The Fussy Eye: This Year's Muddle

Our waterfront under glass.

Once upon a time, peons at architecture firms spent hours with X-Acto blades and white foamcore to create elaborate models for projects built and unbuilt. Today that work is done by computer. But still, if you announce you're going to put on display a 14-foot-long model of Seattle's most important public-works project in a century, costing more than $1 billion, couldn't you dust off the old skills? Under glass at the downtown library (level three), we see the waterfront from roughly Broad to Royal Brougham—but you can't be sure, because none of the cross streets are indicated. The avenues are also poorly marked, and the little white foamcore buildings are near-indistinguishable (unless you have the skyline memorized). Created by some public/private entity called Waterfront Seattle, the model is paired with brochures and maps-on-easels, but they provide little more detail. Nor does the website,, provide many specifics—only pleasantries and goals and cheerfully posed stock photos. What are those massive new stairs leading down from the Market to the water? (They're "overlook folds," in the parlance of New York design firm James Corner Field Operations, charged with the waterfront redo.) Does Western go beneath them? Is Alaskan also getting some kind of lid to the aquarium? The point to a model, like an architectural drawing, is to be clear. Instead we have a muddle, and only four years until we begin building . . . something. Seattle Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave., 264-1120, Open daily (hours vary). On view through Jan. 3.

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