12th Avenue Square Park & James Court Woonerf

While designing The Douglas student housing project at Seattle University, an opportunity to transform East James Court into a woonerf and a vacant lot into a community pocket park became present.

The woonerf — Dutch for “living street” — resonates with the City’s idea of complete streets. Reshaping the public right-of-way, space the city already owns, into a community resource and at the same time creating a safe and accessible environment is a powerful idea. Special effort was placed on blurring the edges the woonerf to mix with the community park and adjacent restaurants and retail.

The 12th Avenue Park resulted from the local community’s desire to convert available open space into a modern, urban park. The park plaza includes a central, focal art element – “Cloud Veil” by artist Ellen Sollod – with theatrical lighting, special seating, rain gardens and unique paving pattern.

The design language of the woonerf and the park is a meandering flow, reminiscent of water, with crisp edges and a soft center. This area of town suffers from high stormwater events that have flooded James Court. Bioretention planters along the woonerf and within the Park slow stormwater and mitigate the potential for future stormwater problems.