Whenever a public space redesign is proposed, like that of Waterfront Seattle, it brings out a lot of armchair critics and naysayers. Rarely do any of these people focus on the myriad of positive details about such products — instead, they’ll often hyper-focus on a handful of details that are only a part of the overall vision, or things which would certainly be adjusted and improved prior to the final design execution.
So it is with "Waterfront park needs a dose of reality”, where the main criticism seems to be focused upon how the designers’ concept drawings were illustrated in too-positive a manner. Apparently, the critic was displeased that the illustrations weren’t representative of rainy days, unhappy people, and a depiction of some theoretical dystopian future where the park was run-down, polluted and ill-maintained. I have yet to see examples of where architectural designers and urban planners purposefully drew up illustrations in a way that would totally undermine any reasons for going forward with a project!
Likewise, in “The waxing and waning of Seattle’s waterfront plan”, the writer criticizes some of the artistic elements of the newly updated design, suggesting that misty rocks were unnecessary since Seattle already has plenty of that — and they criticize a park segment that contains lots of plants for interrupting the view and, well, for having lots of plants! (I’m not sure whether they’re aware that green space is generally highly-valued within urban centers — take Manhattan’s Central Park, for instance. Or the fact that a “park” probably needs some green space — where there isn’t some already, work would ideally need to be done to introduce some.) He also critiques the suggested addition of public swimming pools and hottubs on the grounds that Seattle already has some (where does that logic end…? we already have parks, too, so perhaps we don’t need this one…?). Further, he describes the numbers of people depicted as “perplexingly packed with people participating in an alarming number of activities”. See… the point is to depict people doing things there so that you get a sense of scale, and so that you can envision a variety of options and uses for the people — it’s not necessarily suggesting that all things will be done by a maximum number of people at every given moment. At least the article also provided some grudging amounts of admiration for parts of the designs, while also trying to find fairly petty things to pick apart about them.
Designed and planned beautiful public spaces are assets for cities which help them on multiple dimensions — the work involved reinjects tax dollars back into the communities in the form of construction jobs and a trickle-down of material sales associated. The final public spaces also may be expected to bring in more cultural community activities, and helps to invigorate real estate prices in the area and surrounding districts. In general, all ships tend to rise on the tide of such projects — the overall positive impact is the big takeaway, but often times those with limited vision get hung up on nitpicking at details in drawings.