Moving Forward To Look Back: My Love Letter To The Seattle We Miss

By Amber Manuguid, Senior Designer

Over the past few years Seattle has been a construction zone. Everything is suddenly new and expensive, pushing out and covering up any trace of the culture and history that the Emerald City was once home to.

I am not a native Seattleite, but I grew up just a ferry ride away. My siblings and I all graduated from the University of Washington and with an age gap of 12 years with my eldest sister, spending time in Seattle was always a big part of my life. When I’d visit as a kid, one of my favorite things to do was to collect buildings and homes in my mind, claiming them. I’d imagine one day living there, or having breakfast there, or shopping there. However, I’ve watched so many of these places get fenced off with land-use notices prominently placed in front. Today they are gone and all I can do is be thankful I was able to experience them.

That being said, I do believe that progress and innovation are essential, and I would never want to stunt this city’s potential. I just don’t entirely agree with progress being in the form of an Office Max on Broadway, of all places. No disrespect to Office Max, but can you really imagine Sir Mix-a-Lot’s posse dropping by? “Go back the other way, we’ll stop and make some copies.” I simply fear that in this process we are both losing and forgetting so much of Seattle. Just the other day I stopped by my old apartment building on Capitol Hill to find the lot across the street demolished and fenced off. Even though I lived there for 5 years I struggled to remember what was there. The city is building so quickly it’s constantly “I can’t believe such and such is gone. Remember, it was the place where the Panera is now?” And sadly no, we probably don’t remember, or we kinda do…. uh, I’m not sure.

So in thinking about the progress and innovation that comes with growth, I’ve dreamt up a tool that pushes technology forward in order to allow us to look back. Harnessing the power of augmented reality, the application would replace any current building you point your phone at with what once was there. Just hold up your phone, wait for it to recognize the location and scrub through the timeline, fading between decades of life in that exact location. It would all appear through your phone as if your camera was actually pointing at it. Go ahead, walk around, and feel like you’re there in a different time.

You can also learn more about the actual history, when it was built, what it was used for, who hung out there, it’s significance to the city, and so on. In my video below I’ve used the corner of the Belmont and Olive to help us remember the old Seattle classic; the B&O Espresso coffee shop. It had really good cake and was a Pearl Jam hang-out…what more could you ask for? In my example I take us back to 1995, but you could scrub back to 1900 if you wanted to.

The changes in Seattle are far more than just a loss of buildings, it’s people being displaced and all traces of their contributions demolished. While an app won’t fix this problem, it can at least help us to be mindful of how we’re moving forward by allowing us to acknowledge the past.

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