Seattle–Freeway Park

Freeway Park. A friend of mine from Seattle told me that as an urban planner I had to check it out. A park on top of Interstate-5, an effort to hide the ugly cars and cement. The same friend told me that what now is considered a “cool place” was once, as one would expect of a park over a freeway, pretty dicey.

The first time I came across the park I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place or not. It was the first day I was there, wandering around downtown, getting my bearings and looking for a place to rest my legs. I saw a staircase leading up near the convention center and assumed I found the right spot. Maybe it was because it was Sunday, but despite the Japanese inspired design and architecture and the heartily growing vegetation it was otherwise dead. I assumed I was in the wrong spot.

I wasn’t as it turned out. I had just taken the unmarked entrance. Six days later I wound myself around to the other side of the park and walked through. At first glance it doesn’t seem that impressive or well-used, other than by the local homeless as a place to beat the heat. But, the farther you walk in the more it becomes more apparent that it’s less a park to sit and read a book and more a pleasant way from locals to get from point A to point B. Even on Friday afternoon around lunchtime, I didn’t see too many people sitting and eating, instead I saw many many people using it as a conduit. The convention center opens out into the park on one side, and as I sat not too far away I watched as people used the park as another route into and out of the building.

I’m not sure I walked away with any particular feelings about the park—I often have strong feelings one way or another after spending time in a public space—but it does serve as an interesting use of space and a creative way to (somewhat) hamper the eyesore of the highway.

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3 thoughts on “Seattle–Freeway Park

  1. This is a great assessment of Freeway Park. It is a good idea, and it is very well designed. When I moved to Seattle in the 1980s, the park was about 10 years old, and still a lively space. The park was packed with office workers at lunch time. There were concerts and events.

    Now, as you say, it’s dicey. It’s a place to walk through, at the right time of day, but not hang around in unless you have nowhere else to go.


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