The Twinklin' Rock 'n Read Eames Chair

Good job, team! I can’t remember who won, but I am pretty sure the Twinlkin’ Rock ‘n’ Read got the third highest price. That’s podium, people! And, the chair looked really super, worked well and got lots of positive feedback. Thanks to George for throwing in the last efforts on getting the board together.


SvR just completed a charity fundraiser for Sawhorse Revolution through an Eames Chair redesign competition participated in by around 10 firms in Seattle. Herman Miller sponsored and organized the competition, thanks! Auction and closing party were at the Seattle Design Festival’s closing party at DLR group downtown!


Our chair included the following redesign components:

 1.       Easy access foldable bookshelf.

2.       Custom multi-layer cushion.

3.       Adjustable reading light

4.       Portable USB battery bank for reading light and charging electronics.

5.       Twinkling LEDs on rockers, powered by piezoelectric transducers embedded in rockers.


Text from our competition board:


 Take the Twinklin’ Rock ‘n’ Read anywhere you please for comfortable, well-lit and lovely reading. But there’s more. iPad low battery? Plug it into the arm of your Twinklin’ Rock ‘n’ Read. Off the grid cabin? Covered! And when the sun goes down, you’re in for a cosmic surprise. Piezoelectric transducers (that’s not a dance move) create a never-ending twinkling star show on the rocker rails. For your tush, the cushion is filled with light weight neoprene, non-condensing foam, and a light as air down top layer—sit comfortably till the sun comes up. When you’re done with one book, the nesting, adjustable book shelf is holding your next good read. Go on, reach back and see what is waiting for you. Now, bid high on this chair, and support young people as they shoot for the stars and learn to become craftspeople of the future.

Bye Bye Brook!

Brook, near the center, pulling off his best CEO impersonation.

In June, we invited Brook Negussie to intern with us. Brook had recently graduated from Global Connections High School at Tyee Educational Complex in SeaTac, Washington. He is an avid cyclist, participating in three consecutive Seattle-to-Portland rides through Cascade Bicycle Club's Major Taylor Program,  and has an unwavering interest in engineering. (If you attended Cascade's Bike to Work Breakfast, then you may remember the awesome speech Brook gave.)

His first day he blew us all way; dressed to the nines in formal business attire, he stood out like a beacon among our jeans and t-shirt clad group. His dapper wardrobe was just the first layer of presentation; he wore a constant smile and had a ‘good morning’ ready for everyone he saw. He worked hard and was willing to learn whatever you were willing to teach him. He approached tasks with determination and a skip in his step.

His internship ended this month. As a farewell there was a ping pong tournament, we had pizza and everyone dressed to impress. Much improved from our normal office attire, Brook inspired us.

As he starts fall quarter at the University of Washington, among his peers, we wish him all the best in his day to day endeavors and the adventures that lay ahead.

May your Windsor knot continue to be perfectly presented and that skip stay in your step.

First Look: Hing Hay Park


Over the last several months, we've been collaborating with Kongjian Yu and his Beijing-based firm, Turenscape, on the design of an expanded Hing Hay Park in Seattle's Chinatown-International District. Last night, the final conceptual design was shared with the public, which you can see here. Over the coming months, we'll be developing the design and securing permits for construction in late 2014.

Winslow Way Wins WSDOT/FHWA Award of Excellence

Microsoft Word - Document1 This past week the City of Bainbridge Island was presented an Award of Excellence for the Winslow Way street reconstruction project. The project was selected 2013 Best City Project by the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Washington division of the Federal Highways Administration. The award was presented by Kathleen Davis, WSDOT’s Director of the Highways and Local Programs office, who said the project stood out for its innovation and sustainable design. SvR’s design for the street incorporated green stormwater infrastructure systems including stormwater planters, bioretention swales, and Silva Cells and emphasized community values by providing wider sidewalks, gathering areas, bike facilities and site amenities to support overall accessibility. The reconstructed street has once again made Winslow Way a valued community destination at the center of Bainbridge Island.


2013's Gifts for Civil Engineers and Landscape Architects

Building on last year's list of gift suggestions, we're rounding up a list of our staff's gifts recommendations for the landscape architect or civil engineer in your life.

Seed Bombs and Slingshot

Have you ever wanted to green up a vacant lot, but didn't feel like having a run in with those pesky folks from law enforcement? Greenaid has you covered with 10 seed bombs and a wooden slingshot. (Unfamiliar with seed bombing? Learn more at Guerrilla Gardening.) At just under $15, it would make a great stocking stuffer.

On Looking

Ever since reading about Maria Popova's piece in Brain Pickings, walking on the sidewalk has been a coded step-and-slide. That's how Alexandra Horowitz describes the subtle human dance of how people walk in the city, and we're excited to read her new book, On Looking.


Yes it's cold. Yes, it's dark. And yes, it's wet. But our bike racks are still pretty full every day thanks to several committed year-round cyclists in the office. That's why we're loving the Lumigrid, a bike light that projects a grid of lines. Why a grid? Well, in addition to lighting the way and provide more visibility to other road uses, the even grid helps to reveal the topography of the path in front of you. No more abrupt potholes? Yes please.

Learning about Livable Streets Two friends wrote books this year about transforming our streets and making them safe, more livable and more environmentally friendly. The long-time director of the National Complete Streets Coalition, Barbara McCann, released Completing Our Streets, and our own Dave Rodgers, working with lead authors Lesley Bain and Barbara Gray, released Living Streets. They'd be great to give as a set.


Maps put out their own list of gifts for map lovers. There are some great ideas, but the text-maps of various US cities from Axis Maps is a stand out.


Ever wanted to install a separated bike lane somewhere? Copenhagenize now has the Flow that provides a snap-together, vertically separated bike lane for tactical urbanist interventions.

Holiday Urbanism

Two other friends also penned books about the urban environment this year. Pick up a copy of Seattleite Chuck Wolfe's Urbanism without Effort or pre-order Kaid Benfield's People Habitat.


Finally, a true toy--under the guise of filming fly-throughs of our projects--a quadcopter. Remember, we're telling our kids it's for work only.

Happy Holidays, everyone!


For One Hospital, Investing in Livable Streets is Good Business and Good Health


To say 39th Avenue NE was nondescript is romanticizing the past. Handsome, quiet, livable, yes, but unremarkable too. Unless, of course, you are Paulo Nunes-Ueno, Director of Sustainability and Transportation at Seattle Children's Hospital, who saw the street's unbounded potential.

39th Avenue NE was the street he was looking for: an under-valued ribbon of asphalt that connects important neighborhood destinations--elementary schools, middle schools, restaurants, grocery stores, banks and churches, parks and libraries--all on a low-volume street. Best of all, the street ended at the Puget Sound region's bicycling backbone: the Burke-Gilman Trail. It was a street rife with potential, ready to morph from a typical residential street into one of the Seattle's first neighborhood greenways.

The story behind it, and Seattle Children's Hospital's other community projects, is an important case study for how health care organizations are intervening in the built environment. It offers a powerful, replicable model for healthcare organizations to directly affect public health by intervening in the built environment and mitigate development in a positive way for their communities.

Born of a Shapeless Roving Anxiety

Looking to 39th Avenue NE from the Burke-Gilman Trail. (Image via SvR)

The story of 39th Avenue NE's transformation begins in 2006. Seattle Children's Hospital, which is ranked as one of the top 10 pediatric hospitals in the country, decided to embark on a long-range master planning process to understand how its facility needs would grow in the coming decades.

This was a change from how they had done expansion planning. Rather than numerous, consecutive, medium-sized projects, this effort necessarily yielded a larger, more comprehensive look at the hospital's campus needs to keep pace with the growing demands and scope of pediatric healthcare. What they found was that the growth "was stark in terms of the size and number of trips that it was going to generate," remembers Nunes-Ueno.

Upon sharing these initial findings, the hospital noticed a "shapeless roving anxiety" developing in the community about the hospital's expansion plans. This is the point in most stories where collaboration ends and a distrustful, adversarial relationship begins.

But something remarkable happened instead. Rather than hunker down, the hospital undertook a strategy of active, engaged listening. And by listening, they learned something profound. "It's not," according to Nunes-Ueno, "that the community didn't want the neighborhood to change, it's that they wanted it to get better." The hospital was ready to be the change agent to make improvements happen.

From the hospital's culture of triple-bottom line thinking ("we want to be good neighbors, we want to be good stewards of the environment--and that includes health--and we also want to be prudent with our dollars," says Nunes-Ueno), they began to work with the community to consider new possibilities. Eventually, Nunes-Ueno asked, "what if [the hospital] created a fund specifically devoted toward making it safer and more attractive, more fun, easier to understand, for people to get to the places they wanted to get to in their neighborhood by walking, biking or by transit?"

Paulo Nunes-Ueno, Director of Sustainability and Transportation at Seattle Children's Hospital

The community was intrigued.

Thus the Livable Streets Initiative was born: a $4 million investment in the neighborhood to improve the environment, to make it safer, more attractive and easier for people to walk, bike or take transit."

But how to spend those funds? Once again, Children's reached out to the community through a series of design charrettes and conversations. For Sand Point Way, the main arterial running by the hospital, Children's quickly agreed to improve traffic timing and install dynamic message boards. However, understanding how to improve the residential streets presented a different challenge.

The stability that attracts families to residential neighborhoods proved an impediment for the community's collective imagination. What kinds of improvements would have a light enough touch, yet still meet the community's goals? Children's turned to an expert: YouTube.

"To give people a sense of what’s possible, we showed some of the videos that came out from StreetFilms. There was that guy who did research a long time ago about livability of streets: Appleyard. We showed a great video about his work, about the amount of traffic on your street having an impact on the amount of social connections that you have not only on your street but in the world."

"We established three themes: saying let’s look for opportunities to connect the parks and schools to the Burke-Gilman Trail on residential streets through the idea of greenways. Let’s look for opportunities to create safer crossings of Sand Point Way. Let’s improve the connections to the Burke-Gilman Trail. The trail is this amazing thing--a bicycle pedestrian super highway--but the interchanges were never built so it doesn’t create as valuable of a system as it could."

The Children's Hospital Livable Streets charrette was held at the University of Washington.

Kids were invited to design their own livable streets.

"Then we asked folks who came to the charrette, 'If you’re thinking about these three themes and where you live and the places you like to go, what are the projects you’d like to see?' We collected all of those projects and put them all on a map and in a database. With the help of the city, we ranked them on a variety of criteria and took the top ten and asked for the city to do project development on each of them."

"This year we are hopefully going to complete seven of these projects," Nunes-Ueno proudly reports. A Purple Unicorn?

How replicable is the Children's Livable Streets Initiative for peer institutions? In some ways, says Nunes-Ueno, it is a "purple unicorn." He could make the argument that there were unique circumstances, core values and political contexts that made the project successful in ways that it would not be for other communities.

Then he pauses and reassesses. "When organizations take to heart that they’re nestled in a community and that their success needs to happen with the community--not in spite of the community--then these initiatives not only make sense but they become inevitable."

"If you’re giving away free parking to your employees because it helps you to avoid a difficult conversation about how people get work and the impact that has on your neighbors, those choices are really masking a faulty business strategy. It seems like an avoidance that [CEOs] wouldn’t do in other parts of their business: avoiding having a difficult conversation by making a multi-million dollar investment in a car warehouse."

"I think that the question for other institutions that are having big developments is that the development doesn’t happen in a separate sphere than the community they are developing in. Thinking about the impacts of the development on the community will help them in the long run."

The Path Ahead

The new frontage of Children's includes a separated shared-use path and is well-served by transit.

Children's commitment to healthy, safe transportation has recently taken on new forms. In July, the hospital became the first large donor to the Seattle region's new Puget Sound Bike Share, which hopes to launch next year.

Now Paulo is thinking about how to make Children's a "mobility hub" with all manner of sustainable transportation options. On the horizon is a tighter marriage between the hospital's mission, employee care and transportation.

"We have an employee clinic at the hospital called Vera Whole Health. They do a lot of things one of which is to serve primary care for our employees. But they also have all of this coaching and encouragement for lifestyle change, for nutrition and exercise. My vision is that we’d have a bicycle shop attached to that clinic, and one of the drugs we provide most often is a bicycle."

"That would be awesome."

Weekly Watching: StreetFilms and Strong Towns

With both Clarence Eckerson Jr. of StreetFilms and Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns visiting Seattle this week--and because we're working on a sizeable, original-reporting post for next week--we thought we'd take the opportunity to showcase some of our favorite videos from each organization. Enjoy watching them this weekend, and please add any of your favorites to the comments.

Green Seattle Day: November 2

GS Day Poster 2013 with Logos low res

You are cordially invited to join the 8th Annual Green Seattle Day - November 2nd from 10 am to 2 pm. Green Seattle Day is a meaningful way to connect with nature and create a healthy and vibrant community by planting native trees and shrubs in a park near you. This is the biggest annual celebration of Seattle’s forested parks, the committed neighbors who care for them, and the kick-off event for the 2013-2014 restoration planting season.  All tools and supplies are provided. We welcome you to roll up your sleeves and have fun in the forest.

The event takes place in 17 parks city-wide.  The Mayor is confirmed to kick off the day at the West Duwamish Greenbelt, this year’s central hub site hosted by Nature Consortium, Forterra and Seattle Parks.  Let us know if you would like to come to the hub site at West Duwamish Greenbelt or if you would like to join one of the other Parks listed below. To RSVP or get more information contact Joanna Nelson de Flores at

1.      West Duwamish Greenbelt (Hub site w/ Nature Consortium, Forterra, and Parks)

2.      Golden Gardens (EarthCorps)

3.      Westcrest (Forterra)

4.      Leschi NA

5.      Magnuson

6.      Cheasty Mt. View

7.      East Duwamish GB

8.      Lewis Park

9.      Discovery Park

10.   Seward Park (Friends of the Cedar River Watershed)

11.   SW Queen Anne GB

12.   John C Little

13.   St. Marks GB

14.   Burke Gilman Trail

15.   North Beach /Carkeek (let stewards decide)

16.   Rainier Beach Wetland (Seattle Tilth)

17.   Thornton Creek (site TBD -EarthCorps)

Strange. Beauty.

"Town planning disaster: Chinese officials were forced to cut this motorway in half to go around a block of flats after the building was accidentally erected in its path before the road was built."spacer

Gibbs Farm, New Zealand


Seismic Map of the US


Problem solved?


Graffiti with hydrophobic paint


Human created lightning


Images of volcanic rivers by Andre Ermolaev (click through for better resolution images)spacer

They exist.


"It’s an architectural version of wanting now to be the true authors of the landscape sublime, and part of this abrupt shift from classical, uninhabited landscapes to built landscapes of our own monumental and violent design. That’s all part of what I mean by 'the inhabited west.'"

    A record breaking StreetFilm

The Trees of Life

UFSP Earlier this week, the Seattle City Council passed the new Urban Forestry Stewardship Plan. The goal of the plan is "to increase the health of the urban forest and to meet Seattle's goal of 30% canopy tree coverage by 2037." SvR's Peg Staeheli served on the Urban Forestry Commission.

We thought this might be a good opportunity to clear out some of the recent articles we've come across relating to the urban nature. Enjoy!


Pioneer Square Alleys team begins conceptual options


On Wednesday our Pioneer Square Alleys team began the second phase of the project...developing a pair of conceptual options for consideration at the next public workshop. You can learn more about ISI (our client), the alleys and upcoming events here:

Pictured from left: Jim Friesz, Olson Kundig Architects; Taj Hanson, SvR alley intern; Dagiem Alemu, SvR Yesler Terrace intern; Kirsten Murray, Olson Kundig Architects; and Brice Maryman, SvR project manager.

Pecha Kucha: Walk This Town on 9/20


The global phenomenon of Pecha Kucha, the art of the concise presentations, re-emerges in Seattle on September 20th for Walk This Town: Perspectives on Designing a Healthy City. Join a variety of speakers, including SvR Principal Nate Cormier, for presentations about design that is revolutionizing pathways to health through interventions in our urban landscape. From architects, urbanists and developers, to industrial designers, design-biologists, technologists, and nutritionists the program will explore the ways in which design is transforming the way we develop cities towards a healthier, more brilliant, more meaningful future.

The event will be held on Friday, September 20 at 6 PM, 2013 at the Seattle Public Library as part of the Design In Public’s week-long design festival.

"Maps codify the miracle of existence.”

In his biography of the Flemish cartographer Gerard Mercator, the English writer and geographer Nicholas Crane notes that "maps codify the miracle of existence." Or, as the author Tony Horowitz says, "“I am an agnostic on most matters of faith, but on the subject of maps I have always been a true believer. It is on the map, therefore it is, and I am.” We agree. Maps are one of those endlessly fascinating phenomena. Yet in this age of easily-accessible, easily-updated digital maps, it takes a unique example of the cartographer's craft to really pull us in. Below are a few examples of maps that we've found particularly engaging; click on any of the images to learn more.



New York today versus New York 1836spacer

Map of which side of the road people drive on.


US Rivers


Global Vegetation


Density and World Population


Mapping New York City: Handmade


Map of everyone in America by race


The Best(?) Laid Plans


Geology of National Parks


Humorous Maps spacer

Finally, a bit of current events trivia: think you know where Damascus, Syria is located? Prove it.

We're Hiring: Marketing Assistant and Bookkeeper

Are you ready to make a difference in our community? SvR Design Company fosters a collaborative atmosphere where employees team to create solutions that improve the built environment. We are always looking for people who are fun, flexible, insightful, innovative, and directed in their work.

We are currently hiring for two positions:

Marketing Assistant Part to full time position producing proposals, rosters, and graphics. Two years experience required. Must be adept in Adobe InDesign and Microsoft Word. A&E industry experience preferred.

Bookkeeper Part time position available for bookkeeper to assist with AP/AR and reconciliation of accounts. Two years experience required. A&E industry experience preferred, experience with Deltek Vision software a plus.

If you are interested in joining us, please send your resume and portfolio to

Making the Invisible Visible

Scientists, photograpers, artists, demographers, designers and historians strive to find new ways to make stories and phenomenon visually comprehensible. Here are seven examples we found particularly compelling. Click on the images to learn more about each. Enjoy. Firefly Traces

spacerMapping Health spacerThe Urban Smellscape spacerStraighten Up

spacerRevealing Dialects

spacerArrowhead Revisited

spacerTragic Beauty

To Control Health Costs, Build Sidewalks

An un-sidewalked, urban street just a ten minute walk from a light rail station.  

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the image above is just how unremarkable it is. All around the country there are places that look like this; in fact, this is probably a more common situation than the tree-lined sidewalk that we hold up as our ideal infrastructure.

Public health practitioners look at streets like the one above and have gradually come to the conclusion--based on reams of studies--that exposure to streetscapes like it are one of the causes of Americans' ever-increasing rise chronic disease. In fact, the New England Health Care Institute estimates that our environments influence as much as 20% of our public health outcomes.


As with contagious diseases, researchers have also found that the more proximate you live to this type of environment, the more likely you are to be negatively affected by it. For example, we take it as a given that residents of tropical regions are more likely to get a variety of mosquito borne illnesses if they live near a fetid pool of water. Similarly, Americans are much more likely to have a harder time avoiding chronic diseases that "account for seven of every 10 deaths and affect the quality of life of 90 million Americans" if they are exposed to streets like the one above. As exposure increases, risk increases.

Dr. David Fleming, the Director of Public Health-Seattle & King County, emphasized these points during testimony to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in June:

Most deaths today result from diseases and conditions that are shaped by our social and environmental surroundings. Poor health almost any way you measure it is increasingly concentrated in the same locations, making it easy to identify which communities are making people unhealthy and underscoring the importance of place to health. What makes these neighborhoods unhealthy? While the role of clinical health services is vital, medical care alone accounts for only about 10 percent of premature deaths.

Neighborhoods create ill health because of their intrinsic community characteristics. Houses and rental units are substandard and contaminated with mold and toxins like lead, streets aren’t safe for walking to school or work because of crime or just a lack of  sidewalks, and healthy food isn’t easily available, though high-fat, sugar-loaded processed food is for sale at the corner  convenience store.

All of this evidence begs the question: if the built environment is a significant determinant of our public health outcomes, why aren't health entities--hospitals, HMO's and clinics--helping to build a better infrastructure that supports sound health outcomes? While public health agencies like PHSKC and the CDC have been leading the way, the private sector has been generally hesitant to directly intervene in the built environment. Yet, public health indicators will continue to decline unless the built environment is changed and cities are already financially constrained.

Dr. Fleming offers some hope, arguing that the Affordable Care Act may have unlocked a key to force the private sector to recalibrate their own financial calculus and compel them to directly intervene in reducing their patients' exposure to unwalkable streets, unsafe speeds and overly toxic emissions.

In a future of capitated payment for individual health care, health care systems may find that remaining agnostic to the community from which their patients come weakens their bottom line. Instead, targeted investments in neighborhoods with the poorest health may begin to make both good health and good business sense.

So does that mean that we'll see Group Health sidewalks, Kaiser Permanente greenways and BlueCross/BlueShield skateboard parks in our communities? As a new business paradigm sets in, the data suggests these interventions may become a cost effective way to control private sector costs and improve public health outcomes, resulting in a win for everyone involved.