Seattle City Light Canal Substation
©1985 Barbara Noah

The remodel of the Canal Substation was a design team effort involving me, an architectural firm (Streeter/Dermanis) and a landscape architect (Peggy Gaynor). The engineer for the project also participated in the process. The team as a whole dealt with issues of form, color and public use. Equipment styles and fence materials were selected to integrate with the existing building and old equipment that was to remain at the site. Edible plants and a rest-viewing area were selected for the use of neighborhood residents. Benches were made from antiquated parts removed from the substation grounds. Signs with keys to the art, plants and historical, electrical and site data were posted for passersby to read.

I also conceived of images for seven windows for the site. Much of the existing building was empty. Since the building is in a partially residential, partially industrial neighborhood, it seemed appropriate to give it more sense of human presence. Since it can be experienced close up or from afar, I dealt with images that could be seen from either intimate or public points of view.

Since I also wanted to transcend the idea of electrical power at a substation, I chose to relate the issue of power to a larger societal context, selecting these forms of power to represent: love, money, the law ("Justice is Blind"), the mind and physical power (rock, paper, scissors). I chose activities that could actually take place inside a building and developed silhouettes or "shadows" for each window, creating a symbolic, mysterious, human presence in a largely empty building.