Transit + Civic Landscape Systems

Course Instructors

Julie Johnson

Course Date

Winter 2017

Course Type

Graduate & Undergraduate Studio

Course Description

Looking to foster more resilient urban systems and healthier neighborhoods, this studio took on design processes that engaged community members in civic landscape design, focusing on the systems that support residents’ day-to-day life and improve ecological and cultural qualities across timeframes and spatial scales.  The surroundings of Seattle’s planned North 130th Street Light Rail station served as the neighborhood of focus, with connections reaching east to Lake City and west to Bitter Lake neighborhoods. The students collaborated with varied community members, particularly those active in the local Neighborhood Greenways groups.

Students examined how to enrich, expand, diversify, and connect civic landscape systems in the context of this future station and related development as a new Urban Village, particularly addressing pathways, parks, schools, community gardens, wetlands and other habitats. As they tested concepts of resilience, they sought innovative design approaches to address systemic change—coming from multiple sources and offering multiple benefits towards ecological and social well-being and justice.

LARCH 402+503 Studio Booklet


Cultural Design Studio 2016

In Autumn 2016, the LA 403 Cultural Design Studio in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Washington examined land conservation practices in the 21 st century. With rapid urbanization occurring across the Seattle metropolitan region, the focus of the class was to generate and explore design and planning strategies that would effectively serve to integrate conservation priorities with recreational needs.

A site-based studio, the class worked with the 86-acre Wayne Golf Course, located in the City of Bothell. The golf course is located in a steep valley bottom and straddles the Sammamish River for nearly ½ a mile. Aside from the golf course and its associated facilities, the property also contains an historic farmhouse and apple orchard, and is one of the last large undeveloped private properties in the immediate area.

The private owner has recently sold the property to the local conservation organization Forterra, which is teaming with the City of Bothell, and community organizations such as OneBothell to raise funds to transfer ownership into public holdings, and to develop design and management strategies for future use that will likely not include its historic use. The primary focus of these groups has been to prioritize conservation strategies that would serve to improve the ecological conditions of the river and adjacent floodplain. Yet recognizing the need for both active and passive recreation in this rapidly developing area, the partners initiated a public visioning process that included stakeholder groups and individuals from around the area to identify both the constraints and opportunities offered by the property.

As a result, a detailed draft Vision Plan was produced that provides details for areas on the property that are best suited for habitat restoration and open space conservation, while further identifying locations of higher intensity recreation. Working in conjunction with fundraising opportunities, the next phase of the project is to further develop site analysis and program refinement in the production of a series of master plan scenarios to be further vetted by community input. Working with these partners the studio was developed to further refine and advance current design uses and visions for the property.

2014 Neighborhood Design Studio


Winter Quarter 2014 | Greenwood-Phinney | Instructor: Julie Johnson


In January-March 2014, the University of Washington Landscape Architecture’s Neighborhood Design Studio focused on the Greenwood-Phinney neighborhood of Seattle to identify and envision ways of improving the neighborhood’s streets and open spaces. The Greenwood-Phinney Greenways group served as a key stakeholder for the 12 Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) students in this studio led by Associate Professor Julie Johnson.

The students learned about the neighborhood and gained insights on their design ideas from community members. They got underway by exploring and analyzing aspects of the neighborhood, identifying opportunities, and visiting local precedents. Students met with community members one evening in mid-January at the Greenwood Branch Library, to learn more about the neighborhood’s features and potentials. Community members were invited to three subsequent design discussions at UW’s Gould Hall, addressing initial design ideas, design schemes, and refined proposals.

As part of their initial scoping, the students identified three interrelated systems to address designs for a healthier Greenwood-Phinney neighborhood:

  • movement systems –to support safe and appealing pedestrian and bicycle networks;
  • civic systems –to engage diverse groups in shared play, learning and stewardship; and
  • ecological systems –to improve urban environmental conditions such as stormwater, habitat, and urban agriculture.

While each student undertook an individual design project, their work overlaps and connects with others’ projects spatially and programmatically. They sought to coordinate these relationships, to cross scales, and to suggest short term as well as longer range potentials. The projects include design proposals for certain streets to support walking and bicycling, such as greenways, as well as open space interventions to enrich ecological and community life towards a healthier neighborhood.

Following the studio’s presentations in March, a community member initiated potential for the studio to display their designs as part of the Phinneywood Art Walk May 9 and 10. Collaborating with community members, the studio transformed a vacant commercial space at the corner of N. 85th Street and Greenwood Avenue N. into a series of interactive exhibits augmented by Greenways and community venues. Visitors were encouraged to add “sticky note” comments on the students’ boards, to afford a visual conversation on the varied proposals. Greenways and community members provided information on Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, a children’s play space, a space for watching videos on improving streets, a comment wall for people to express their ideas for the neighborhood, and refreshments.

This booklet presents the students’ design proposals for a healthier Greenwood-Phinney neighborhood, as a resource and catalyst for continued community dialogue and action. The proposals have grown from feedback provided by community members, designers, others. We thank all who met with us to share and discuss ideas throughout the quarter and at the final presentations:

Community and Greenways Representatives (including designers):

Teresa Damaske
Cheryl Klotz
Justin Martin
Kate Martin
Gordon Padelford
Robin Randels
Jan Satterthwaite
Cathy Tuttle
Jim Walseth
and all who took part in the January 16 meeting at the Greenwood Branch Library.


Designers (not already listed above):

Michael Carey
Sue Costa
Melanie Davies
Andrea Fitch
Eric Higbee
Kristin Kildall
Clara Pang
Elizabeth Powers
Makie Suzuki
Victor Velarde
Fred Young


Agency and Organization Representatives:

Jen Cole
Lisa Quinn
Susanne Rockwell
Thomas Whittemore


UW Students, Faculty, Staff:

Leann Andrews
Ted Sweeney
Lynne Manzo
Ben Spencer
Ken Yocom
Julia Yu
Visiting scholar Yaping Zhang


Thanks from Neighborhood Design studio:

Gabriel Cash
Luna Cheng
Wesley Chiu
James Day
Sara Hakanson
Kyle Kurokawa
“Evan” Yuan Lin
Mickala Loeffelbein
Connor McGarry
Ali Masterson
Autumn Nettey
Aimee Rozier
–Julie Johnson, Associate Professor

2013 Neighborhood Design Studio


Winter Quarter 2013 | Lake City | Instructor: Julie Johnson


With the Lake City Greenways group as the initiating stakeholder for UW Landscape Architecture’s Neighborhood Design Studio studio, 16 students (from landscape architecture, urban design and planning, and architecture) learned about Lake City and envisioned its potentials as a healthier neighborhood. Landscape Architecture Associate Professor Julie Johnson led the students through a participatory design process, such that the students gained insights about the varied places and needs of this neighborhood, as well as their own design responses, through community interactions. Greenways leaders gave students an overview and led walking tours. Students facilitated small group discussions at a community meeting, and some undertook a workshop with youth, to learn more about the neighborhood and potentials. Students undertook site visits and thematic analysis of the neighborhood to enrich their understandings. Two students participated in an event led by a Public Health class involved in the Little Brook neighborhood of Lake City, and one of these students created an online survey for Lake City residents.

As they developed conceptual ideas for particular places or connections, students received feedback from community members, a city staff member and designers in the design studio. Studio visits from agency staff and a designer also helped guide their design ideas. Later in the quarter community members and others returned to discuss students’ schematic designs with them, which informed the development of their final design work. This work was presented to a range of community members, agency staff, and faculty in March 2012.

The studio projects grow from the proposed network of greenways identified by Lake City Greenways. Students have extended these to make connections among civic and open space destinations, including schools and parks. Some students focused on new civic spaces, while others are revitalizing existing ones with ecological, cultural, agricultural, and play-oriented interventions. Wayfinding and identity are central to several projects, including one focused on the Lake City Way spine and another charting a loop trail system. Another offers typologies and places for urban agriculture throughout Lake City. These projects connect with one another to create a synergy of community places and connections. Eight interrelated themes that contribute to making a healthier Lake City are addressed among the projects: greenways wayfinding green infrastructure learning, urban agriculture culture play ecological systems

Special thanks to several people who shared insights with the studio, including:

Community & Greenways representatives
Ruth Anderson
Janine Blaeloch
Dave Morris
Tim Motzer
Phil Shack
Cathy Tuttle
Mark von Walter
all who participated in the January 17 Community Meeting small groups
youth who participated in the February 16 Design Workshop; Amber Trout who facilitated this workshop

Agency representatives
Dongho Chang
Rebecca Deehr
David Graves
Colin Drake
Gretchen DeDecker
Pam Emerson

Design professionals
Jason Breitling
Cameron Duncan
Betsy Jacobson
Jennifer Richter
Dave Rodgers
Kara Weaver
Benjamin Barrett
Elizabeth Umbanhowar

UW faculty and students
Dan Abramson
Marty Curry
Jeff Hou
Lynne Manzo
Nancy Rottle
Luanne Smith
Amber Trout
Daniel Winterbottom
Jack Thompson
Tiffany Sin and the rest of the Master’s in Public Health students working in Little Brook

2012 Neighborhood Design Studio

Winter Quarter 2012 | Ballard | Instructor: Julie Johnson

map of proposed ballard rapid ride route

Download the Ballard Studio Booklet

In Winter Quarter 2012, the University of Washington’s Landscape Architecture 402/Neighborhood Design studio engaged students in the Ballard/Crown Hill neighborhood, to envision how mass transit changes could be a foundation for designing a healthier neighborhood, within transit station areas and connecting with pedestrian, bicycle, and open space systems. METRO’s Rapid Ride D Line, scheduled to operate in autumn 2012, and a possible streetcar line identified for Ballard, provided the spatial framework. Members of the Ballard District Council and Ballard’s Neighborhood District Coordinator generously shared insights at the start of the studio and participated in reviewing the students’ proposals.

Taught by Associate Professor Julie Johnson, the studio’s 17 students conducted a neighborhood analysis through field work, meeting with community representatives and drawing from data. They studied and shared relevant design themes and precedents as references for their design work. Six groups selected a particular D Line station/stop, with one group focusing on the possible streetcar line. With an overarching goal of designing for a healthier neighborhood, ideas among their design visions included new development, a network of greenways, innovative bicycle parking, rain gardens, urban agriculture, and public art that would provide orientation and identity.

In addition to an interim and final presentation at Gould Hall, the students presented their visions at the March 14, 2012, Ballard District Council meeting.

This booklet presents the students’ design proposals for the six METRO Rapid Ride station areas and a proposed streetcar alignment with three stations indicated on the booklet cover.

The studio benefitted greatly from insights and contacts shared by Rob Mattson (Ballard’s Neighborhood District Coordinator) and from the insights of a group from the Ballard District Council that Rob assembled, a METRO Transportation Planner, City Staff, a Ballard Greenways representative, design professionals, and others affiliated with UW. Thanks to all these individuals.

Read about the Neigborhood Design Studio in the news

BE Lab 2009: Taoping, China

The 2009 BE Lab (Built Environment Laboratory) is an interdepartmental sequence of courses offered by the College of Built Environments, at the University of Washington, Seattle, on the topic of earthquake recovery in Sichuan, China.

In this inaugural BE Lab, UW students and faculty will collaborate with partners at Sichuan University, the design and planning firm Werkhart International, and the people and government of Taoping Village and Li County, Sichuan, to address challenges that include: resilient building reconstruction; ecologically sensitive site design and watershed management; cultural heritage preservation; and sustainable tourism development.

To find out more, visit the course website

2007 White Center Open Space

White Center is an unincorporated area in the King County, surrounded by the cities of Seattle and Burien. The neighborhood is one of the most culturally diverse in the region with growing immigrant populations from Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. The neighborhood’s cultural diversity coupled with social and economic stresses in the community have drawn growing attention from various government agencies and non-profit organizations. A significant number of studies have been done to identify the unique characteristics and needs of the community. Building on the previous studies, this studio was part of a coordinated effort by White Center Community Development Association, University of Washington and other community partners to develop a comprehensive plan to meet the multiple challenges facing the community, ranging from community building, social service, economic development, education, and public safety to improvements of open space and streetscapes.

While focusing on the design and planning of open space, the studio also addressed the broader concerns for community development. The result of a recent community visioning exercise in particular raised important questions concerning the relationship between physical improvements and community revitalization and empowerment. Although consistently highlighted in meetings and reports, the issues of open space received the lowest ranking compared with the issues of jobs and businesses, arts and culture, public safety, housing, and education. Does the issue of open space improvements necessarily take a back seat in a community facing social and economic stress? Or, have the connections between open space improvements and broader prospects of community developments been overlooked?

To address these questions, the studio engaged in a critical re-examination of open space and streetscape improvements as a part of the repertoire for community development in White Center. Working with the White Center Community Development Association, the King County Parks and Recreation, and other community stakeholders, the students at the University of Washington have developed six alternative plans for improving one of the neighborhood parks in the area – the White Center Heights Park. The alternatives address diverse issues and needs as identified in two community meetings and workshops conducted with the Southwest Boys and Girls Club and students and teachers from the White Center Heights Elementary. The design of the park was implemented through a design/build studio led by Prof. Daniel Winterbottom in the following quarter.

To find out more, visit

2006 Night Market Eventscape

From selling food and clothing to public performance and entertainment, night markets represent an ephemeral yet persistent urban phenomenon in East Asia. In the Pacific Northwest, “night market” as a popular form of leisure and shopping experience and as a way of community revitalization has emerged in Vancouver and Richmond, BC, and more recently in Seattle. The phenomenon reflects the growing presence of Asian American community in the region and its translocal cultural practices. In Seattle’s Chinatown-International District, a community-driven effort has been made to develop a night market as a regular activity in the district. The night market would create a gathering place for the community as well as catalyzing economic development in the district.

Supported with a grant for internationalization of undergraduate curriculum from the UW Office of Undergraduate Education and International Programs and Exchanges, the studio investigated the cross-cultural landscape of night markets in the Pacific Northwest. Specifically, it collaborated with the WILD (Wilderness Inner-city Leadership Development) Youth Program to develop designs that would support the planned night market in the Chinatown-International District. Envisioned as temporary site installations, the designs provide functional support for the night market event as well as helping to interpret the stories embedded in the immigrant communities of the district.

To find out more, visit

2005 Seattle Waterfront

In spring 2005, the Department of Landscape Architecture at University of Washington was contracted by the Seattle City Council to examine possibilities of creating near-shore habitats in the Central Waterfront while providing public access and amenities. The project was carried out through a design studio in which students were asked to design for two specific sites on the waterfront-the Waterfront Park and the Piers 62/63, where the depth of water is most suitable for habitat functions. With an emphasis on enhancing habitat value using built structures and strategic interventions, the studio produced a range of design strategies and devices that recognize the physical constraints and possibilities of the urban sites.

In terms of creating near-shore habitats, the strategies included accretion and erosion of materials to allow for gradual building of shallow water conditions along the concrete edge. Another set of strategies included design of floating structures to simulate conditions of different tidal zones for different habitat environments. The structures that support the accretion of materials and functions of the floating platforms in turn also allow for public use of the water’s edge. They provide not only access to the waterfront but also opportunities to learn and observe the dynamic changes at this urban edge.

Summarized as 9 BIG MOVES, the work produced from the studio informed and challenged the ongoing debate concerning the future of Seattle’s Central Waterfront that has predominantly been focused on transportation priorities rather than ecological and greater public values.

To find out more, visit