Honestly, I’m as much of a cultural elitist as the next guy, but is this really the best use of Seattle Center’s precious open space?
A plan to turn part of the Seattle Center grounds into exhibit space for glass artist Dale Chihuly is generating controversy after gliding along quietly for months.
The plan would use the Center’s existing Fun Forest arcade building, plus much of the open space where kiddie rides now stand, to create 44,000 square feet of exhibit space for Chihuly’s work. Patrons would have to pay to enter the building, but some works would be installed outside, where the public could view them for free. The site would include an “art garden” and “glass house” separate from the building, as well as a gift shop and café inside.
As a divorced father with a young child, the Seattle Center was a bit of a mecca for us. Between the Children’s Museum and the Science Center and the various rotating events at the Center House and elsewhere, there was a several year span when my daughter and I probably visited the Seattle Center at least once a month. And yes, the Fun Forest was a regular part of our outings, and, in fact, often the highlight for my adrenaline-addicted, roller-coaster-loving little girl.
Personally, my preference would be to keep the Fun Forest, as tacky and cheesy and déclassé as it might be. But if the economics don’t support it, do we really have to convert the space into yet another hangout for latte-sipping yuppies? I mean, Chihuly is great and all that, but he already has a fantastic museum in nearby Tacoma, plus several excellent public installations throughout Seattle. But what we don’t have in our city, as evidenced by the hordes of young families who already crowd the Center in good and bad weather alike, are enough great spaces for children to be children.
So here’s a rather simple idea: rather than converting the Fun Forest into yet another high-priced museum (for the cost of our combined tickets to the EMP, for example, my daughter could have gone on 15 rides), why not convert the space into the nation’s most kick-ass public playground?
Think about it: climbing toys, ball pits, zip lines, slides, swings and fun stuff like that, part open to the sky and part covered (it sometimes rains in Seattle, you know) and all of it attached to an indoor/outdoor cafe where parents can keep an eye on their kids while relaxing with a cup of coffee or a civilized glass of wine. A destination where families can hang out together, instead of yet another place to just, you know, look at art, if you’re willing and able to pay the price of admission.
Seattle’s a great city, but it isn’t exactly family-friendly, and we sure as hell don’t make it any family-friendlier by replacing an amusement park with yet another museum. A kick-ass playground is what this city really needs — a huge, outrageous, jaw-dropping, eye-popping, whimsical, indoor/outdoor play zone. And the Seattle Center’s dingy old Fun Forest is the perfect place to build it.