Media Program Students View Yesler Terrace Project Through an Earth Science Lens

Students in the Summer Youth Media Program at Yesler Terrace visited GeoEngineers’ Seattle office on July 17th to learn about the company’s role in the Yesler Terrace redevelopment project. Chris Nordfors, GeoEngineers’ marketing director, welcomed the group and principal geologist Dave Cook, LG, CPG talked with them about how Geo’s earth scientists and engineers are helping plan the Yesler Terrace project.

Seventy-year-old Yesler Terrace is a public housing development that houses 1,200 residents and is one of Seattle’s most diverse and economically challenged communities. In an urban renewal project of unprecedented scale, the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) has embarked on redeveloping the 30-acre neighborhood into a dynamic and welcoming mixed-use community. SHA estimates that replacing the aging housing and 100-year-old infrastructure will take about 15 years. For the past year and a half, GeoEngineers has worked on the planning phases of the project with SHA, the architectural firm GGLO and civil engineers and landscape architects SvR.

The six-week Summer Youth Media Program at Yesler Terrace is designed for teens who live at Yesler Terrace and central-city neighborhoods and was developed by Seattle University’s fine arts photography program, Youth in Focus, Photographic Center Northwest, the Yesler Learning Center and the Multimedia Resources and Training Institute. In the coming weeks, the teens will explore and develop their expressive voice through photography and video as they examine the history and diversity of Yesler Terrace and the impact of the redevelopment project on their neighborhood. Their documentary photographs and videos will be published in newspapers and broadcast through the Multimedia Training and Recourse Center and their work will form the foundation of an archive of the redevelopment project.

In his presentation, Dave introduced the group to basic earth science concepts such as the hydrologic cycle, understanding topographic maps, why geology is important to consider long before buildings are designed and constructed. He used maps, geological diagrams and a newspaper clipping to familiarize students the major landslide that occurred at the south edge of the site in 1936, and then discussed the system of drainage tunnels that were installed under the slide area by the Works Progress Administration after that event. Dave also touched on the topic of green building and described the field testing GeoEngineers had conducted to assess the viability of incorporating geoexchange heating and cooling into the Yesler Terrace building plans. The students had a video camera rolling, took notes and photos, and asked Dave several insightful questions.

Chris, who is a board member at Youth in Focus, commented after the session, “It was our pleasure to host the Summer Youth Media Program at GeoEngineers. We’re always looking for ways to excite young people about how earth science makes a difference in people’s lives, so we welcomed this opportunity. The group met members of our marketing group as well, and saw proof that studying art, photography and communication can lead to jobs.”

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