Olympic Sculpture Park

Designers: Weiss/Manfredi Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism, Charles Anderson Landscape Architecture | City: Seattle, WA | Project Type: waterfront, sculpture garden
Date Visited: 1.2.13
Locations: 2901 Western Ave Seattle, WA 98121
Size: 9 acres
Cost: $85 million
Official Opening Date: January 20, 2007


With its incredible views out over Puget Sound towards the Olympic Mountains and its collection of iconic, contemporary art, Olympic Sculpture Park is a relatively new waterfront addition that has quickly risen to become one of Seattle’s top public spaces.

Weiss/Manfredi’s mission statement:

At the site of Seattle’s largest and last remaining waterfront property, the Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park transforms a nine-acre former industrial site into a vibrant new venue for contemporary sculpture. Formerly a fuel storage and transfer station, the site fell 40 feet from the city to the water and was divided by highway and train lines into three separate parcels. With such a complex site, traditional distinctions between art and nature, design and ecology were no longer relevant. At the Olympic Sculpture Park, art, architecture, landscape architecture, infrastructure and ecology are reciprocal conditions embedded within the trajectory of our design. Our ambition was to exploit the friction of combining these disciplines to foster new insights and perceptions.

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Site Plan. Credit: Charles Anderson Landscape Architecture

Credit: weissmanfredi.com
A challenging site, Weiss/Manfredi, developed an innovative Z-shaped configuration to connect the three parcels into a series of four distinct landscapes found in the Pacific Northwest: Valley, Grove, Meadows, and Shore. Environmental restoration was also a large theme of the design, from brownfield redevelopment to the integration of dense native vegetation for better on-site drainage and rainfall retention.

Seattle Art Museum’s Landscape Description:

The Valley
Adjacent to the PACCAR Pavilion and the Gates Amphitheater, the Valley is an evergreen forest most typical of the lowland coastal region, featuring tall conifers such as fir, cedar and hemlock, and flowering shrubs and trees associated with moist conditions. Living examples of ancient trees once native to Washington, such as the ginkgo and majestic metasequoia (Dawn redwood), are also found. Flowering perennials, groundcovers and ferns define forest edges and pathways.

The Henry and William Ketcham Families Grove
The Grove is a forest of native aspen that defines the park’s transition from city to shore. Although most closely associated with the dry landscape east of the Cascade mountains, it is also found in dry coastal sites in the Puget Sound region. The Grove, with its understory of native currant and iris, dramatically reflects the changing seasons, in contrast to the Valley’s continuously green backdrop.

The Barry Ackerley Family East Meadow and the Kreielsheimer North Meadow
On both sides of Elliott Avenue, Meadow landscapes with expanses of grasses and wildflowers meet the bordering sidewalks to achieve the “fenceless” park that SAM conceived from the start. Both the Meadows and the Grove were intended as regenerative landscapes that provide flexible sites for sculpture and artists working in the landscape.

The Shore
At the Shore and newly created beach, plantings support habitat for salmon recovery, enhance public access and generate interest in the Puget Sound’s unique shoreline ecosystem. The naturally developing tidal garden features kelp, algae and other intertidal-zone plants that are revealed and concealed with the changing tides.

One Response to “Olympic Sculpture Park”

  1. Sondra Truffat says:

    Can anyone point me to a list of the grasses & wildflowers planted in the meadow? These are fabulous photos by the way. This park was one of the best things to happen to downtown Seattle in a long time!

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