Waterfront Seattle: Call for Artists (Public Piers)

Entry Deadline: 1/9/14
Application Closed


Images - Minimum: 0, Maximum: 20
Total Media - Minimum: 0, Maximum: 20


The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, in collaboration with the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), seeks an artist or artist team to create a significant public artwork sited on piers being reconstructed as part of Waterfront Seattle, a 26-acre redevelopment of the Seattle Central Waterfront.

Scope of Work

The selected artist or artist team will collaborate with the project design team, including james corner field operations, to create an original artwork or series of artworks on Union Street Pier or Pier 62/63. Following approval of an art concept, the selected artist will continue on with design development and implementation of the artwork. The commissioned work can be in any medium. Though well-integrated into its site, the artwork should be very legible as an autonomous artistic intervention in the landscape. At the same time, the artwork must permit the uses and functions of its larger context. Artwork must be durable and low-maintenance in this marine environment.


Urban Design Objectives

Several major projects are underway and planned for Seattle’s Central Waterfront over the next six 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, creating new connections between downtown and the waterfront. At the same time the city is working to rebuild the Elliott Bay Seawall.

A Concept Design and Framework Plan have been completed by the design team, led by james corner field operations, as part of Waterfront Seattle, a cohesive program for re-envisioning the waterfront and its connections to downtown and beyond.  The plan includes a diverse range of new public spaces and several new pedestrian connections to the waterfront. Between the street and the water’s edge, a broad promenade will run along the waterfront, and existing piers will be re-constructed as new public open spaces. The concept of the “Bay Ring” sees the central waterfront as part of a system of paths, networks, parks, and spaces that encircle Elliott Bay. Waterfront Seattle thus seeks to recenter the city on its bay. The city and state are working collaboratively across agencies and projects to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape Seattle’s waterfront.

The new piers will be left open to a range of possible uses. The Framework Plan calls out Pier 62/63’s “former life as a performance pier that brought together people, music and sunsets over Elliott Bay,” and describes it as a “primary public space on the waterfront.” It is conceived in the Concept Design as “an activity pier filled with recreational amenities… a hub for sport and play.” A floating pool barge will be moored off the pier in warm weather, and both the barge and the pier will be able to host events, performances, and small concerts. “The south edge of the pier,” per the Concept Design, “will step down to provide grandstand seating with views of the bay, ferries, and West Seattle.”

Union Street Pier, which replaces the 1970s-era Waterfront Park, and is sited between the Seattle Aquarium and the historic piers to the south, is described in the Framework Plan as “a meeting ground, gathering space, point of entry and place of learning and discovery on the waterfront.” The Concept Design plan calls for “a lively, fun and flexible space that will play host to events, performances and activities while providing open views to Elliott Bay.” The pier is planned to include a large water feature.

Public Art Objectives

As part of the Waterfront Seattle framework plan, the design team, including an artist and arts consultants completed an art plan entitled A Working Plan for Art on the Central Seattle Waterfront . The art plan identifies the waterfront as the intersection of three forces: ecology, economy, and community, which have reshaped its function and physical character over long periods of time. Seeing the waterfront as a working waterfront through most of its inhabited history, the art plan proposes arts and culture as active presences on a new working waterfront. Alongside permanent commissioned artworks, the plan calls for events, residencies, cultural and educational institutions, and working artists on the waterfront. The Seattle Arts Commission reviewed and endorsed the art plan, and it guides the development of art projects for the waterfront.

The art plan calls out Pier 62/63 and Union Street Pier as significant parts of the new waterfront, and Pier 62/63 particularly as a suitable site for a major work of art. “Pier 62/63 is an iconic site on the Seattle Waterfront. It has been home to groundbreaking musical performances, events, and commissions of public artwork. It offers a panoramic view of Seattle’s port operations at Harbor Island and on piers to the north, underscoring the various forms of global exchange supported on the waterfront.”  

The art plan takes up the design concept of the Bay Ring and its interlinking sites and “extend[s] these links beyond the shoreline limit and beyond the physical, creating new cultural connections between the city and the rest of the world.” The sites proposed for this commission, as piers, link to Seattle’s history as a port, and to the connections made between the local and the global on the waterfront. This call responds to the significance of the piers as markers of that history, and should result in a work of global significance.

The project should “respond to the same conditions that all artwork on the waterfront must: sensitivity to the waterfront design, knowledge of the history and ecology of the site, and fluency in the concerns and interests of the Seattle community.”


Project Partners

Under the direction of the Office of Arts & Culture, the selected artist or artist team will work with project designers and engineers from Waterfront Seattle (including james corner field operations as primary collaborators), SDOT, other city departments and community representatives to select a site on the public piers and develop an integrated artwork or works.


Sites for artwork must fall within the project area. This commission is intended to result in a work sited on Union Street Pier or Pier 62/63.


The artist will join the Waterfront Seattle team in February 2014 and will initially be contracted for concept design only. In that month, design for both piers will be at 30% completion, reaching the end of the Schematic Design phase. The artist will develop a conceptual direction for the artwork over the first half of 2014, in tandem with design development of the public piers. Final design, fabrication and installation will be scheduled when the construction phasing is set. During this process, the artist’s work should bring them into frequent contact with the cultural community and the public.



The budget for this commission is approximately $1,000,000 from Elliott Bay Seawall Bond 1% for Art funds. This amount is inclusive of design, fabrication, delivery, installation, travel, fees, taxes, 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. Additional funds may be raised privately to supplement the project budget.


This call is open to all professional artists working in the United States or internationally who have been practicing for at least ten years and have a record of successfully realizing projects of a similar scale in the public realm.

Application deadline

The application deadline is 11 p.m. Thursday, December 19, 2013 (Pacific Time).


Applications must include:

Letter of Interest (2,000 character limit). Please provide a statement describing your interest in and qualifications for this specific waterfront pier commission. Speak to how your approach meshes with the goals of the waterfront art plan. Address selection criteria and include specific references to your previous artworks in public places. Describe your availability and ability to work within the compressed timeline.



Work Samples. Up to 20 images

SELECTION CRITERIA The artist will be selected on the basis of the following criteria, as evidenced in application materials, conversations with listed references, and finalist interviews with the selection panel:

  • Suitability for the site and the Waterfront Seattle project.
  • Quality of concept, design and craftsmanship of past artworks.
  • Past experience working in public, 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. SELECTION PROCESS 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 four weeks later. The panel will select one artist or artist team to be awarded the commission. The city reserves the right not to select any artists for this commission. NOTIFICATION OF RESULTS WE’RE HERE TO HELP Please contact Eric Fredericksen,Eric.fredericksen@seattle.gov, (206) 733-9838 For assistance with the CaFE online application process, contact CaFE tech support at (888) 562-7232 or cafe@westaf.org, Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

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