Some people love it, some want it gone. I’m talking about the Seattle Viaduct, a double decker bridge built in the 50s. As it slowly falls down, Seattleites have been falling in love with the elevated view of the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.
“We’ll see a sunset and ferries coming in and say,‘This is our city’, so I have a real emotional attachment to it.”
The decision to replace the Viaduct with a 2 mile tunnel was made and paid for by the taxbase to the tune of $3.3 billion. So we hit the street with the Mobile Incubators - four 1950s camper trailers doubling as recording studios - to ask the public how they felt about this change.
“Maybe we’ll feel differently but right now it’s a bit of a wake.”
What we realized over the course of the event is that our 1950s trailers were time machines… using the power of design history to take people back to the decade the Viaduct was built.
“I’m coming back alive now because I’m in the 1950s cocoon… And the Seattle I know and love is right outside these doors.”
“The viaduct represents the bits of that old grungy Seattle that some of us hold onto…”
It’s not up for debate that the Viaduct is unsafe. In 1990, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake damaged the Viaduct so much it had to be temporarily shut down. So it was only a matter of time.
But we personify structures. There’s no way to rationalize it. We humanize what isn’t human, falling in love with the pock-marks.
“I used to curse the viaduct but now that I know it’s gone, I’m really sad.”
Of the $3.3 billion, about $650 million of that is for the viaduct to be torn down and accompanying costs. But Seattleites are torn about what this change means amidst so many transitions.
“I liked Seattle before it decided it wanted to be a world class city. I think that’s an ambition that leads to a bad place someday.”
So what is the art of change? How can art be a salve to a bruise, how can it mend a cut, and be a bridge from past to present, and future?
“It just feels like one of the biggest things Seattle has ever done.”
By throwing a festival - wisely named “Goodbye Viaduct, Hello Waterfront” - the City of Seattle Office of Arts & Culture gave the public a moment to say goodbye. A moment to see the rust, potholes and gaps in the roadway from upclose. But also a moment to say thank you and put a part of Seattle’s past to bed.
“You turn a corner, you enter a portal, and life is categorically different.”
It takes a lot to say goodbye. Even when you know it’s time. When you see someone or something you love on life support, falling apart, wearing down, collapsing in front of you. You just want to hang on as long as you can.
“Seattle’s changing… the things you did enjoy, might as well take advantage of them now.”
“You gotta join the party, when the party exists.”