A New Green Space
From the beginning, the Seattle Art Museum aimed to restore the former industrial site, while providing a unique setting for outdoor sculpture and public use. The park’s innovative design achieved a wide range of environmental restoration goals, including brownfield redevelopment, creation of a salmon habitat, extensive use of native plantings and the capture and use of rainwater on site.
SAM video: The Olympic Sculpture Park gardener illustrates green gardening techniques used at the park.
Restoring the Land
The park’s “restorative engineering” introduces a three-foot-thick layer of engineered soil that reduces runoff quantity beyond that of normal soil, which allows rainfall to percolate and drain out to Elliott Bay. This engineered soil replicates the site condition before urban development and prevents draining water from needing treatment as stormwater runoff. Plantings of dense tree canopies, understory vegetation and ground covers contribute to the retention of rainfall above the soil surface. This design also reintroduces habitat complexity to the site by restoring the original topography, which creates microclimates and offers more diversity for plant and animal life.
Restoring the Shoreline
A key part of SAM’s original vision was to restore the shoreline to a pre-urban state and create nearshore habitat, providing refuge and foraging grounds for juvenile chinook salmon migrating from the Green/Duwamish River. The park accomplished these goals by relocating riprap rock from the shoreline to develop a pocket beach with native shoreline plantings. By creating a shallow subtidal habitat bench, SAM stabilized the weakened seawall and improved the salmon habitat in the Puget Sound estuary. See a diagram of the shoreline restoration.
Monitoring the Shoreline
Thanks to the support of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Puget Sound Nearshore Partnership and the Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program, and in partnership with Seattle Public Utilities and the King Conservation District, SAM has implemented a five-year beach restoration monitoring program. Research studies conducted by the Wetland Ecosystem Team at the University of Washington focus on fish, invertebrates, riparian vegetation, and submerged aquatic vegetation surveys, as well as physical beach profiling. Results of monitoring in 2005 and 2007 (PDF), 2008 (PDF) as well as 2010 (PDF) of the shoreline enhancements indicate that there has been rapid development of aquatic and terrestrial plants and animals. Learn more about this research.
SAM is proud to support a healthy and sustainable green space by: