Statistics maven Nate Silver, whose FiveThirtyEight blog accurately predicted the outcome of the 2012 presidental election, much to the dismay of certain partisan pundits, is predicting a Seattle Seahawks-New England Patriots matchup for Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans on February 3. News outlets throughout the Seattle area jumped on the bandwagon Thursday, noting how Silver's accuracy in political prognostication is unparalleled. However, none seemed to mention that, earlier in the NFL season (and right after his election success), Silver was asked by RotoExperts, a Fantasy Football website, to predict the games of November 11/12. Silver got eight outcomes correct and six incorrect, including the Seahawks' victory over the New York Jets. Seems politics might be easier to predict than football.
As an architect, I’m particularly interested in how we might insert greater density, for people of all incomes, into our existing street network including the single-family areas that constitute such a high proportion of Seattle. Mother-in-law apartments, residential units over garages, duplexes and townhouses are just a few options. Done right, we could increase density and affordability without dramatically changing the character of those neighborhoods.
This November a major ballot initiative, Sound Transit 3, could raise billions of dollars to expand light rail. If that happens, it would substantially increase the number of transit-oriented centers in our region, which would lessen the impact of building because we could spread it across more light rail stations.
There are other options. We could look at reusing and densifying public rights-of-way. High-rises like the “no-shadow tower” could mitigate the impacts of tall building on the urban environment. Or driverless cars might create a new transportation system in the next 25 years that fundamentally changes how we get around and where to encourage development.
If you think about the design of office space, 25 years ago, a majority had a private office with limited public amenities; now office space is moving in the other direction, asking people to have less personal space at their desk, but having access to a wider range of shared amenities. I almost think we need a similar approach whereby people move from large single-family houses to smaller homes or apartments. The key to making this work is to have access to more shared, semi-private amenities or nearby public open space.
Some of the issues Seattle faces also challenge many other U.S. cities, but these challenges cannot be solved by design firms single-handedly. A city’s growth affects everyone, young and old, rich and poor, newcomers and long-time residents. We are in this together, and it will require everyone to bring about our shared future.
David Yuan, AIA, LEED AP, is a partner at global architecture and design firm NBBJ.