Call Detail

City of Seattle: Seawall Project Call for Sound Artwork
Seattle Office of Arts & Culture
PO Box 94748
Seattle, WA 98124-4748

Entry Deadline: 7/11/13
Application Closed


Images - Minimum: 0, Maximum: 16
Total Media - Minimum: 0, Maximum: 16


The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, in collaboration with the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), seeks an artist or artist team to create an integrated sound-based artwork on the Elliott Bay waterfront. The project is funded by 1% for Art funds generated by the reconstruction of the Elliott Bay Seawall in downtown Seattle, part of a larger project of redeveloping Seattle’s Central Waterfront. Using the immaterial medium of sound, possibly in conjunction with physical structures, the selected artist will create a site-specific or site-responsive work that will expand visitors’ experience of the waterfront. The piece may introduce sound to the site, or it may attenuate, concentrate or otherwise manipulate existing sounds. To those ends, it may use electronics, or acoustic and resonant materials, or physical structures.

The Elliott Bay Seawall Project will replace the existing deteriorated seawall in downtown Seattle, from South Washington Street to Broad Street, with a structure that meets current ecological, safety and design standards. The city plans to replace the most deteriorated sections of the central seawall beginning in late 2013 and continuing through 2016, with a second phase of work for the north seawall following as funding is available. The central seawall, the focus area of this art opportunity, is between South Washington Street (at the Washington Street Boat Landing) and Virginia Street (at the northern edge of Pier 62/63). Replacement of the central seawall is being funded through a bond measure that was approved by voters in the November 2012 election. Design of the central seawall is moving rapidly to allow this public safety project to be built as soon as possible. Completion of 60 percent of the design occurred in December 2012. Final design is expected to be complete in August 2013, with construction starting concurrently.

Urban Design Objectives
There are many projects underway or planned for Seattle’s Central Waterfront in the next five to 10 years. Currently, the Washington State Department of Transportation is replacing the aged Alaskan Way Viaduct, which separates Seattle’s downtown from the waterfront, with a bored tunnel. Upon completion of the tunnel (in late 2015), the viaduct will be demolished and a new surface street will be constructed in its place to support the tunnel and reconnect downtown to the waterfront. The city and state are working collaboratively across projects and agencies to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to re-shape Seattle’s waterfront.

Replacing the seawall is the foundational step toward a future Seattle waterfront. A concept design and framework plan has been completed by james corner field operations (jcfo) as part of Waterfront Seattle, a cohesive program for re-envisioning the waterfront and its connections to downtown and other locations, both local and global. The plan includes public spaces that will enliven the waterfront, including a pedestrian walkway called the Tideline Promenade that will be built atop the new seawall and span the waterfront from north to south.

Public Art Objectives
An art plan entitled A Working Plan for Art on the Central Seattle Waterfront was completed as part of the Waterfront Seattle framework plan. It identifies the seawall as one of several core sites for art, in particular calling out art for the seawall that reveals tidal processes and creates a more bio-positive environment. The Seawall Project design team includes artist team Haddad|Drugan, who have identified specific opportunities for integrating art in a way that interprets and applies concepts of the waterfront art plan to conditions, goals and structures particular to the seawall. The Elliott Bay Seawall Project Art Programming Plan identifies four principal commissions around themes of habitat, light, utility and sound. The artist or artist team selected for this commission will work within the medium of sound. In a built-up environment of historic port structures, tourist attractions and commerce, the city seeks to commission works that exist as environments more than objects, phenomena more than sculpture. A large roadway, tourists and locals, gulls and lapping waves, ships and trucks, and swimmers and kayakers, all near the seawall, will provide interesting sources of sound, which the work could mitigate, modify or be superimposed upon. The work in sound can serve to emphasize the existing site or contribute to the richness of its experience for visitors.

Link to Seawall Art Programming Plan

The Seawall Art Programming Plan describes the genesis and intention of this project: “The plasticity of sound offers an infinite palette for artists. Sounds can be collected, revealed, created, manipulated, mixed and juxtaposed to create audio art that communicates particular aspects of a place in unique ways. [...] The Seattle waterfront is characterized by a wide array of sonic-source material ranging from the natural acoustics of Puget Sound’s underwater world, to its marine life, to the cultural and industrial sounds of its people at recreation and work, to vehicles on the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The commissioned artist will be encouraged to tap into conditions of the seawall site to create a site-specific artwork that resonates with or creates a sense of place. With time as an essential component, audio art, whether pre-recorded or created in real time, can layer a narrative structure onto an experience of place. This can work particularly well if applied to a promenade such as that being created along the seawall.”

In its current state, ambient sound on the waterfront is dominated by the sounds of car and truck traffic on the Alaskan Way Viaduct. When the viaduct is removed in 2016, the waterfront will remain noisy, but with a greater diversity of sound sources: water, wind, small boats, ferries, freighters, gulls, traffic on the new Alaskan Way, and crowds of visitors on foot and bike. This commission’s specific challenge is to work with or around existing sounds to create a significant presence on the waterfront. An approach that focuses, manipulates or directs existing sound may be as effective as one that introduces new sounds to the site.


Project Partners
Under the direction of the Office of Arts & Culture, the selected artist will work with project designers and engineers from the Elliott Bay Seawall Project and Waterfront Seattle (including james corner field operations as a primary collaborator), SDOT, other city departments and community representatives to select sites and develop sound-based art for the Elliott Bay Seawall Project. The Waterfront program art manager, working with both Arts and SDOT, will support the process for development and implementation of the artwork.

Scope of Work
One artist or artist team will collaborate with the project design team to create an original artwork or series of artworks within the project site. Following approval of an art concept, the selected artist will continue on with design development and implementation of the artwork. Artwork must be durable and low-maintenance in this marine environment.

Sites for artwork must fall within the Central Waterfront area (between South Washington and Virginia Streets), as defined by the city project team. Certain areas of the Tideline Promenade, such as overlooks on the main passage and upland portions of the waterfront site, may be more amenable to art integration; however, the city and design team are open to a wide exploration of art locations by the commissioned artist.

The artist will join the Seawall Project team in August 2013 and will initially be contracted for concept design only. The artist will develop a conceptual direction for the artwork in summer and fall 2013. Upon acceptance of the concept design by the Office of Arts & Culture’s Public Art Advisory Committee, the Office will contract the selected artist for design development, engineering, fabrication and installation of the artwork. The Seawall Project is scheduled to reach 90 percent design in May and final design in August 2013. Construction of the seawall and promenade is anticipated to occur over three years, with completion scheduled for early 2016.

One artist or artist team will be selected to receive a commission of approximately $200,000. This amount is inclusive of all fees, taxes, fabrication, delivery, installation, travel and other project-related costs. The selected artist will receive an initial contract to develop the artwork concept design. If the design proposal is accepted, the artist will receive a subsequent contract to develop the design and fabricate and install the artwork. Depending on the nature of the artwork concept and early identification of needs, the Elliott Bay Seawall Project may be able to provide some support for construction, electrical connections and engineering.

The call is open to professional artists residing in the United States and Canada who are eligible to work in the U.S.

The application deadline is 11 p.m., Thursday, July 11, 2013 (Pacific Daylight Time).

Applications must include:

  • Letter of Interest (2,000 character limit). Please provide a statement describing your interest in and unique qualifications for this specific project and specific commission. Address selection criteria and include specific references to your experience using sound in past artwork. Describe your availability and ability to work within the compressed timeline.

  • Curriculum Vitae/Resume

  • References

  • Work Samples. Up to five minutes of documentation in audio or video format. Preferred file formats are avi, wav, and mp3. These should be mailed on CD or DVD, accompanied by a work sample identification list, and postmarked by July 11 to:

    Sandy Esene
    Panel Coordinator
    Seattle Office of Arts & Culture
    PO Box 94748
    Seattle WA 98124-4748

The artist will be selected on the basis of the following criteria:

  • Quality of concept, design, and craftsmanship of past artworks.

  • Past experience using sound in artworks, especially in site-specific contexts.

  • Experience working with and proven ability to collaborate in design teams, with design professionals, and with community stakeholders.

  • Demonstrated ability to complete projects on time and within budget.

  • Availability to work in a compressed timeframe.

The Office of Arts & Culture is committed to reflecting the diversity and cultural richness of our city in the selection of artists and artworks.

The selection will take place in two parts. During the first round of the selection process a panel of arts professionals, client representatives, and community members will review the applicants’ samples, qualifications, and other materials. The panelists will identify up to four finalists to interview at a second panel meeting two to three weeks later. The panel will select one artist or artist team to be awarded the commission.


Please contact
Eric Fredericksen,, (206) 733-9838

For assistance with the CaFE online application process, contact CaFE tech support at (888) 562-7232 or, Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.