I am reminded perhaps by time and depravity, that I am missing a third place. We used to walk to our third place, aptly named Third Place Books and in the basement, the Pub at Third Place. Imagine that, an after dinner stroll, to book browse or for a beer. If ever you find yourself in the Ravenna neighborhood in NE Seattle, drop in and stay a spell.
Internet Exiles Stores On Main Street
by Alan Greenblatt
– January 6, 2012
Open any children’s book with a scene set downtown and you’ll see a picture of basically the same row of shops. There’s a bookstore, a pharmacy, a florist, a post office and a bank, and maybe a bakery where the kids can hope for a free cookie.
Nearly all those businesses are under threat from the Internet…
So I’d gladly welcome the demise of the strip mall, even those that are thriving are a blight on the landscape and civic psyche and I discount that these car-convenient shopping outlets fit in the Main Street category. And I disagree that the “question now is what type of Main Street business will come under threat next.” And though the piece did suggest that storefronts providing services will be more resilient than those peddling goods, the questions remain: what will Main Street v2.0 look like? How will it function as a receptacle and reflection of our values and what place will it occupy in city life?
The timing of this installation, which could also have been any one of these dioramas: the neighborhood’s independent bookseller, hardware store, bakery (pump in the croissant aromas for that 4D experience), butcher shop or cobbler in another era, requiring the deposing of some beloved institution, by some kind of WarMartian, socioeconomic or technological (in this case: Vinyl –> 8-track –> cassette –> CD –> mp3 –> the Cloud) paradigm shift, and the tweet that tipped me off, coincided with the chronic frustration I harbor for what ails Main Street and the role the legions of our new economy’s cottage industrialists, hidden away in their class A basement home offices telecommuting in their fuzzy slippers, warmed by the hum and glow of their carbon footprint, play in our community’s own demise.
Space for Lease.
Made in USA.
[storefront] immediately resonated with me as an idea like Occupy Main Street, a shift of priorities and a kind of playing along, a role in the physical fabric of our neighborhoods, communities, cities. Suspended disbelief until which time another era can reflect and romance its authenticity.
Perhaps we can make stuff again, hang our shingle out there in the glare of daylight in full view, and wrap our arms and brick and mortar around our virtual realities and social networks and be, citizen.
11.29.10: Seattle shotgun is already Future Shack. Perhaps the new small is only one idea of living in a city with an historic urban residential fabric. Little jewel boxes may not be the best way to living more densely, or being resource-efficient. I may take this thead up and look more at my passions: adpative-reuse and mixed-use urban infill.
In this City, notable for its neighborhoods of single family homes, a hundred years worth, the new small have been the most interesting to me.
It’s a case of which came first, the artist or the patron: there is certainly a lot of ‘Design’ per capita here, and the patronage to consume it/demand it. Or some might say that my perception of Seattle is such, for having just come from a design-starved-low-demand region of the country?
That Seattle is a place where design is mainstreamed has its pros and cons. Can everyone be the artist? Is design within reach of everyone really pushing the envelope? Because can you really reinvent the wheel? Big ideas have come from this place: Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, and so on. So maybe there’s a case to be made for the creative class here. And why even small houses come bundled with such big aspirations.
Somebody said to me recently, “So you’re an Architect, huh? Attorneys and Architects, this town’s full of ’em.”
I am reminded of a colleague (he was in charge of IT, did 3D modeling and digital renderings) who left architecture for the video gaming industry (which has its own moral trappings). He said two things that will stick with me for the rest of my career: he was tired of drawing pretty pictures (renderings) for his bosses and he was tired of how the building industry (especially shoddy new construction) was simply just adding to the landfills.
There is also the saying: less is more. It is obvious that small is less too, but there is a chance there may be more in these little gems also (ref. the not so big house movement) ie. meaningful intimacy vs. meaningless status space like the 2 story entry foyer or the 20 ft. living room ceilings – love or hate him, David Brooks wrote an article recently in the NYTIMES that comes to mind), quality vs. quantity, consumption and energy/resource sustainability.
The economy is a factor again, as if all of a sudden. Maybe less has cache because we’re going to have to get used to the new paradigm. Brooks and everyone else, Red, Blue and Green, talk about a Society losing its way in so many ways. The new small shows us, by Design, how we could influence change by our choices and priorities, about our domesticity, transportation (for choosing an infill site, knock down or reno. in an established urban infrastructure over greenfield), the myriad of other patterns and habits of consumption (local food movements, COOPs, CSAs, proximity to goods and services), and so on.
Mercer Island is not quite in the NE ‘hood but I share the 900sf lake house by Hutchison + Maul that exemplifies both the design and patronage thread while setting off another about the City of haves and have mores.
And by contrast, c/o a friend in Baltimore after sharing with me pictures of small Maine, a certain Miss Rumphius came to mind, and her: what will I see when I travel the world, how will I leave this world a better place, and where by the sea can I imagine spending the rest of my life? The Maine Coast is neither in the ‘hood nor necessarily any more ‘accessible’ than lakerfront Mercer Island property so is ‘idyllic’ regional? What is a student of Architecture raised on Le Corbusier, Scarpa and Kahn, Brian MacKay-Lyons, Shim-Sutcliffe and Mockbee-Coker to do? Or is ‘quaint’ redefined by every generation? Are there lasting qualities to place irrespective of period architecture? Is architecture always about itself up to the point of design-saturation, permanent deflection?
Can a house-by-design embody the qualities of the family’s summer house with all its mis-matched silverware and mashed up memories tied up in real property? I do not either mean family picnics on a rock and calling it Fallingwater. Nor do I intend to romanticize the Vernacular. But can also a new, small yet poignant, urban vernacular emerge from the wreakage of the economy and accessible by more than just the spoils and follies of a few? Is there a fabric of our built environment and our lifetime of memories that can be repaired by design, contained and expressed by our brick and mortar, with or without a gorgeous view?
November, 2010: New construction? In this economy? In this neighborhood? Seattle keeps on ticking. Pb Elemental Design delivers another: the Z-House, in the neighborhood bound by Ravenna Park to the west and 25th Ave NE to the east.
The neighbors are all abuzz about this one: that the City said it must face the street not the alley, that it’s the first of 3 more, that it’s a spec. house. Pb said that the house was not spec. it’s custom, one of a kind and no others to be built on what looks like space for 2 more. 3 bedrooms/2,500sf is surprisingly small for new construction, a little big on the Rumphius-scale. A departure from the modest older houses on the block but seen in the bigger context of the new and the small, anything less would be, well, less.
We lived straight up Phinney Ave. on Phinney Ridge from Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood when at the bottom you could have a “microbrew” in a “smoke-free” “brewpub” at Red Hook’s Trolleyman.
19 years later, “foodies” sample “organic”, “small batch”, “single-origin”, “fair for life” chocolate at Theo in the same adaptively-reused historic brick trolley barn.
What is it in the going away, and coming back to a place, to witness a little history unfold from the same street corner?
How far flung or how long adrift before you find your beer or taste chocolate like you’ve never tasted before (like I just have: 74% Single-Origin Madagascar Dark Chocolate)? I suppose if you’ve never left Fremont [or are one of the happy 500 employees at Adobe’s Fremont campus] you wouldn’t have to go far or be gone very long.
As for the rest us, is it only either the porch swing or carpetbagging? There’s plenty of beauty to behold from the porch swing…with a beer…and some chocolate…oh and WiFi.
The climber who died this week on Mount Rainier lived just up the street from us, in the house festooned in Tibetan prayer flags. We haven’t met many of our new neighbors, and hadn’t yet met this neighbor, but surely we saw this man this weekend, Lee Adams.
It was only in passing, he was standing in the street with his car half up the driveway the other half across the sidewalk, perhaps loading up his and the gear of the out of town guests here to climb Mount Rainier with him.
We can reflect now how with only a glance from this stranger’s eyes, his smile, all the enthusiasm he exuded for life, and how now a simple glance can contain so much, as to resonate in you for such a long time.