PacSci Invites Community Input on Explorations to Ensure Iconic Courtyard Endures

Pacific Science Center courtyard and arches

SEATTLE – 12 July 2023 – Pacific Science Center (PacSci) invites community members to ignite their curiosity about one of Seattle’s most iconic sites. A recent feasibility study conducted by Schemata Workshop showed that PacSci’s courtyard is at risk of catastrophic failure and has already experienced failures and operational challenges. Continued risks range from pipes bursting to pumps failing, as well as worsening leakage and water quality due to corroded pipes.

PacSci is exploring ways to ensure that the iconic courtyard endures while becoming more accessible, environmentally sustainable, and engaging for everyone — especially those curious about natural systems, native plants and animals, and the Indigenous peoples and cultures that were in Seattle long before the 1962 World’s Fair.

We are exploring ways to ensure that our iconic courtyard will endure while becoming increasingly accessible and environmentally sustainable, igniting curiosity about natural systems, and acknowledging the history of the land itself. We want to welcome our guests to a space that truly reflects them and their values. At PacSci, we constantly ask, ‘how can we best serve our community?’ We are excited to engage with members of our community to ensure that the courtyard is a welcoming space for all. Will Daugherty, President and CEO of Pacific Science Center

As part of its comprehensive community outreach and engagement approach, PacSci launched a new website page to invite members of the community to participate in the process. Community members can learn more about the courtyard’s current challenges, PacSci’s approach, and project partners by visiting the web page, and they can also provide feedback via a survey found there. PacSci is working with Headwater People Consulting and Hummingbird Community Cooperation in targeted outreach with local communities, especially underrepresented communities.

Originally designed by Minoru Yamasaki to hold the temporary U.S. Science Exhibit during the 1962 World’s Fair, the courtyard’s current configuration does not meet today’s standards for accessibility. PacSci is exploring options to ensure a safe and comfortable experience for staff and guests of all abilities and has engaged Studio Pacifica in this work. Studio Pacifica has identified opportunities for improvements such as designing edge protection features to mitigate the safety risk at the pool edges, revising ramps and sloped walkways to bring them into compliance with the 2010 ADA, and reducing protruding hazards for the low vision/blindness community.

“As a major institution, Pacific Science Center recognizes that while they have a legal responsibility to comply with Federal regulations, their driving force is the moral obligation — intensified by their mission to educate and enable access for all. Plans include accessibility upgrades to the historic facility that preserve the original design intent while going beyond the minimum requirements of the ADA to create a welcoming, inclusive space for the present and the future”, said Studio Pacifica’s Principal, Karen Braitmayer, FAIA, and Andrea Kovich, Senior Accessibility Specialist.

PacSci is also exploring ways to conserve water with the bold goal of becoming completely independent of potable water. The courtyard pools currently lose an average of 26 million gallons of drinking water each year due to active leaks and evaporation; that translates to an average of 71,000 gallons of drinking water every day. PacSci is working with Schemata Workshop and Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA) to achieve this bold goal.

In addition to water independence, PacSci is exploring ways to add more life to the courtyard in the form of native plants. The introduction of native plants will attract native insect and bird species — the courtyard then has an opportunity to become a living, breathing science exhibit. This attitude of curiosity is congruent with Yamasaki’s interest in science and exploration, and it references his use of plants and floating natural systems throughout his other work. PacSci is working with GGN, Headwater People Consulting, Biohabitats, and Sazan to explore ways to add more life to the space.

The addition of life and natural systems to the courtyard would also create opportunities for new educational programming. This programming would prioritize inclusivity and accessibility in sensory-friendly settings and will represent cross-cultural perspectives in STEM. This includes cultures that were in Seattle long before 1962, as well as those that have long been overlooked, marginalized, and/or appropriated.

To learn more about the courtyard plans and the teams involved as well as engage directly with PacSci, visit our Courtyard Project web page.