On Thursday, Aug. 2, Olson Kundig Architects will open an installation called “Skid Road” in their Pioneer Square storefront. Staff at the firm organized the installation to highlight individuals and organizations in downtown Seattle working to end homelessness and poverty.
“These are our neighbors,” Marlene Chen, coordinator of the project, said. “We wanted to give a voice to people in the community.”
Olson Kundig started the storefront projects last summer when the firm began leasing the space, which is below their office, Chen said. The firm then began using the space to showcase design ideas, philanthropic work, local culture, art and community collaborations. Each installation is organized and designed in one month’s time.
Previous installations focused on art and culture, and while this installation will have artistic components, it is the first to focus primarily on basic needs and social services.
Participants in the installation include Bread of Life Mission, Chief Seattle Club, Compass Housing Alliance, Downtown Emergency Services Center (desc), local artist Mary Larson, Seattle Housing and Resource Effort (share) and Women’s Housing Equality and Enhancement League (wheel) and Real Change.
Alan Maskin, principal architect and designer at Olson Kundig, said in an email that he conceived the idea for a Skid Road storefront after he met with Mary Larson, a local artist who paints homeless people in the community. When members of the firm met with Larson, she gave them a list of community organizations working to end homelessness and poverty.
Members of the firm then began meeting with the organizations and gathering information about their differing approaches and perspectives.
Each chosen organization will have a section in the storefront to showcase their work in the community. The featured people and organizations are integral in terms of voice, Chen said, but design elements are organized and developed by the architecture firm.
“We are basically an aggregator of information,” she said. “How [these organizations] choose to convey themselves is up to them.”
Maskin said he’s excited that the installation will enliven the space with different voices within the community.
“It’s rare that activists, government officials, evangelical Christians, artists and historians convene in the same room — much less around the subject of homelessness,” he wrote in an email. “And, not all of the participants agree with one another regarding the best approach to solving the problem. By gathering and highlighting this work, we hope to frame a conversation around an issue in the Pioneer Square community that has been a challenge for a very long time.”
He also hopes patrons will learn something new while viewing the installation.