AKA: UPS Park, Seattle, WA; Waterfall Garden, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: landscapes - parks - urban parks

Designers: Sasaki Associates, Landscape Architects (firm); Sellen Construction Company, Incorporated (firm); Masao Kinoshita (landscape architect); Hideo Sasaki (landscape architect/urban planner); John Henry Sellen Sr. (building contractor/civil engineer)

Dates: constructed 1978

total floor area: 6,480 sq. ft.

219 2nd Avenue South
Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA 98104-2601

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The phenonmenon of "vest-pocket" parks, as they were called originally, began with Robert Zion and Harold Breen's 1967 design for Samuel Paley Plaza in New York City. This dimunitive design demonstrated that even small-scale parks could effectively provide respites from the unrelenting noise and concrete of urban cores. Waterfall Garden Park, a 60 x 80-foot sancutary, opened in 1978, commemorated UPS founder James Casey, and his founding of the American Messenger Company on this spot in Seattle's Pioneer Square neighborhood. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a charity founded by James Casey, provided the funds for construction, maintenance and security for the park. When the park is closed, gates lock to keep the area secure. This park used moving water and its gentle, continuous sounds to screen out the urban din and to provide a focal point for contemplation in the space. Significantly, it sought to inject a starkly naturalistic setting into the heart of Seattle's first central business district.

Building History

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a charity organized in 1948, paid for this small "pocket park" located in Downtown Seattle, WA, named in honor of James Casey (1888-1983), founder of the Seattle-based American Messenger Company, a firm that developed into the shipping giant, United Parcel Service (UPS). Annie E. Casey was James's mother, a strong single parent, who kept her family together after the death of her husband. She instilled in James the qualities of hard work, loyalty to family and charity that guided his business career.

Waterfall Park was designed by Masao Kinoshita within the firm of Sasaki Associates, Incorporated, Landscape Architects, of Watertown, MA. This firm was responsible for many parks and university plans across the U.S. It was called "Waterfall Park," "Waterfall Garden" or "UPS [United Parcel Service] Park," as it was located on the site of the first UPS headquarters in Seattle's Pioneer Square Neighborhood in 1907. The Anne E. Casey Foundation of Seattle, WA, formed as a result of largesse from UPS, has maintained the park since its completion in 08/1978. Sellen Construction Company collaborated with Sasaki Associates to build Waterfall Garden Park. A framed information card, hanging in the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Seattle headquarters, provided a great deal of information about this project and included a photo of Annie E. Casey. This card described the park: "Waterfall Garden has an L-shaped upper terrace slightly raised above the surrounding street, and a lower rectangular terrace at the center of the park. The upper terrace is protected by a transparent trellis roof. Heating elements built into the trellis arches warm the sitting area below in cool weather. The lower terrace is open to the sky. Among the distinctive features of the Garden are the small tables and chairs on the upper and lower terraces. Seasonal flowering plants fill many planters informally placed about the park. The focus of the Garden is a 22-foot-high waterfall composed of natural granite boulders taken from a nearby mountainside and a mass of cascading water. The falling water requires the pumping of 5,000 gallons of water per minute, continuously filtered and recirculated for conservation purposes. A stone sculpture marks the entry to the park. They are connected by a stream of water at the edge of the upper terrace which, like a flowing brook, completely surrounds the occupants of the park. Landscaping provides a green contrast to the texture and color of the granite, brick and steel. Japanese maples and tanyasho pines are planted amid lily turf ground cover. Azaleas, rhododendron, david viburnam and sarcococca provide early spring and summer blossoms. Geranium creepers on the brick walls turn a brilliant red color in the fall." (Text from a poster in the Annie E. Casey Foundation Offices, 121 Vine Street, #2103, Seattle, WA, 98121; tel: 206.956.8548 [2011]; accessed in 2010.)

According to a Seattle Times article of 1981, another landscape contractor was Yoruzu Gardening Company, the main builder of the University of Washington's Japanese Garden. This article reported that the garden was awarded the 1981 Environmental Award of the American Nurserymens Association. (See "Waterfall Garden wins environmental award," Seattle Times, 09/19/1981, p, B10.)

Building Notes

Waterfall Garden park, Seattle, WA, was created on a diminutive scale, 60 x 80 feet, and planted with shrubs and Japanese maples. A major element was its water feature, a prominent 22-foot waterfall. Five thousand gallons of water per minute flowed over the falls. This feature was reminiscent of Hideo Sasaki's better-known Greenacre Park (1971) on East 51st Street in New York, NY. Waterfall Garden Park won a Landscape Award from the American Association of Nurserymen, in its 26th Landscape Awards Program, 1981. Tel: (206) 624-6096 (2010).

The Daily Journal of Commerce (DJC) said of the park in a survey of top landscape settings in Seattle: "The formality of this small space is contrasted with the naturalistic appearance of the waterfall, similar to those found in the nearby Cascade and Olympic mountains. This is an early example of an 'eroded edge' between architectural and natural design elements which has become a significant theme in modern landscape architecture. An intimate, oasis-like refuge for seating and a contemplative pocket park, Waterfall Garden is Seattle’s answer to the celebrated Paley Park in New York. While its 22-foot-high rock waterfall appears to be natural, it can also be viewed as a modern interpretation of a traditional Japanese garden." (See Don Benson, Daily Journal of Commerce.com, "Seattle's Best Outdoor Spaces," published 04/10/1993, accessed 08/09/2017.)

PCAD id: 14786