White Center is an unincorporated area in the King County, surrounded by the cities of Seattle and Burien. The neighborhood is one of the most culturally diverse in the region with growing immigrant populations from Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. The neighborhood’s cultural diversity coupled with social and economic stresses in the community have drawn growing attention from various government agencies and non-profit organizations. A significant number of studies have been done to identify the unique characteristics and needs of the community. Building on the previous studies, this studio is a part of a coordinated effort by White Center Community Development Association, University of Washington and other community partners to develop a comprehensive plan to meet the multiple challenges facing the community, ranging from community building, social service, economic development, education, and public safety to improvements of open space and streetscapes.

While focusing on the design and planning of open space, the studio will also address the broader concerns for community development. The result of a recent community visioning exercise in particular raised important questions concerning the relationship between physical improvements and community revitalization and empowerment. Although consistently highlighted in meetings and reports, the issues of open space received the lowest ranking compared with the issues of jobs and businesses, arts and culture, public safety, housing, and education. Does the issue of open space improvements necessarily take a back seat in a community facing social and economic stress? Or, have the connections between open space improvements and broader prospects of community developments been overlooked?

To address these questions, the studio will engage in a critical re-examination of open space and streetscape improvements as a part of the repertoire for community development in White Center. Specifically, through the studio projects, we will develop tactical approaches to address the connections between the design and programming of open space and streetscapes and the concerns for economic development, public safety, health, community building and environmental sustainability in the community. The studio will begin with an area-wide inventory and analysis of existing conditions, followed by development of pilot projects in collaboration with community stakeholders.


  • To develop a critical perspective on the conceptualization and issues of community open space
  • To explore tactical connections between streetscape and open space improvement and the broader and diverse concerns for community development
  • To develop open space recommendations designed to help the White Center community achieve their goals.
  • To develop skills of community design through service learning

As hard-headed ideological, large-scale urban interventions are no longer relevant or even desirable, new tactics have to be forged to interact with the present urban condition.

Nicholas Boyarsky and Peter Lang (2003)

Tactics means doing what you can with what you have.

Saul Alinsky (1971)


Instructor: Jeff Hou. Students: Savanna Hines-Elzinga, Tehia Kalebaugh, Kayla Lowber, Michael Michalek, Nicole Mikesh, Peter Nelson, Terry Shaver, Tim Shuck, Zach Smith, Kent Straub-Jones, Dylan Yamashita, Xiao Wei Zhang