UW Today

January 31, 2012

At Ethnic Cultural Center building site, fencing tells a story

Once, most big construction sites were surrounded by cheap plywood boards or rickety chain-link fences, both with lots of signs saying KEEP OUT. But take a look next time you pass a site. Many sites are tidier, and often, the fencing is a whole lot more imaginative.

University Architect Rebecca Barnes (left), University Landscape Architect Kristine Kenney and Assistant Professor of Visual Communication Design Kristine Matthews contributed ideas to the Construction Graphics Program.

University Architect Rebecca Barnes (left), University Landscape Architect Kristine Kenney and Assistant Professor of Visual Communication Design Kristine Matthews contributed ideas to the Construction Graphics Program.University of Washington / Mary Levin

Like at the corner of Brooklyn Avenue and Lincoln Way, where the new, three-story, 25,000-square-foot Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center is going up.

A series of 6-by-12 panels screen the site, affording safety for people passing by and neatening the site while also telling whats going on, giving navigation instructions and celebrating the history and traditions of the center. The panels are part of the Construction Graphics Program, which is based in the Office of Planning & Budgeting.

Rebecca Barnes, the universitys architect, came up with the idea for the overall program, and Kristine Kenney, the universitys landscape architect, led the design work.

This woman had her face painted as part of a Day of the Dead celebration staged by the Ethnic Cultural Center.

This woman had her face painted as part of a Day of the Dead celebration staged by the Ethnic Cultural Center.University of Washington / Mary Levin

“Theres so much activity on campus that to keep everyone safe, were constantly redirecting people and vehicles,” Kenney said. She added that people want to know whats going on, so the panels both explain and make the site more interesting.

Kenneys group included faculty, staff and students who worked with Kristine Matthews, an assistant professor of visual communication design who also runs Studio Matthews, a Seattle-based graphic design firm.

 

“The concept was ‘Create History’,” Matthews said. “We wanted to look both forward and back, so there is a nod to the history of each site and its relevance to UW, but also a look forward.”

This image was part of a mural in the original Ethnic Cultural Center. The mural will be installed in the new center.

This image was part of a mural in the original Ethnic Cultural Center. The mural will be installed in the new center.University of Washington / Mary Levin

The panels include both generic and customizable options. Along with the purple “W,” for example, the ECC graphics echo the groups – blacks, Chicanos, Asians, Native Americans – depicted in four murals in the original 1971 building. By the way, the murals have been preserved, and will be mounted in the new building.

The ECC panels, which cost $180-$220 apiece and were mounted in early December, are the first test of the program. They will be followed by panels at construction sites for Mercer Court Apartments, the student housing just below the northeast end of University Bridge; South Lake Union phase 3.1, the new UW medical research complex; and the Rainier Vista/Montlake Triangle Project, which will remake the area and include a Sound Transit station.