Call Detail
Artist Designed Infrastructure: Bioretention Edition
Entry Deadline: 12/9/19
Application Closed
Work Sample Requirements
Images | Minimum:Min. 16, Maximum:Max. 16
Total Samples | Minimum:Min. 16, Maximum:Max. 16
Call Type: Public Art
Eligibility: Regional
State: Washington

As part of Seattle Public Utilities’ (SPU) plan to Protect Seattle’s Waterways, they are building natural drainage systems (NDS), also called roadside bioretention, in several neighborhoods throughout Seattle to provide water quality treatment for stormwater runoff. These roadside bioretention facilities are located in the right-of way, typically in residential areas. The bioretention facilities collect dirty stormwater from the street and allow it to soak into the soil, preventing pollutants, sediments, and high flows of water from degrading the water quality in our creeks, river, lakes, and Puget Sound.

The design of each roadside bioretention will vary by location. Local hydrology, street layout, engineering demands, and the input of community members help determine the siting and design of the bioretention. However, most roadside bioretention have main design elements in common.  

The intent of the Artist Designed Infrastructure: Bioretention Edition project is to provide a “kit of parts” or catalog of ready-made artistic elements (e.g., inlays such as patterns or lettering, edging, railings, signage, stepping-stones, benches, grating, small sculptures, etc.) that communities can use to customize roadside bioretention projects in their neighborhoods. These artistic elements are not neighborhood-specific, but rather add aesthetic and educational value to the bioretention facilities in any location. The items that are included in any given project will be determined by the individual SPU project and the community where the bioretention facilities will be installed.

The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture (ARTS), in partnership with SPU, will commission an artist or two-person artist team to develop and design a “kit of parts” or catalog of ready-made artistic elements (e.g., inlays such as patterns or lettering, edging, railings, signage, stepping-stones, benches, grating, small sculptures, etc.) that may be incorporated into a roadside bioretention project. Not all elements will be incorporated in every location, so each part of the kit must stand alone or be able to be mixed and matched with other components. The artist/two-person artist team will work with SPU landscape designers, project managers, and engineers to produce design plans and specifications for incorporating the artistic elements. These design plans and specifications will allow SPU to contract with fabricators to produce and install each of the artistic elements into the project. The artist or two-person artist team is responsible for designing artistic elements only with the exception of Phase I (see below). Selection, fabrication, and installation of artistic elements will be completed by SPU and its project contractors in future phases.

Kit of Parts will include (but is not limited to):
  • Inlay elements such as patterns or lettering that can be added to adjacent sidewalk replacement or new curbs. Designs for inlays will keep in mind that the amount of adjacent sidewalk being built varies by location, and often includes patches between existing sidewalks. Designs will creatively address this potentially “messy” aspect of the sidewalk surface, while fitting within Seattle Department of Transportation standard sidewalk specifications and safety requirements.
  • Edging, signage, stepping-stones and/or benches.
  • Drainage infrastructure including grating, diverters, channels.
  • Small-scale 3-D objects/sculptures.
  • Design plans and specifications for each artistic element, including installation method, guidelines (dos and don’ts), artist recognition, and engineered stamped drawings if necessary.
  • Approximate cost of fabrication for each artistic element.
  • List of local fabricators with specializations indicated.
All artistic elements should be designed with ease of maintenance and durability in mind, including slip/trip hazards and accessibility. Large scale objects requiring footings or other in ground elements in the swales is discouraged for the most part as it may impede function and maintenance.

This project will consist of two phases:

Phase I
The commissioned artist/two-person artist team will work with SPU to develop artistic elements that will be incorporated into the Thornton Creek Natural Drainage System (NDS) project located in SPU selected North Seattle neighborhoods. The artist/two-person artist team will take this opportunity to work closely with project designers, engineers, and community members to design and fabricate artistic elements to be incorporated into the projects. The Thornton Creek NDS project will be responsible for installation of artistic elements.

Phase II
The commissioned artist/two-person artist team will continue to work with SPU to develop and design additional artistic elements that will then be compiled with PHASE I components to create and deliver a full catalog of artistic elements. SPU will present the catalog of artistic elements to community members for incorporation into future bioretention projects throughout Seattle. The full catalog will include guidelines for how each artistic element can be included into future projects and how the commissioned artist/two-person artist team will be acknowledged.

The Roadside Bioretention Kit of Parts public art project is part of the Drainage and Wastewater Art Master Plan, developed by Vaughn Bell. Bell identifies roadside bioretention facilities as potential sites for art. Please follow these links to view the art plan:  SPU Drainage and Wastewater Art Plan Book 1 and SPU Drainage and Wastewater Art Plan Book 2.

From the DWW Art Master Plan:
In addition to managing and cleaning stormwater, roadside bioretention adds beauty and natural habitat to the streetscape. While passerby may admire plants growing in the swales, it is often not obvious how the bioretention functions. Visual elements that brings people’s attention to the flow of water are encouraged. Artistic elements should be poetic rather than didactic, but may serve an educational function.

The term “green stormwater infrastructure” (GSI) encompasses infrastructure that preserves, enhances, or mimics natural infiltration, evapotranspiration, or capture of stormwater as a method of achieving our stormwater goals. GSI is used across multiple scales and site contexts—including residential, commercial, and in the public right-of-way—and delivers multiple community benefits in addition to stormwater management. SPU values GSI as a cost-effective way to improve our drainage and wastewater systems. The GSI toolbox includes, but is not limited to, bioretention, rain gardens, permeable pavement, vegetated roofs, rainwater harvesting, multifunctional stormwater ponds, nature-based sea level rise protection strategies and creek floodplains (see images included in the site plan). The focus of this effort is on art in bioretention facilities to enhance their value to communities, bring attention to these facilities and provide a common element to all SPU build bioretention. SPU has been building natural drainage systems (NDS) or roadside bioretention in the right of way since 2000. For more information on SPU projects please visit

Bioretention Examples in Seattle Neighborhoods
To see examples of bioretention projects in Seattle neighborhoods, please see the site plan attached to this call.

This call is open to artists residing in Washington State. Artists can apply as a team of no more than two. Students are not eligible to apply.

The selected artist/artist team will receive $70,000.00, inclusive of all project fees and taxes.

Phase I project fees include design, fabrication, and installation instructions of artistic elements for Thornton Creek NDS project and any associated taxes. SPU’s Thornton Creek NDS project is responsible for installation costs during Phase I. The artist or two-person artist team will receive 50% of the total commission during Phase I of the project.

Phase II project fees include deign of additional artistic elements that will be compiled with Phase I components to deliver a full “Kit of Parts” catalog and any associated taxes. The artist/two-person artist team will receive 30% during design of Phase II and the remaining 20% after the “Kit of Parts” catalog has been completed and delivered to the city. Phase II includes design and delivery of the “Kit of Parts” catalog only, SPU will be responsible for selection of artistic elements, fabrication, installation in future projects.

10:59 p.m. (Pacific Standard Time), Monday, December 9, 2019. Please allow ample time to complete your application; applications submitted after the 10:59 p.m. deadline will not be accepted.

  • Sixteen (16) images of past artworks. CaFÉ image format instructions can be found here. If you have fewer than 16 quality images, you will need to insert a detail of one of your images or a blank slide. Click here to download a blank slide template.
  • Written, audio, or video statement of interest (if written, not to exceed 2,000 characters; if audio or video, not to exceed 1.5 minutes in length). Please provide a statement describing your interest in this project, environmental stewardship, and explaining how you are uniquely qualified for this project.
  • Written, audio, or video artist bio (if written, not to exceed 1,000 characters; if audio or video, not to exceed 1 minute in length). Please provide a short video/audio statement speaking directly to your history and experience as an artist or two-person artist team.
  • Three references
  • Work sample description list
Video / Audio Statement and Bio Guidelines
Please note that these should not be highly produced/edited video or audio samples, short recordings speaking directly to the prompts will suffice. The intent of this option is to provide an opportunity for individuals who feel they can represent themselves better verbally versus in writing (for example, for applicants for whom English is a second language and/or other considerations). Guidelines and resources to assist you with creating and sharing video and audio files can be downloaded here.

  • Experience developing construction documents and specifications;
  • Demonstrated ability to work with a client to create a design given strict parameters;
  • Flexibility and a collaborative attitude;
  • Experience working collaboratively with design teams, community groups, and stakeholders;
  • Knowledge of translating designs into a variety of media and fabrication methods; and
  • Preferred but not required - experience developing and implementing environmental artworks.

The Office of Arts & Culture is committed to reflecting the diversity and cultural richness of our city in the selection of artists and artworks.

We are offering free, optional workshops that will provide some general information about the SPU Roadside Bioretention Kit of Parts project and the CaFE online application system.

Thursday, November 14, 2019 from 5:30 – 6:30 pm
ARTS at King Street Station, 303 Jackson St, Third Floor, Room 315, Seattle
Click here to RSVP (requested, but not mandatory). Having your name will help us with planning and allow us to share any updates.

Saturday, November 16, 2019 from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
ARTS at King Street Station, 303 Jackson St, Third Floor, Room 315, Seattle
Click here to RSVP (requested, but not mandatory). Having your name will help us with planning and allow us to share any updates.

The selection process will take place in two parts. During the first round, a panel of arts professionals, city staff, and community members will review the applicants’ images, qualifications, and other materials. The panelists will identify up to four finalists to interview at a second panel meeting two to three weeks later. The panel will select one artist or artist team to be awarded the commission.

Applicants will be notified of the panel’s decision by February 2020. The Office of Arts & Culture reserves the right not to select any applicants.

Please contact Rebecca Johnson at or 206.684.0182.

For assistance with the CaFE online application process, contact CaFE tech support at 888.562.7232, Monday - Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time.