... oh boy!

Today July 2nd: Continuing event with Thomas Sieverts : there will be an organized walking tour in Burien neighborhood to practice this exact philosophy we described and explore what's around there. When's the last time you decided to stop and walk around Burien?? We can't say that we have....But we will tomorrow!

4:00 pm Burien through Community Eyes: Walk the city of Burien with Thomas Sieverts and artist, Boris Sieverts. (Gather at B/IAS 5th Ave SW & SW 150th St., Burien.) Free and open to the public.

6:00 pm Conversation and Nosh with Thomas Sieverts and Boris Sieverts, Burien political and civic leaders, neighbors, friends, and an interested public (at B/IAS, 5th Ave SW & SW 150th St., Burien; food and drink from Mark & Sal’s Deli). Free and open to the public.

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