Seattle's Freeway Park water fall

Seattle’s Freeway Park waterfall

There’s nothing like it in the entire world, some say.  That was certainly true when the now famous Seattle Freeway water park (running water as in waterfalls) was envisioned in the mind of Jim Ellis.

Now, because of its popularity, there are many places throughout the world that has ‘copied’ the look of the Seattle “water park” better known as Freeway Park.

Jim Ellis was by many, an activist with a great deal of tenacity to get things done…the right way!

His designs and influences are felt all over the city of Seattle.  From the clean up of the entire Lake Washington back in the 1950’s , to mass transit, a great variety of in-the-city-parks, pools, and many, many more public facilities has the Jim Ellis ‘touch.’

His instrument was the “Forward Thrust” program.  He indeed, did look Forward to the future.

He helped preserve farmlands,  was responsible for the Washington State Convention and Trade Center and made the city more GREEN with his Mountains to Sound Greenway all along the I-90 freeway corridor.

Brutish design?

Brutish design?

Freeway Park Fountain

Freeway Park Fountain

Freeway Path through greenery

Freeway Path through greenery

Freeway Park A Reality

The park designs of Angela Danadjieva and Lawrence Halprin & Assoc. completed the first phase of the 5.5 acre park in 1976.

The park design is termed ‘brutalist and greenery’ suspended in air space over the I-5 freeway.

With the many irregular linked plazas that intertwine in and out of each other along with the  board-formed concrete plant containers, walls, “skyscraper” concrete “buildings” and much more, make this a very unique park in the sky.

Making it a great place to enjoy the Seattle skyline.

Separated Yet … Together 

Within the park you’ll take note of the Central Plaza, the East Plaza and the West Plaza.   All separate yet make up a cohesive “whole” of the park itself.   The type of materials that are shared throughout the park make it consistently cohesive.

Take note of the variety of water features.  These are what make the ‘separation’ of each area from the other.  Each is created to bring about differing moods as you walk, sit, enjoy your lunch or read a book in the park.

Be sure and appreciate the “Fourth” space that is incorporated into Freeway Park.  George Tsutakawa created his sculpture of the Naramore Fountain.  However many do not know that it was actually the first structure and Freeway Park was designed around it.

A “Shady Past” To The Park

Though the park now, is beautiful and safe to walk through, not too long ago it was an overgrown jungle of sorts.  As the trees and shrubs grew to maturity, they  provided many hiding places for drug pushers.

Drug use and drug selling along with the homeless made the park a place to stay away from, especially at night.

It was not until the senseless murder in broad daylight of a blind and deaf homeless woman, did the city wake up to put forth a city-wide effort to revitalize, clean up, and reactivate Freeway Park to what it is today.

Community Involvement

When the Seattle Parks and Recreation Dept. got involved, it shared its community vision which in turn, resulted in the park being better balanced between tranquility and other activities along with attractions that turned the park into a desirable place to enjoy.

The four different “places” in the park needed to be emphasized better, along with some types of anchors in the park that folks could see as they passed by and would want to investigate by stopping at the park.

With areas set up for life size games, outdoor cafes, art exhibits, and even an aviary brought people in from all over the Seattle area and beyond.

Click video below and see how Justin Sweeney and his camera enjoy the park.

Since the community involvement, the Seattle “water park” of Freeway Park has been a tremendous success story.  Why not stop in and enjoy its “brutalist architecture and greenery” designs?

Leave a comment below and be sure to share this with your friends.

Written by :  Tom McDaniel

Images by: charlesbirnbaum,freewaypark,justinsweeney