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Beyond the Kingdome: Jack Christiansen’s Impact on the Northwest Built Environment

I am thrilled to see the publication of Sculpture on a Grand Scale: Jack Christiansen’s Thin Shell ModernismNearly ten years in the making, this book project has taken me to countless locations across the state to visit projects, and to conferences across the world to share Jack Christiansen’s legacy.  But the real significance of this book resides right here in the Pacific Northwest.

Christiansen was a classic Northwest individual – loving all things connected to nature (hiking, mountaineering, boating), family, and building innovation.  The balance he attained between professional and personal lives was remarkable, and the impact he left on the built environment of Seattle was profound.  Anyone interested in the recent history of the Pacific Northwest, and the drivers of change, will find something exciting in this text.

Sculpture on a Grand Scale shows how Christiansen was intrinsically linked to several essential eras of Northwest life and the buildings he helped design still surround those of us who live here.  Christiansen designed for the post-war population boom – schools, churches and residences.  He designed for Boeing, becoming part of the constant drive for invention and improvement.  He designed for the paradigm-shifting 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.  Christiansen’s impact continued into the 1970s, playing a key role in realizing the Seattle Kingdome and ushering in a new era of Seattle sports.

B-52 Airplane Hanger for the Boeing Aircraft Company, Moses Lake, WA. Designed by Naramore, Bain, Brady and Johanson and Jack Christiansen. Complete with Jack Christiansen outfront, 1957.

B-52 Airplane Hanger for the Boeing Aircraft Company, Moses Lake, WA. Designed by Naramore, Bain, Brady and Johanson and Jack Christiansen. Complete with Jack Christiansen outfront, 1957. Courtesy of MKA Slide Archives.

As its image now graces the cover of the book, the Kingdome is certainly Christiansen’s most impactful work.  Most people who lived in Seattle prior to the 2000s have personal memories of the massive concrete stadium.  Some memories are of wonderful concerts, football games and the 1995 Mariners playoff run.  Those who grew up during that time recall the spacious interior filled with fans from all over the region.  Other memories are less pleasant, recalling the cold, grey exterior and the Kingdome’s imposing form over the surrounding neighborhood.  Debate over the Kingdome’s legacy still goes on in the comments section of any recent news article.

Christiansen’s life – and his work leading up to the Kingdome – offers an overlooked perspective.  The Kingdome was the culmination of many years of work in thin shell concrete – where geometry and structure were intertwined in the creation of space.  When King County needed a multi-use, cost- efficient structure, Christiansen dedicated his work to making a stadium possible and saving taxpayer dollars.  His design innovations for the Kingdome were not flashy or frivolous, they were responsible and austere.  In the high-cost, high-inflation times of the early 1970s, this was innovation that was needed.

The implosion of the Seattle Kingdome. March 26, 2000. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives.

The implosion of the Seattle Kingdome. March 26, 2000. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives.

The demolition of the Kingdome offers another chance for reflection on a chapter of Seattle life.  By the 2000s, the grim economic fortunes were long gone – replaced by a booming technology industry and the Kingdome had become a relic of the earlier time.  Christiansen’s idea that buildings should be designed to last 1000 years was no match for the rising economic ambitions of professional sports.

As things in Seattle continue to change, Christiansen’s work is finding new resonances.  The book not only describes his late work – like the Bainbridge Island Grandstand – but also the preservation efforts underway to ensure his extant work is celebrated as heritage, as a part of Seattle’s past.  New efforts in research are re-visiting some of Christiansen’s design methods, as an interest in material efficiency.

The accompanying exhibit in Gould Hall Gallery (open until December 6th) further brings Christiansen’s work to light.  The exhibit shows models, original design documents, and Christiansen’s writings.  With an entire room dedicated to the Kingdome, the exhibit includes early design strategies, Kingdome newsletters, a video of the Kingdome construction, memorabilia and a scale model of the structure.

U.S. Science Pavilion, Seattle, WA. Designed by Minoru Yamasaki and Jack Christiansen. Complete, 1962. Courtesy of MKA Slide Archives.

U.S. Science Pavilion, Seattle, WA. Designed by Minoru Yamasaki and Jack Christiansen. Complete, 1962. Courtesy of MKA Slide Archives.

The book is a celebration of architecture, engineering and design.  Readers may recognize the rounded roof of the Greenlake Pool, or the soaring arches of the Pacific Science Center. The work may inspire exploration into more of Christiansen’s work – like the Bridge over the north fork of the Snoqualmie River.  I hope readers will be left with a better understanding of not just Christiansen’s work, but an expanded perspective of the built environment of the Pacific Northwest.


Tyler S. Sprague is assistant professor in the Department of Architecture at the University of Washington and serves on the boards of the Construction History Society of America and the Western Washington chapter of Docomomo. His new book Sculpture on a Grand Scale was made possible by the generous support of the Michael J. Repass Fund for Northwest Writers.

To hear more from Tyler S. Sprague, join us at the University Bookstore on Thursday, October 10th at 6 p.m. for a special event and book signing!

Giving Historical Context to Elizabeth Warren’s Plan for Native Americans

On August 16, Senator Elizabeth Warren announced the policy she will pursue for American Indians if she wins the presidency in 2020. While the New York Times called it a plan to “help” Native Americans, the Huffington Post emphasized Warren’s intent to “empower tribal nations,” noting specifically her desire “to reverse” a 1978 Supreme Court ruling that tribal governments have no power to prosecute non-Indian lawbreakers.

Warren promised to seek congressional affirmation that tribes have “inherent jurisdiction over their sovereign territory,” including jurisdiction to arrest, try, and jail non-Indians who commit crimes there. Voters may think that is a radical and unrealistic proposal, but Warren’s choice of words – her call for legislation to “restore” tribes’ jurisdiction over non-Indians – suggests that radical change came with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of existing law. Indeed, a year before the court ruled, the American Indian Policy Commission – a body created by and composed of US lawmakers – adopted virtually the same position on tribal jurisdiction as Warren has. A commission investigation revealed that several dozen tribes were applying their laws to non-Indians as well as Indians, with encouragement from key federal officials.

This historical information is not from Warren’s manifesto; it appears in Reclaiming the Reservation: Histories of Indian Sovereignty Suppressed and Renewed, my book recounting modern tribes’ efforts to regulate all people and activities within reservation boundaries. Reservations – even those established for Indians’ “exclusive use” – were never entirely closed to non-Indians, but thousands of non-Indians now live on reservations because Congress allowed them to acquire land there in the late 1800s. For five subsequent decades, the undeniably dominant United States tried to dismantle tribal nations and discourage Indian self-governance but did not abolish reservations or deny tribes’ inherent sovereignty. Meanwhile, through several turns of US policy, lawmakers and judges made a jumble of the rules for governing what remained of Indian country.

With stories from Indian perspectives, which the Supreme Court did not consider, Reclaiming the Reservation shows why and how tribes brought the issue of their power over non-Indians to national attention in the 1970s. Several factors had combined to convince them that taking responsibility for reservation conditions was essential for their communities’ survival and was their right under US law. Although tribes featured in the book did want to deter criminal activity, that was a secondary aim – a corollary of their desire to preserve and manage the land and resources on which their future as tribes depended.

Nevertheless, the action that eventually provoked a Supreme Court case about tribes’ jurisdiction over non-Indians was not a land use regulation; it was an arrest and prosecution for assault. A climactic chapter of the book examines the court’s denial of tribal power in Oliphant v. Suquamish Tribe along with the criticism that opinion earned for its blinkered, disingenuous account of relevant history and its evident racial bias. The book does not end there, however, because – as Elizabeth Warren’s familiarity with the issue indicates – tribes’ determination to ensure safe conditions on reservations did not end there. The Supreme Court’s veto of criminal law enforcement has not deterred them from invoking civil power to regulate non-Indians.

As the number of non-Indians who travel, live, or work on Indian reservations has grown in recent years, so have the stakes in the jurisdiction debate. Yet most non-Indian voters today are as uninformed about reservation community histories as the justices were in 1978. Thus, while Senator Warren’s support for tribal power may win her Indian votes, it could alienate more numerous non-Indians, many of them fearful that tribal police and courts will be unfair. Rather than address that fear directly, Warren identified tribal jurisdiction as a sensible response to another, proven threat: criminals are escaping justice through gaps in reservation law enforcement. She cited Native women’s shocking rate of violent victimization, often by non-Natives who never face prosecution – a scandal that motivated Congress in 2013 to approve limited tribal court jurisdiction over Indians’ abusive, non-Indian intimate partners.

That amendment to the Violence Against Women Act was politically feasible because tribal governments are increasingly sophisticated, effective, and accepted as permanent components of an American federation that has three kinds of sovereign polities. Senator Warren’s position on tribal jurisdiction is also a consequence of that historic tribal resurgence – a sign that tribes have persuasively communicated their need for empowerment and their ability to wield power judiciously. Their accomplishment illustrates a central theme of Reclaiming the Reservation: long after Europeans invaded America, Indians continue negotiating with their conquerors for terms of relations that will enable sovereign tribal communities to endure.


Alexandra Harmon is professor of American Indian studies at the University of Washington. She is the author of Rich Indians: Native People and the Problem of Wealth in American History and editor of The Power of Promises: Perspectives on Pacific Northwest Indian Treaties. Her book Reclaiming the Reservation is part of the Emil and Kathleen Sick Book Series in Western History and Biography.

To hear more about Reclaiming the Reservation, please join us for Professor Harmon’s Emil and Kathleen Sick Lecture on November 6th at 3:30 p.m. in UW Allen Library’s Peterson Room.

How a Culture of Impunity is Fanning the Flames in Amazonia

As a cultural anthropologist who has worked in Amazonia for the past twenty years, I am saddened—but not at all shocked—by the swathe of fires currently burning across northern Brazil. The smoke from these fires has famously blackened the daytime sky of Brazil’s largest city, shaking the world to notice the existential threats facing the peoples and ecosystems of Earth’s largest remaining tropical rainforest. And while reports have correctly laid the blame on the Brazilian government for its feckless response to the conflagrations, it is the Brazilian President’s public statements and policy proposals—which so clearly signal a racist contempt for Indigenous rights—that are the true fuel that drives these fires. President Jair Bolsonaro’s “develop-at-all-costs” posture regarding the Amazon encourages the type of land-grabbing, forest destruction, and violence against native peoples that I write about in Conjuring Property: Speculation and Environmental Futures in the Brazilian Amazon. Though based on research conducted through 2014, my book describes colonial land dynamics that have only intensified since Bolsonaro’s ascendancy, placing numerous societies and an entire ecosystem closer to the brink of destruction.

The explosion of fires is not natural, and this year’s record-breaking conflagration is not new. Indigenous peoples have managed fire in an ecologically sustainable fashion for millennia. But since Brazil began to encourage agricultural colonization in the region during the 1970s, the Amazon’s dry season has been eagerly awaited as the “burning season”: time for ranchers and soy-planters to clear large extensions of forest, let them dry, and strike the match. In this way, over 20 percent of the original forest’s extent has been converted to pasture and field over the last few decades. The vast majority of this agricultural expansion has proceeded through illegal land-grabs, in which elites deforest land, evict peasant and Indigenous groups at gunpoint, and manipulate the judicial system to launder their ill-gotten lands into deeded properties. Some of Brazil’s (and indeed the world’s) largest companies are involved in this cycle, in which traditional communities and their forests and rivers fall prey to an unsustainably expanding agricultural system. Though technically illegal, the machinations of this system are taken for granted among rural colonists, who have come to resent any form of legal enforcement as a brake on their right to “improve” the land by burning down the forest.

It is a system in which fire and political maneuvers are the weapons that colonists use to invade and rob Indigenous territories. And though in operation for half a century (a history documented in Conjuring Property), it is a system whose backers and beneficiaries have finally arrived at the very pinnacle of power in Brazil. Since taking office in January 2019, President Bolsonaro and the “ruralist” parliamentary block have sought to open Indigenous lands up to mining and logging operations; have slashed the budgets and oversight potential of environmental agencies; have backed an “economic liberty” suite of policies for agribusiness; have vowed that the government will not demarcate “one more centimeter” of Indigenous land in Brazil, and have taken steps to try to decertify (rob) existing Indigenous reserves. These maneuvers are especially heartbreaking because over the previous two decades Brazil had been making concerted efforts to reverse deforestation and protect culturally- and ecologically-significant territories. Bolsonaro learned from his time in congress how to enflame rural populist resentment for regulations, sentiment that has its deepest root in a skepticism among Amazonian colonists regarding whether the elites that benefit most from Brazil’s political-economic system really have their best interests in mind. The ruralists in Brasilia understand how politically useful anxiety in the provinces can be for expanding their grip on power.

The parliamentary assault on Indigenous peoples and on Amazonian ecosystems is vast, coordinated, and has been decades in the making. Though there have been signs of hope—last month Brazil’s Supreme Court unanimously rejected Bolsonaro’s attempt to assign oversight of Indigenous territories to the Ministry of Agriculture—the ruralists have a litany of schemes in the queue. The idea is to act for “Brazil above all.” This slogan was no doubt on the minds of ranchers and farmers in the Amazonian towns of Novo Progresso and Altamira, where on August 10 thousands of acres of felled forest were set ablaze. A week after this coordinated “Day of Fire” (which had been announced in a local newspaper on August 5), with the flames still raging (and smoke settling on São Paulo), local farmers chirped on social media that the fires were meant to signal support for the president’s policies, since Bolsonaro “supports those of us who produce.” The implication was clear: colonists see themselves as “producers” in contrast to Indigenous Amazonians, whom they view with scorn and contempt. The irony is that the very forest itself, with its unmatched biodiversity and ability to store carbon, is in large part the result of thousands of years of purposeful habitation and cultivation by Amazonia’s native peoples; the original producers, as it were.

It seems that all is burning in Brazil. Just a few days from now marks the one-year anniversary of the fire at the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, in which ethnographic and archaeological treasures, precious pieces of art and manuscripts—all irreplaceable testaments to the staggering cultural diversity of Brazil—were reduced to ashes. As an anthropologist who has the privilege of working with the Indigenous peoples of Amazonia, I also have the obligation to condemn the racist rhetoric and genocidal policies pursued by the current Brazilian government. Those who would pose the future of Amazonia as a question of “production” vs. idle, unutilized land are committing grievous errors: the human rights of Indigenous peoples, and the priceless value to the global ecosystem that the forest produces, must not be sacrificed as “costs of doing business.” Though I applaud the efforts of political leaders and companies that are demanding that Mr. Bolsonaro change course, I am deeply skeptical whether he would—or even could, given the power of the ruralists in congress. Certainly, international pressure must continue, and global citizens must prioritize consumer- and investment-choices that preserve the forest. But ultimately the Brazilian people will decide the fate of the leaders who have placed so much in peril for so long. Citizens near and far should continue to watch the Amazon even after the rains cool the fires this year. Because burning season comes again next year, and the year after, and so on until no trees remain lest we all remain attentive, vigilant, and supportive of the Indigenous peoples of Amazonia.


Dr. Jeremy M. Campbell is an associate professor of anthropology at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. His 2015 book, Conjuring Property: Speculation and Environmental Futures in the Brazilian Amazon, received the James M. Blaut Award for the outstanding book in political ecology from the Association of American Geographers and an Honorable Mention Book Award from the Association for Political and Legal Anthropology.


This piece was adapted from an open letter written on behalf of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America.

“John Okada: The Life & Rediscovered Work of the Author of No-No Boy” wins the 2019 American Book Award!

We are thrilled to announce that John Okada: The Life & Rediscovered Work of the Author of No-No Boy edited by Frank Abe, Greg Robinson, and Floyd Cheung is a winner of the Before Columbus Foundation’s 2019 American Book Awards.

This compelling collection offers the first full-length examination of John Okada’s development as an artist, placing recently discovered writing by Okada alongside essays that reassess his lasting legacy.

Part of the University of Washington Press’s Classics of Asian American Literature series, No-No Boy, John Okada’s only published novel, centers on a Japanese American who refuses to fight for the country that incarcerated him and his people in World War II and, upon release from federal prison after the war, is cast out by his divided community. In 1957, the novel faced a similar rejection until it was rediscovered and reissued in 1976 to become a celebrated classic of American literature. As a result of Okada’s untimely death at age forty-seven, the author’s life and other works have remained obscure.

With meticulously researched biographical details, insight from friends and relatives, and a trove of intimate photographs, this volume is an essential companion to No-No Boy that illuminates Okada’s early life in Seattle, military service, and careers as a public librarian, aerospace technical writer, and ad man.

Upon receiving the award, co-editors Frank Abe, Greg Robinson, and Floyd Cheung spoke about Okada’s legacy and impact, former University of Washington Press winners, and the significance of receiving this award.

“No-No Boy became a foundational work in the emerging field of Asian American Studies when the Combined Asian American Resources Project (CARP) rediscovered it in the early 70s,” said Abe. “It joined a broader literary movement that included establishment of the Before Columbus Foundation itself, so to now have our study of John Okada honored by the foundation brings us full circle. I hope this recognition brings new readers to Okada’s novel as well as our own book, which opens new avenues of scholarship for a new generation of students.

Cheung added, “If the Before Columbus Foundation were around in 1957, when No-No Boy was published, I imagine that Okada’s novel would have won the American Book Award. I interpret this honor as a posthumous prize for John Okada as well as a kind acknowledgment of the work that Frank, Greg, and I did to tell the story of his life and recover his unknown works.”

“In 1984 Miné Okubo won the American Book Award for the University of Washington Press edition of Citizen 13660, her powerful graphic memoir of Japanese American camp life,” Robinson said. “Now, 35 years later, John Okada has won that same award. It makes me even more proud to feel that Frank, Floyd and I are following in Okubo’s footsteps.”

Since the 1970s, the University of Washington Press has published great works of Asian American literature, including America Is in the Heart, Citizen 13660, No-No Boy, Nisei Daughter, as well as the third edition of Aiiieeeee! (forthcoming in October 2019)—the anthology that reintroduced No-No Boy to readers in 1974 with an excerpted chapter and whose enthusiastic reception prompted CARP to reprint the entire novel in 1976. Launched in 2014, the Classics of Asian American Literature series ensures that current and future generations of readers will have access to significant, foundational titles for years to come, and the press continues to seek opportunities to elevate key voices in Asian American literary history.

The American Book Awards were created to provide recognition for outstanding literary achievement from the entire spectrum of America’s diverse literary community. The purpose of the awards is to recognize literary excellence without limitations or restrictions. With no quotas for diversity, the winners list simply reflects diversity as a natural process. The Before Columbus Foundation views American culture as inclusive and has always considered the term “multicultural” to be not a description of various categories, groups, or “special interests,” but rather as the definition of all of American literature.

The 2019 American Book Award winners will be formally recognized on Friday, November 1, 2019, from 1:00-4:00 p.m. at the Koret Auditorium, San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin St., San Francisco, CA. This event is open to the public.

7 Surprising Ways I Helped Promote My First Book

A strange smell wafts into a room and everyone panics. That line could start any number of the stories I recount in Smell Detectives: An Olfactory History of Nineteenth-Century Urban America. Smell Detectives is a deep dive into the smells of nineteenth-century cities which explains how concerns about foul odors mingled with fears of disease and desires for fresh air in ever-growing cities. As urban residents acted on these beliefs, women changed homes, physicians created public health, and politicians built parks—ultimately shaping our modern cities around their aerial concerns. A strange smell wafting through a room also began any number of conversations that I have had since Smell Detectives was first published in 2017. As a first-time book author, I had not anticipated how great these conversations would be, or how much I would enjoy having them. According to my friends at the University of Washington Press, these conversations have also been good for sales. What follows are some of the things I did to get these conversations started, which I’m sharing in hopes that you will also have many exciting, fun, and rewarding conversations about your books.

1. Say yes!

Before Smell Detectives was published, I started to receive requests for media interviews and podcasts, some of which were quite surprising to me because I did not associate them with my field (history) or I had not heard of the venue. Most of these invitations came because of the hard work of the marketing department, whose members had been reaching out to venues and trying to set up interviews, like the Science Magazine podcast, for months before the book was published. Every time that I could, I said yes, because an interview is really just a conversation about my book and my research. Once I agreed to a conversation, I spent a little time thinking about the audience and what I wanted them to know about my book. For popular audiences, like those who came to the live taping of Tell Me Something I Don’t Know or who listen to Phi Beta Kappa’s Smarty Pants, I wanted to convey why a history of smell would be interesting to read. For audiences in my field, like subscribers to the New Books podcasts, I talked instead about the details of my research process and how thinking with smell and miasma theory adds to our understanding of environmental history. And for readers of my college’s magazine, I explained a curious history that did not quite fit in the book.

2. Have a book party, or a #virtualbookparty, to share the excitement far and wide.

Although I research cities, I live in a rural area because of my job and travel was often challenging. So when Christy Spackman asked if I would do a #virtualbookparty on Twitter, I said yes even though I was not sure what that entailed (see point 1). To prepare, I invited colleagues and friends, some of whom were teaching the book and could “bring” students along, to drop by (virtually) and ask a question on a set day. Not everyone could take part, but those who did kept me busy answering questions and talking about the book in a public space where people I had never met could see and get involved. (Since then, I’ve created a handy guide to the #virtualbookparty format, so anyone can have one.)

3. Use postcards to give your book a material presence.

I can’t take credit for this idea, since Conevery Bolton Valencius suggested it to me, but I can say that it was very effective because I directly targeted potential buyers. To get ready for the publication of Smell Detectives, I ordered postcards with my book’s cover on one side and a one-sentence description, book title, and publication information on the reverse. I mailed about 300 of these to friends and colleagues, digging deep into my files to make sure that every co-panelist, panel chair, and college friend was on my mailing list. I bundled the rest of the postcards into rubber-banded groups of 25, and tucked some into every bag. Then, whenever I mentioned my book to someone, I handed them a postcard as a glossy, tangible reminder of our conversation and of my book. While on a pre-conference tour of Philadelphia, the guide explained that we were standing over Dock Creek, which had been filled because of its stench. I only smiled (a bit nervous to self-promote in the week before publication), but a friend piped up to tell the entire group—twenty historians attending the Society for the History of the Early American Republic meeting—about my book. I capitalized on this moment by pulling the postcards out of my bag to hand out to this newly eager audience. Without fail, recipients told me that the postcards were such a good idea—and they admired the fantastic cover created by the University of Washington Press. (A great cover is another conversation-starter.) I also distribute the postcards to audiences at every book talk and conference panel, and keep some on my desk for curious students to grab when they stop in.

4. Don’t be shy; tell everyone about your book!

People want to know what you have been working on, and will be excited to hold the finished product in their hands—this is true for your dentist and neighbor as well as for academic colleagues. Let me underscore that this was never awkward: whenever someone asked me what was new in my life, I said that I wrote a book! Although writing a book is expected in our profession, book authors are pretty rare in the wider world. So when the waitress asked what we were celebrating at dinner, I told her that I wrote a book and gave her a postcard (see point 3). She was pretty excited—I think, in part, because my answer was a far cry from the birthday or anniversary she usually hears—and asked what the book is about. The conversation went from there.

5. Suggest your book for courses.

The primary audience for academic monographs is scholars and students, so I made sure to reach out colleagues who teach courses to which Smell Detectives would add a new conversation. Smell Detectives fits in classes on environmental history, history of medicine, urban history, women’s history, the long nineteenth century, sensory history, and even the Civil War. When I learned that someone was assigning Smell Detectives, I offered to video conference into the course to chat about the book and answer students questions—those are always fun conversations, especially when I inspired a student to explore some of the historical documents I used. I also let my marketing contact at the press know (see point 7), so that they could advertise the book for use in similar courses.

6. Offer to give talks.

I reached out to libraries and archives where I had done research and asked if they would like me to return for a public talk. There were many benefits to this: a built-in audience of people who had heard the research early on, a chance to conduct some new research during the visit, and tapping into their networks to advertise the book. I gave two public talks to audiences of about 30 each at the American Antiquarian Society and the Science History Institute. For each, I was able to highlight something from the collections, and got to know new readers in a familiar setting.

7. Stay in touch with your marketing contact at the press.

While there were some things that I could do on my own, like the #virtualbookparty, many other conversations happened because the marketing department knew what I was planning. By letting the marketing department know when I would be traveling to certain areas of the country, they could set up additional interviews, contact local bookstores, and include Smell Detectives in conference book exhibits. I also found the marketing department really helpful for additional ideas of how to start conversations, as well as for support—after all, the people who work in marketing know how to publicize a book, and they were happy to amplify my efforts as well as answer many, many questions.

Smell Detectives will be out in paperback this month. I’m planning to do many of these things again, as I look forward to the next round of conversations about fresh air, foul odors, and city life in the nineteenth century. Maybe I’ll get to chat about past smells with you!


Melanie A. Kiechle is assistant professor of history at Virginia Tech.

Explore South Lake Union’s Public Art with Jim Rupp

Good weather and visitors inspire many to explore downtown Seattle, but after Pike Place Market, Pioneer Square, and the Olympic Sculpture Park, many are at a loss about other destinations. The collection of art in Seattle’s public spaces provides many opportunities to discover hidden art treasures in the city—many tucked away in unfamiliar locations and others obvious but unnoticed by passersby. The South Lake Union (SLU) neighborhood is one of my favorite sites to tour because it has over twenty artworks readily available to see during a two-hour walk. Most of them are contemporary creations and the designs of many were influenced by the neighborhood itself.

Nautical history is a theme of two works in South Lake Union Park. An upside down, 20-foot-long sailboat hull is the principal element of Blanche, a sculpture at the park’s northern end. Artist Peter Richards created it after learning about the long history of boating and boat building on Lake Union. One of the best-known builders was Blanchard Boat Company, which built the hull you see. The exterior is clad in stainless steel, a nod to the more technological industries in today’s SLU. You can rent the same model sailboat at the nearby Center for Wooden Boats.

Near Blanche is the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) which is well worth a visit. Hanging from the ceiling down to its main floor is John Grade’s 60-foot tall, 11,000 pound sculpture constructed from wood planking from the three-masted schooner Wawona. Grade named his work after that dismantled sailing vessel. MOHAI has informative signage that tells about both the ship and the many interesting aspects of Grade’s design. It moves and you can walk into it! A must-see.

 

 

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The designs of two sculptures by Seattle’s Lead Pencil Studio arose from research about what the neighborhood looked like in the last century. Re-Stack, at Ninth Avenue and Thomas Street, has arches one would have seen on old buildings and its stacked cubes refer both to pallets in the many warehouses that once existed throughout SLU, as well as stacked boxes in today’s Amazon facilities. This sculpture is made of a stainless steel wire mesh that seems to create a ghostly image of things past. Lead Pencil Studio used the same steel mesh to create the form of a toll booth in the plaza off of Fairview Avenue North between Thomas and Harrison streets. This was inspired by photos of parking lots that were once common in the area. The sculpture, titled Troy Block, refers to the Troy Laundry building that once stood on this site, remnants of which remain on its east side.

Walk down the alley off of Republican Street between Yale and Pontius avenues and you can see one of the many other brick laundry facilities that inhabited SLU throughout the 20th century. On the other side of that alley is Laundry Strike, a vertical collection of wicker hampers cast in bronze, with “1917” woven into one side. Wicker hampers were used by laundry workers (all women) and artist Whiting Tennis used these images to commemorate the 1917 Seattle laundry strike, which resulted in those workers achieving an eight-hour workday and pay of ten dollars a week—one dollar more than minimum wage at that time!

 

 

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SLU also has a collection of art that refers to the history being made today by high tech companies. Biotech research is the subject of Labyrinth, laminated glass panels that stand outside of the Center for Disease Research at 307 Westlake Avenue North. In this piece, artist Linda Beaumont incorporated chronographic representations of the genetic sequence of a lethal parasite that is being studied within the building. Dan Corson’s Nebulous, at 400 Ninth Avenue, refers to Seattle’s role in computer innovation and the fact that both the environmental and technological climates are changing. Note that the glass discs of his two cloud-like forms (which also refer to Seattle’s cloudy weather) electronically change levels of opacity and pulsate at varying rhythms.

With the complex grey column at Mercer Street and Boren Avenue, artist Ellen Sollod achieved her goal of creating a technology-oriented work for this multifaceted neighborhood of biotech and technical research companies. It’s called Origami Tessellation 324.3.4 (Fractured). Sollod also created other small works along Mercer, including a hatch cover in the sidewalk at the corner of Fairview Avenue and Mercer Street that features a spider and its web—Sollod’s reference to the worldwide web.

As you tour these and other artworks in SLU, keep in mind that there are over 300 other artworks readily available for viewing in Seattle’s public spaces. You may love some and dislike others, but you’ll never know unless you walk about and look.

 

 

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James M. Rupp is a Seattle native, long-time lawyer, and local historian who has been collecting information about art in Seattle’s public places for over forty years. Art in Seattle’s Public Spaces is his second book on the subject and was made possible by the generous support of the Michael J. Repass Fund for Northwest Writers.

Celebrating Gita Manaktala, Recipient of the AUPresses Constituency Award

This week the Association of University Presses (AUPresses) meets in Detroit. At the same time, participating presses are hosting a special blog tour to celebrate the colleagues with whom we collaborate to make university press publishing happen. At the opening reception to the meeting I had the honor of presenting the AUPresses Constituency Award to Gita Manaktala, Editorial Director of the MIT Press. Below are my remarks.

Larin McLaughlin

Editor in Chief, University of Washington Press


First given in 1991 to Naomi Pascal, my predecessor at the University of Washington Press, the AUPresses Constituency Award recognizes active leadership and outstanding service to the association and the wider scholarly publishing community.

In university press publishing, our collective work is full of moments, ideas, and encounters that inspire and transform. Readers of our books and journals find new ideas that shift their understanding, buried and little-known histories, and remarkable people and communities they might otherwise never know. We hear of our authors’ amazement and joy when their first books arrive, we celebrate bestsellers, and watch readers pore over eagerly anticipated new releases.

Undergirding those experiences we create for others are the daily ways we inspire, challenge, and transform each other—and this award gives us the chance to celebrate those. This year’s Constituency Award recipient, Gita Manaktala, has been a brilliant and passionate exemplar of the best of what we are in her nearly 30-year career with the MIT Press and her ongoing commitment to and work with AUPresses.

At the MIT Press Gita has overseen a large and complex acquisitions program since 2010, with direct management responsibilities for 14 acquisitions editors in her role as Editorial Director. Prior to that, she was Director of Marketing, with oversight of global sales, marketing, publicity, and electronic product development. She shares her wide-ranging expertise and immense wisdom readily—one colleague mentioned that she is one of the people you hope to see immediately on arrival at the annual meeting because she “will have insights to share with you that no one else has thought of.”

Gita’s contributions to the work of AUPresses over more than a decade would take me beyond my time limit to detail, but highlights include chairing the program committee for the 2011 annual meeting, which was described as “one of the most vibrant, creative, lucrative and community-building programs of the last decade.” She also played an active role in the large collaborative project of creating the Peer Review Best Practices handbook, which brought together dozens of acquisitions editors to create a single guiding document.

I have worked with Gita most closely as part of the Mellon University Press Diversity Fellowship program and as co-chair of the AUPresses Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. In this work Gita’s seasoned engagement, clarity of thought, and practice of skilled listening contributed immensely to our efforts. I have been so grateful to benefit from the example of Gita’s graceful leadership as well as her incisive editing—and I know so many of those of us who have worked with Gita have similar experiences.

Her letters of nomination for this award illustrate how much so many of us cherish Gita’s contributions to our work. One points out how “her knowledge, her charisma, her humor, her charm—are all generously bestowed on our membership.” Another colleague described Gita as “a strong ambassador for the cooperative and collaborative spirit that defines the AUPresses”

Gita’s passion for and expertise in so many areas of publishing has provided rich mentorship within the AUPresses. Her willingness to put generous and significant effort behind her clear commitments to publishing and justice has been key to the work the MIT Press, the Mellon fellowship partner presses, and the AUPresses have undertaken in the area of equity, inclusion, and justice more broadly. Please join me in celebrating her today.