Susan Szenasy has been the editor in chief of Metropolis magazine, a New York-based publication devoted to world design and architecture, for almost 30 years. She is an internationally recognized authority on sustainability and design, and sits on the board of organizations like the Council for Interior Design Accreditation and the Landscape Architecture Foundation. Susan recently came to Seattle to share a dialogue with an interested audience at an overflowing Seattle Design Festival event at Cornish College. I had an opportunity to sit down with Susan the morning after the event and hear a bit more about why she thinks the next big thing in art and architecture will come out of Seattle.
The town of Twisp is fewer than fifty miles south of the Canadian border. It spans an entire 1.18 square miles and has a population of 900 living in the surrounding National Forest area. Located in Washington’s Okanogan County, Twisp is surrounded by the Cascade Mountains, the joining of the Twisp and Methow rivers, and over a million acres of federally-protected forests. There is a history of hard-working people who respect the land, and respect the industries that thrive on it – particularly the Forest Service. Twisp is the original Old West town of Washington, and its past is paving the way for a future built on community and creativity.
Seattle is the iconic underdog city. It may not be as bustling as the Big Apple, or as glitzy as Hollywood, but it has undeniably carved out a special place for itself in American lore as a city of start-ups. Microsoft, Starbucks and Amazon didn’t begin as household names. So what is it about Seattle that makes it ideal for kick starting independents?
Franz von Stuck did not begin as a painter, but as a graphic designer and an architect. Born in Bavaria in 1863, Stuck showed an early talent for drawing and caricature. He attended the Munich Academy from 1881 to 1885 where he refined his artistic style. Stuck first became relatively well-known when he began illustrating cartoons for the German weekly satirical magazine, Fliegende Blätter, a publication with 95,000 copies at its peak circulation, and featured other artists such as Wilhelm Busch and Julius Klinger. Stuck supplemented his magazine work with providing drawings for book covers, pamphlets and promotional posters. Here Stuck begins exploring the creation of icons and the legendary, biblical and mythical symbols that will later dominate his painting career.
Gather ‘round children, and I will spin you a tale as old as time itself: Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct. Originally completed in 1953, the Viaduct was created to alleviate traffic congestion from trucks, trains and wagons bringing cargo to and from the Port of Seattle. Transportation studies showed that the best way to control port traffic was to have two north-south corridors running between downtown and the waterfront: the Viaduct was created first because the City of Seattle already owned the land, and I-5 was added in the 1960’s.
The Grand Canyon is 270 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and took approximately 17 million years to form. Think about that, 17 million years. To put that into context, that was about the time of the cycle of Ice Ages began, and was at least 10 million years before the earliest form of humans evolved (Creationists, please exit stage left). What appears to be nothing but a jagged crack in the parched Arizona landscape is actually a thriving oasis of life in the middle of a red desert. It also provides an incredibly accurate slice of what happened to this geographic area completely beyond our scope of Now.
Whenever I mention that I am enthusiastic about sustainability, I get two reactions: people who assume I am talking about green buildings and architecture, and people who are tired of hearing about being eco-friendly. It’s true that the media has saturated our society with messages of the virtues of being sustainable, but only if we buy more things. “These plastic bottles of water have 15% less plastic in the cap than before, but are still sold in twice-wrapped 24-packs.” Green washing has become a major selling point, but people only remember what’s in front of their faces. How did the idea of sustainability become so warped that people roll their eyes when it comes up in conversation?
Because we have the wrong idea about sustainability altogether.