German Urban Planner Thomas Sieverts Wows Over 100 With “Zwischenstadt” Thursday Night
Late Thursday afternoon (July 2nd), renowned German urban planner Thomas Sieverts walked around Burien on a perfect summer day in an effort to study its unique “Zwischenstadt.”
The term â€œZwischenstadtâ€ has become popularized to mean an â€œinâ€“between city,â€ or the city between the old historical centers and open countryside, which is how he views Burien. Sieverts previously taught urban planning at the University of Visual Arts in Berlin and the Technical University in Darmstadt.
Sieverts was on a three-day visit to the Seattle area, which included a town hall meeting Wednesday night, and an appearance on KUOW’s Weekday. In addition to Mayor Joan McGilton and Councilmember Gordon Shaw, he was followed around by a four-camera film crew, which is producing a documentary on Burien that will be released later in the summer.
After several different groups did walking tours that began at the Burien Interim Art Space, the entire crowd re-grouped for a lively discussion lead by author Matthew Stadler, along with B-Town Blog Publisher Scott Schaefer and Sieverts himself.
Sieverts spoke about things he noticed on his walking tour, including a strip of Hispanic businesses on SW 153rd, which he recommended nurturing into a sort of “hispanic market strip” as opposed to making it “another main street” to encourage diversity and as a place for like-minded folks to gather and appreciate their culture.
“This is a huge deal for Burien,” said Mark Kearns, owner of nearby coffee shop Burien Press. “Not many know about Sieverts, but there are people here who have followed him up from Portland, or have come down from Vancouver just to see him speak. His appearance here could put Burien on the international map!”
Highlights of the outdoor discussion included:
- Members of the crowd shared their observations of their walking tour, including concerns over possible vandalism in Dottie Harper Park to some carved faces in a tree stump. Later, resident Guy Harper (no relation to Dottie) explained that the artwork had actually been removed for restoration and had not been vandalized. Host Stadler noted how each interesting space in a city can inspire different stories for different people.
- Mayor Joan McGilton spoke about the effectiveness of temporary art, and proposed doing a mural on the large rear exterior wall of Grocery Outlet across the street. Later, Stadler proposed projecting images on the wall as a solution. Sieverts concurred, and spoke briefly about “softly breaking the law” as a way to revitalize a neighborhood.
- Sieverts’ son, Boris, got up and spoke about discovering the hidden gem nearby known as Lake Burien. He wondered aloud why there was no public access to the private lake, and encouraged residents to demand it. Schaefer then explained about how a small group of residents is trying to gain public access, but have had no success due to much resistance from protective lake residents.
- Near the end of the evening, Boris encouraged everyone to “march down to the lake together.” Schaefer then added “…and go skinny dipping!” Unfortunately for the film crew present, the march and nude swim prank never materialized.
Over 100 people stayed to the end of the evening, even helping “strike the set” by putting chairs and tables away.
- German Urban Planner Thomas Sieverts Featured On KUOW; Will Be At B/ IAS Thursday Beginning At 4pm
- â€œWhere We Live Now: Why Burien?â€ Featuring Thomas Sieverts, Is Thurs., 7/2