The city calls this ode to concrete an “urban oasis.” I am not kidding — its official name is, “Counterbalance Park: An Urban Oasis.”
I knew it’d be terrible when I heard its name. Because when an official body extravagantly claims something, you can safely assume their claim isn’t true. If you think that’s too cynical, I submit the following evidence:
- Exhibit A: A company frequently claiming to be “transparent,” isn’t
- Exhibit B: A sentence beginning with, “Let me be candid…,” isn’t
- Exhibit C: A Bible-thumping crusader who says, “You should never…,” does
- Exhibit D: “Counterbalance Park: An Urban Oasis,” isn’t
I rest my case.
Murase Associates belched up this design turd. They ripped off worked for the Seattle Parks Department, and the Seattle Design Commission approved it. I congratulate all of them for being completely dead from the neck up. It’s Night of the Living Dead time for Seattle park design.
Concrete, rocks, metal, and scraggly trees. Yum, I want to go there to sip a mocha and take in the view. I love the way sunlight dances on the gravel in the early evening. There’s a nice concrete slab for the wife and me to put down a blanket and have a picnic. I can also toss a frisbee with my dog by the concrete wall. Maybe we can organize a daily neighborhood yoga class there, which would be the only yoga class in the world where Band-Aids were required equipment. I would feel connected to my environment, knowing I was in a park with an industrial green design.
Yes, nothing says “oasis” like concrete and gravel.
“If parking lots designed parks they would all look like the new Counterbalance pit…[It] looks like a half-baked development abandoned before the walls were put up. It’s basically 12,000 square feet of nothing…There’s nothing to do there except maintain perfect posture and inhale fumes. The benches are the institutional kind with divider bars designed to repel homeless squatters, so you can’t slouch while enjoying the park’s zero amenities. Welcome to the place where minimalism meets worthlessness…Counterbalance Park doesn’t condone any perching of any sort. You aren’t meant to stay. It’s as if the city designed the public area with the sole function of being inhospitable to actual humans.”
This gravel pit park is cold, barren, and unwelcoming. Everything is gray. The trees are alive, but are quite scraggly, so the overall impression is one of sickliness and death. Man, I get reminded of sickliness and death every time I turn on the TV. I don’t look for or appreciate it in a park.
Maybe I shouldn’t be so negative about this design belch urban oasis. It did make one positive contribution to city life: A way for pedestrians to cut the corner as they turn left from Queen Anne Ave N on to Roy St.
But that’s its sole positive contribution. It’s not a meeting place, gathering place, socializing place, or any other kind of place. What it is, is a crap place.
I’ve heard some excuses for this design. Like, the designers didn’t have a lot to work with, it’s a small lot at the intersection of two busy streets, etc. Cry me a river. Landscape architects and designers command high prices for a reason — they’re supposed to not have their heads up their ass. Eh, I could have come up with this design.
I’ll guess at the conversation that produced this rock pit’s park’s imposition on addition to our city life:
“Fred, I’ve got it! Instead of plants, running water, interesting boulders, or other natural objects, why don’t we cover up the land with gravel, poured concrete, and a big flat expanse of wood planking! It’ll be flat, hard, gray, and uninviting! And we can use uncomfortable benches! And some of those cheap crappy trees we like to use for low-income housing.”
It is dreary, uninviting, dusty, meager, depressing, and ugly. I’ve passed it twice a day on most days since it’s opened, and I’ve seen only a couple of occasional homeless guys sitting on the benches, staring into space. But that’s fine, because that’s all you can do there. Just sit and stare. Then get up and leave when your back starts aching.
Break up all the concrete, blow it up, and start over. An unmaintained field of wildflowers would be better than this.