“Growing Vine Street” (the Beckoning Cistern and Cistern Steps) Vine Street between 1st and Elliott Avenues • Seattle, Washington
GAYNOR, Inc. landscape architects
Buster Simpson, artist
SvR, civil engineers
Reduce downstream damage from runoff
Safely move, control, contain rainwater
Restore or create habitat
The basic stormwater management concept for the Beckoning Cistern is capture, convey, cleanse, and reuse for irrigation; the Cistern Steps’ intent is to capture, convey, cleanse, and either infiltrate or detain and discharge.
Beckoning Cistern is a 15’ tall, 6’ diameter galvanized aluminum cylinder that captures rainwater from the roof of the adjacent 81 Vine building; roof runoff is first filtered in rooftop planters, then falls via downspout to the cistern, where a flow splitter sends some runoff into the container while the rest drops into the first of 3 round planters, set within a bed of native plants, that cascade down the hill; a concrete scupper extends from each planter to spill rainwater overflow to the next planter. Notably, the rest of the roof runoff is carried to the city storm system via a most unusual “candelabra-form” downspout designed by Carlson Architects. This playful, creative infrastructure uses two separate “lumiere-like” interludes of plant-topped arms to force runoff diversion and oxygenation.
Cistern Steps, designed to capture roof runoff from the Vine Building across the street, is a tiered series of four concrete biofiltration basins that—like the Beckoning Cistern system uphill—each discharge overflow to the next via a concrete scupper. Rainwater that makes it to the end disappears in a final, carved jade basin that connects to the city storm system.
Within a community of artists, this quirky, fun ARD makes a fitting statement about the place. First, 81 Vine discharges its roof runoff into 2 eye-catching downspout art pieces by artist Buster Simpson, one against the building and one in the right-of-way between sidewalk and street. The downspout closest to Western Avenue was described earlier: two plant-topped candelabra arms make the downward water flow obvious and fun: one can imagine the falling water caught and bounced up into each arm to water the plants. The other downspout and the Beckoning Cistern present a tongue-in-cheek riff on Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel painting of Adam reaching his finger to gain life from God—but this time it’s the cistern extending a “finger” to receive water. The downspout providing that life-giving water peels away from the building, angling out to meet the cistern “index finger”—a piece of half-round downspout, jointed to bend like a human finger. Three other downspout sections extend from the cistern to form the remaining fingers, while a 5th—the “thumb”—serves as a scupper that sends some of the runoff to the tiered bioretention basins below. A red-and-white dip stick protrudes from the cistern top, showing the volume currently contained.
The rest of the green infrastructure presents a more subdued landscape amenity, with rainwater cascading down the hill in two separate series of planted basins located between street and sidewalk.