ICONIC: Brightwater Treatment Plant, Seattle

Another excellent example of the greater Seattle area’s commitment to arts and design integration into all public works projects is a wastewater treatment plant in King County called Brightwater, located in Woodinville, Washington.

Here, a range of artists, including Buster Simpson, Jim Blashfield, Jan Rosen-Queralt, Ellen Sollod, Jane Tsong, et al., have created artworks that make Brightwater’s wastewater treatment process accessible and educational for visitors.

A Mithun Architects-designed visitor center, which opened in 2011, features 15,000 square feet of educational and laboratory space that overlooks stormwater detention wetscapes.

Photo courtesy of Urban Gardens Web

Photo courtesy of Urban Gardens Web

Inside the LEED Platinum-certified Brightwater Center are several artist-designed features, including filmmaker Jim Blashfield’s piece “Circulator,” comprised of seven interrelated “portals” that represent a “damp, playful, and ever-metamorphosing dream that places participants at the center of a vast metaphorical and associative evocation of the watershed.”

Outside, Seattle public artist Buster Simpson has created a giant functional “water molecule,” which contains a 600-foot purple straw-like pipe that transports reclaimed water into nearby wetlands.

Photo courtesy of Urban Gardens

Photo courtesy of Urban Gardens

Brightwater Treatment Plant has gained national attention, winning a 2012 Honor Award in design from the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists.

Despite the plant’s purpose as a sewage treatment facility, Brightwater has gone to great lengths to create an odor-free environment; as such, the New York Daily News reported that the visitor center is available for weddings and events at an inexpensive rental fee of $2,000 for eight hours, money that goes to support the county’s environmental education efforts.

In the first eight months Brightwater Center has been available for rent, more than 60 events have taken place. One wedding is upcoming.