Denny Way/Lake Union CSO
A plaza’s etched swale and graphic panels tell the story of stormwater flowing underground.
King County’s Denny Way/Lake Union CSO improves the water quality of Lake Union and Elliott Bay by significantly reducing the volume of untreated stormwater and wastewater that flows into them during heavy rains. The project diverts the water through a series of pipes and tunnels beneath Seattle’s Mercer Street and Myrtle Edwards Park.
Laura Haddad and Tom Drugan’s Undercurrents was created in two phases, 13 years apart. Initially they designed a plaza to mark the location where the outfall pipes discharge treated stormwater into Elliott Bay—a site with a beautiful view, used for community gatherings and small performances during festivals. The plaza is oriented around a stainless steel swale that carries rainwater to the bay. Wave-activated sound pipes are built into the riprap. The swale itself is etched with text that illustrates the poetry of the filtration process that occurs in the underground pipes and via the natural springs that once flowed out of nearby Queen Anne hill. An excerpt reads:Water washing
the dust of the city
sheds on mechanical shores
sung like eddies of lived out lives.
Continue Reading ›
During a major November storm in 2006, hydraulic pressure in the underground pipes damaged the plaza, leading King County to convert an elbow in the pipe to an above-ground vault for releasing pressure. The vault disrupted the sightline to the swale, so Haddad|Drugan was invited back in to help devise a visual solution. Ultimately, the vault was aligned with one edge of the swale to preserve its integrity and wrapped on three sides with a planted earthen berm. Its five vent pipes are made of mirrored stainless steel to reflect the way infrastructure merges with its environment, and its fourth side is clad with etched stainless steel panels that depict processes of stormwater collection, transport, and treatment. The complex pictogram uses metaphors of many types of pipes—organ pipes, smoking pipes, water pipes—overlaid on a map of South Lake Union.Laura Haddad and Tom Drugan’s artistic collaboration began in 2001 and has since fostered a wide range of innovative commissions and plans. Their Seattle-based studio, Haddad|Drugan, operates at the intersections of art, architecture, landscape, and theater. They specialize in creating conceptually driven site-specific art that is often integrated into large-scale infrastructure projects.