Georgetown Steam Plant

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Inspire, Activate, Create

Project Goal: Create an active community learning and gathering place within the historic Georgetown Steam Plant.

Beginning with the historic structure and the context in which it was created, we strive to affirm the Georgetown Steam Plant as a National Landmark in history AND as a catalyst for change and community action. The Steam Plant is a bridge from the past to the present, across communities that have been divided, to a prosperous and equitable future. Through the transition from Indigenous lands to an industrial hub, from supplying power for an expanding City, to inspiring a neighborhood of residents and makers, to powering future generations with knowledge; this place will engage the community to be a resource for all.

We see the Steam Plant as an engine to empower the local community and beyond, using historic interpretation and immersion to inspire understanding and innovation; fostering education in the sciences and arts to propel our youth, especially the underserved, to the careers of the future; and activating this building and grounds for the communal benefit of the Georgetown and South Park neighborhoods, with a focus on environmental and quality of life initiatives.

Every component of this building is protected, and our team will navigate and celebrate the importance of this influential structure. Our design role from 2021-2024 is to be the conveners and interventionists, to make the building stand up, be safe and accessible to as many people as possible. Our advocacy role is to partner with the community to activate it daily, to be a place to gather, learn, dream, and celebrate.

The Plant is a beautiful machine. It appears as a once dangerous jungle gym, offering a feast for the eyes and senses, waiting to become a learning place that visitors never forget. It was built in 1906 to power the streetcar system and eventually became a backup power plant for Seattle until 1977 when it was decommissioned. Since then, Seattle City Light and many others have worked to preserve the building, repair it, restore it, and get it designated as a National Historic Landmark.

The plant operated through combustion. Burn fuel, make heat, produce energy. From this we distilled:

Inspire: it is the fuel for belief, ideas, discovery

Activate: it is the fire for interaction, engagement, collaboration, learning

Create: it is the outcome (the electricity!)- the new idea, the work product, the performance, the knowledge.

The difference here is that this philosophy is a perpetual motion idea machine – it never runs out of fuel, and it creates zero waste.

Timeline:

First, a museum, but not like everything static behind velvet ropes and plexiglass. We envision it as something akin to interactive industrial spelunking. We want people to be able to climb through history and science and be immersed in this place.

Second, it will become a resource for nonprofit arts and sciences organizations to program and teach in a one-of-a-kind, inspiring space.

Third, it is also an event venue where the public can come and celebrate everything from a nonprofit gala to a wedding or whatever folks can imagine.

Learn more about the history of this amazing structure at History Link and follow or join the community progress at Georgetown Steam Plant Community Development Authority.

Team:

Year Built: 1906

Turbines: 3

Designer / Builder: Frank Bunker Gilbreth

W Report
January 22, 2022

Crosscut
March 2, 2020