Discovery Park Observations Nov06


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Discovery Park Observations

Written by B. Arch. Students Benjamin Emery, Aly Cornelius, Tyler Tarte, and Riley Lacalli

This quarter”s ARCH 300 studio”s site is in Discovery Park. Four undergraduate students write about their experiences visiting Discovery Park for studio.

Benjamin Emery

The euphoria of laying a previous assignment to rest and engaging in a new activity – one that required me to sit on a log gazing into the Puget Sound in contemplation for thirty minutes – was absolute bliss. Although I have visited Discovery Park many times in the past, I had never sat on the beach in complete silence. While considering the rising tides and analyzing washed-up remnants of sea life, I noticed the quality of design that nature orchestrated in a single driftwood barnacle. In the expanse of 30 minutes, tides rose quicker than I had anticipated. Ocean waves interacted with a fallen adrift tree to accumulate a measurable amount of sand atop the midsection of the trunk. The weather shifted from overcast to sunny, to a combination of both conditions. I kept asking myself, “what is the architectural relevance of this experience?” And in the words of the Double Rainbow Guy, “…what does it all mean?”

By pondering the majestic qualities nature has to offer, the lens through which we see becomes more attentive, while analysis becomes an extension of creativity. The tools that aid in considerate, thoughtful design are already produced in some form by nature and extraction of that knowledge could take a lifetime with endless possibilities… so I’ve decided to enjoy every second.

Benjamin Emery graphics_small



Aly Cornelius

With over 500 acres, there are many different ecosystems beginning with the meadow moving through the forest and ending on the beach at Discovery Park. Walking through the park as a studio was much different than experiencing the place as an individual. Conversations between students helped identify details I might not have discovered on my own. We all hiked through the park to the beach before returning, where we were dispersed along the trail individually. This was the most telling part of the study, just sitting, observing and connecting with a specific site for 30 minutes.  Although it was easy to get caught up sketching and taking pictures, the most important information that I gathered from the site came from the experience of being alone along the trail. Having felt and experienced the place, we can now create structures that match both the feeling and the flow of the site. Successful architecture has to be part of the landscape.

 Aly Cornelius graphics_small



Tyler Tarte

Contemplating prospect and refuge at the furthest end of South Beach, protected by the cliff to my left, the bluff behind, exposed to the Puget Sound in front of me, the stress from the last few days melted from my mind as the sun warmed my face. Only two days earlier, a project with a short deadline had kept me up all night working and doubting whether architecture was worth the pressure casino I was putting on myself. Sitting calmly on the beach with my sketchbook in hand and zero distractions, I took in my surroundings and remembered: this is why I am studying Architecture.

This beach is made up of so many seemingly insignificant parts that collectively compose this beautiful environment. From the sand to the driftwood to the dune grass, everything seemed to have its place here. However, upon closer inspection I noticed that everything is in motion; there is a constant battle between the land and the sea. The cliff was slowly being eroded away by the lapping waves. The northward current was transporting the sand. Driftwood was being deposited on the beach. How does this relate to architecture you might ask? Details, awareness, and conscious design are the fundamental building blocks of architecture. We are responsible for designing the built environment, so what better teacher than the natural environment?

Notes from my sketchbook:

Plant life overcoming gravity struggling to survive, resilience.

Water conquering the sand, ever changing.

Erosion, slow destruction.

Mother Nature maintaining order.

Tyler Tarte 2_small



Riley Lacalli

Exploring Discovery Park has allowed me to realize that it is more than just a park in the middle of Seattle. It is a cohesive community of multiple ecosystems of plants and animals, as well as a getaway from the bustling city that surrounds it. The diversity of inhabitants and activities become apparent with a closer look into the place. The land can be categorized into four distinct areas: the meadows, bluff, forests, and beach.

Upon entering the park, users first experience the rolling meadow which is home to rodents, birds of all sizes, small shrubs and grasses. Walking through the meadow, one can hear muffled speaking of other people, the wind brushing over the bushes, and animals going about their business. Further along, the path directs you to the bluff then the forest. The bluff provides a vast view of Puget Sound, accompanied by a firm gust of wind rolling off the water. The path leads to the forest, which encloses the individual in a tunnel of trees. During the fall the leaves are colored a deep orange, gracefully falling to the ground. Down the path viewpoints are placed overlooking the Sound as the fourth area, the beach, comes into view. Meandering through the trees for a while longer, the path flows down to the water’s edge where the greatness of the Puget Sound can finally be seen and heard. Walking along the beach, the composition of Discovery Park and the land it rests upon becomes apparent. The bluff is far from static, but a constantly changing ecosystem through the process of erosion. Different layers of sand are continuously being swept away and replaced by sea currents. It is processes like these that have shaped the park and have made it the dynamic, multifunctioning community that it is.

Arch. Website Discovery


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