Mini Mart City Park, a community-focused cultural center and park in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood, has radically transformed a derelict gas station into a vibrant hub for creativity and the arts. The project is a collaboration between the design team and artist group SuttonBeresCuller, which purchased the brownfield site, that explores the potential of architecture and art to mend an urban concern. With more than 700 similar gas stations in the region and more than 200,000 across the country, Mini Mart City Park is a model for remediation that results in compelling and much-needed community spaces.
The project is situated near the Duwamish River, a critical industrial port for Puget Sound. Because of its legacy of industrial use, the waterway and surrounding land are heavily polluted, so much so that the Environmental Protection Agency designated the five-mile portion that flows through Georgetown a superfund site. Such heavy pollution required careful consideration of how any development could work to improve the site’s soil.
The design for the project, which sits adjacent to Boeing Field, one of the country’s busiest non-hub airports, is focused on creating flexible spaces indoors and out that support art, learning, and community engagement. A significant portion of the site has been returned to the native landscape and public space at ground level. Below it all, a hidden air sparging and soil vapor extraction system advance the team’s concept of “cleaning the earth with art” as it addresses residual petroleum contaminants in the site’s soil and groundwater.
This transformation of a brownfield site is a strong project. It integrated a significant number of sustainable strategies in such a small space. – Jury comment
An overarching goal for the project was to create a place to learn about art, architecture, and healthy urban environments, bolstering Mini Mart City Park’s slate of exhibitions and workshops. The community is welcomed into two structures that are linked by a central courtyard, merging built space with the landscaped areas between. The courtyard also hosts large-scale art installations and movie nights for the community and provides loading access for the main gallery. Above, a 1,000-square-foot rooftop serves as an elevated gathering space, surrounded by green roof sections and solar panels.
Construction was supported by a core group of volunteers from Dirt Corps and Duwamish Youth, who spent many hours planting the project’s green roof and surrounding landscape. Local artists designed a series of green wall panels that were installed by members of the Mini Mart City Park’s board and Dirt Corps volunteers. The panels reference the site’s history of contamination while further supporting the growth of native plants.
Mini Mart City Park
Architecture firm: GO’C
Owner: Mini Mart City Park
Project site: Brownfield
Building program type(s): Public assembly – entertainment/culture
Year of substantial project completion: 2022
Gross conditioned floor area: 1100 sq. ft.
Structural Engineer: J Welch Engineering
Civil Engineer: J Welch Engineering
Kinetic Window: Chris McMullen Productions
Lighting Design: Fixture Studio
Landscape Consultant: Wittman Estes
Envelope Consultant: RDH Building Science
General Contractor: Métis Construction
Photography: Kevin Scott
AIA and it’s Small Project Design (SPD) Knowledge Community present the annual Small Project Award Program to raise public awareness of the value and design excellence that architects provide regardless of the limits of size and budget.
Submissions are welcome in four categories:
- Category one: Small project construction, object, work of environmental art or architectural design element up to $250,000 in construction cost
- Category two: Small project construction up to $2.5 million in construction cost
- Category three: Small project construction, object, work of environmental art or architectural design under 5,000 square feet
- Category four: Unbuilt project award: any unbuilt design that meets any of the category requirements above. This award is for projects that will not be built in the future (speculative work, conceptual work, competition work, student work, etc.)
In 2023, only recipients from Categories 2 and 3 won awards.
The jury evaluates entries based on how successfully projects meet their individual requirements. Entries are judged individually—not in competition with each other.
All projects must demonstrate design achievement, including how the project fits into its environment and how the project connects to the Framework for Design Excellence.
- Open to all architects, designers and projects that meet our category criteria below. Additionally, the U.S.-licensed architect must be a major contributor on the project.
- Built projects must have been completed after January 1, 2017.
- There is no requirement for professional photography.
- Any size firm may submit a project.
- Maximum of four entries per firm—(a single project may be entered in two different categories with applicable fees for each entry).
Chandra Robinson, AIA, Chair, LEVER Architecture, Portland, Ore.
Madhubala Ayyamperumal, Assoc. AIA, Gensler, Oakland, Calif.
Chris Baribeau, AIA, Modus Studio, Fayetteville, Ark.
David Corban, AIA, David Corban Architects, Naples, Fla.
Katherine Hogan, AIA, Katherine Hogan Architects, Raleigh, N.C.