Observers | Week 2 | Aurora Ave: Transportation

Kate, Gabriel and Tyson welcomed professionals Tory Kovacs (recent UW architecture graduate & creator of bicycle friendly communities), Rick Mohler (local architect & UW professor) and Marcus Elliot (engineer) to this week’s Open Sketchbook of Aurora Avenue at the Henry. Armed with existing and potential transportation information of Aurora Ave, transit maps and street cross-sections decorated the space, along with a video simulating the experience of driving along Aurora Ave.

The day’s question was posed: “How do you create a transportation system that gives equal weight to motorized vehicles, pedestrians and bicycles?”


Soon after the ultimatum of this charette was announced, the room was taken over by the guest (male) professionals who were eager to educate the rest of room on the legal rules and regulations of Seattle’s transportation design and planning. The guest engineer’s extensive professional involvement with transit projects along Aurora Avenue, including Rapid Ride, gave him unsolicited precedence to dominate the discussion, repress collaboration and consequently stifle not only the audience but the team’s design process. The guest architect also shared his professional expertise of transportation and development in Seattle, but tried to collaborate with the rest of the team eventually.


The charette started off strong with active participation and enthusiasm from all team members. Kate took the lead while Gabriel experimented with brainstorming and communicating his ideas visually. The students took turns trying to contribute to the discussion, though the constant disregard of thoughts and collaborative dialogue from the engineer forced the students, and even the audience, to physically remove themselves from the space throughout the charette.


In the end, commitment to collaboration was lost early on. The team was focused more on individual self-preservation and product creation than a supportive collaborative and innovative process. Despite loosing momentum at the end, interaction with the audience and general public was lively.

– Carolyn Foster & Dechen Gonnot


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