Ballard Commons

client: seattle dep of parks and rec

size: 1.4 acres

location: seattle, washington

duration: 2003–2005

construction cost: $1,668,000

awards: 2012 healthy communities for all urban plazas award, international making cities livable; 2012 special mention award for design, wa chapter, asla; 2005 commendation for design excellence, seattle design commission

The Ballard Commons is a popular civic park in downtown Ballard, a burgeoning Seattle urban village. As the heart of Ballard, the commons is where the neighborhood meets to play in the fountain, ride the skate bowl, lie on the grass, read a book, converse, celebrate, or simply watch the world go by.

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The Ballard Commons represents Seattle’s commitment to the vision of a vital urban village and its public life. The Ballard Municipal Civic Center Master Plan set the aspiration for a generous civic open space with a timeless simplicity that supports 24/7 daily life and the celebrations of the full community.

Swift Company led the project with an extensive public process designed to set the site program, and through the raucous ‘Seattle process’ teased out the points of commonality between the broad public and special interest groups– generosity, inclusiveness, and co-habitation.

The seamless integration of active and passive uses is embedded in a design that cups a plaza with a much loved fountain and dramatic skateboard bowl set in a sloping amphitheater of lawn and a simple frame of trees. Ample pathways provide a community promenade. Carefully crafted custom furnishings, including interactive seashell sculptures by artist Valerie Otani, reference the neighborhood’s Scandinavian and maritime heritage, and welcome people to linger. Throughout the day and evening, the park is full of neighbors with diverse lifestyles, ages and backgrounds enjoying the outdoors and each other. This deceptively simple civic park is a roaring success for everyone.

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