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Design in Community – SDF Block Party

Design in Community

The Seattle Design Festival tells a story. This story culminates in an annual celebration of our design community each summer, but the connections we forge within that community, and the stories they have to share, last throughout the year. Follow along with Design in Community, as we highlight some of the design stories from our community through photos and sound.

Making Connections


Word spread quickly. 

Visitors to the Seattle Design Festival learned that the design firm NBBJ, in collaboration with GLY Construction and Berger Partnership, offered saplings mostly native to the Pacific Northwest for attendees to replant in their communities. 

Intended to be an element of the firm’s interactive installation Forest Net(work), the trees encouraged visitors to consider the intimate connections between humans and nature. It also challenged visitors to take a personal stake in combating climate change. 

“The plants are doing all the heavy lifting for us,”  says NBBJ designer Juan Rodriquez Lopez. “We have definitely seen a great number of people who are interested in coming here, interested in the planting process and giving a little back to their community.”

This year’s festival theme of CONNECTION offered a welcome opportunity for the firm to build upon its mission of strengthening the ties between building design and community engagement in helping their clients create meaningful impact.  

“Our firm NBBJ has participated quite a few times in years’ past” Lopez says. “[the Seattle Design Festival] looks like a great activity to be out here and engage with the community.”

Word-of-mouth also found other forms. 

DLR Group partnered with PCL Construction to offer the installation Memory Strings. The installation demonstrates the ways connections emerge between people and lead to the generation of trends. 

“Each of our posts has a series of hooks on it,” explains DLR Group lighting designer Mark Snell.  “You can pull a string along and choose your answers, hooking in as you go along.”

As participation grew, the string filled the space of the gaps in the installation, creating a mosaic of colors and trajectories that helped identify shared sentiments.

“What we see now is a labyrinth of string,” Snell adds. “You can notice different trends of which questions were more popular.”

It suits the nature of the DLR Group.

“DLR is an integrated architecture firm,” he offers. “We have a lot of architects and also a bunch of other disciplines and specialty trades within.

“It was really the teams at my office that said that we really want to invest in this.”

Familiar with the firm’s long-standing relationship with the Seattle Design Festival, Snell found it only natural to desire to be part of this year’s DLR Group team.

“It seemed like a really fun way to engage with the design community and my co-workers as well,” he says.

There are patterns and an art to being together, Snell suggests. It’s a message further strengthened by the Center on Contemporary Art’s addition to the festival.

“So creating a design element that actually helps people really make the connection to art itself,” says a CoCA volunteer.“I think that’s the biggest connection being made.”

“I love this space,” she adds, reflecting upon the ways the Seattle Design Festival invites communities to come together and to contemplate the often complicated ways they often do by word-of-mouth, through art, or by design.