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08 Oct 2018

What We Learned: Beyond the Umwelt

Our gratitude to the more than 50 people who participated in our recent design workshop, Beyond the Umwelt, facilitated by Milenko Matanovic of the Pomegranate Center. For two hours Milenko led us through a participatory process to reimagine the public space that surrounds our Pioneer Square campus across in Pioneer Square. Umwelt is a concept introduced by Biologist Jakob von Uexküll in 1909 that describes how different species can share the same ecosystem yet be oblivious to the presence of each other.

We used this lens to imagine improvements to the external space that would break down barriers among people who use the streetscape daily – those passing by, those working in our space, and those living desperate lives on the streets just outside our windows. The proposals included a wide range of creative uses of art, light, plants, gardens, street furniture, and street activation.

Consistent to all proposals was the sentiment to break through the Umwelt and connect more meaningfully the different worlds occupying the public space surrounding us. Could we embed access to counseling, health care, drug rehab, and housing services into our business model? How can we help tell more broadly the heart-wrenching stories of those who are suffering? And perhaps, what would it look like if we worked with public officials and service providers to provide more humane emergency shelter on the sidewalks that surround us?

We are deeply appreciative for Milenko’s brilliance and all of you who contributed to the workshop. Please stay tuned as we explore the possibilities with all the powers that be, and enjoy a few more photos from the event below!


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