Inside the Gather Seattle Dinner at the GRAY Offices

The two teamed up to host a dinner and panel discussion on the future of built environments in Seattle.
Gather Seattle
Panel discussion on the future of the built environment in Seattle. From left: Jena Thornton, Peter Steinbrueck, and Chad Dale.

Photographed by Melissa Kaseman

Gather Seattle

On April 28, GRAY was honored to host a Gather Seattle dinner called Community Conversations: the Future of the Built Environment in Seattle. Gather Seattle was founded by Chloe Csadenyi-Benson, around her desire to bring the design and food communities together over plant-based meals and discussion. The dinner at GRAY featured a panel discussion across industries, with Peter Steinbrueck, Seattle Port Commissioner Position 4 and principal and founder of Steinbrueck Urban Strategies; Kirsten Murray, FAIA, principal/owner of Olson Kundig; Jena Thornton, Managing Director of hospitality and real estate development company Magnetic-ERV; and Chad Dale, developer and part owner of Seattle restaurant group Sea Creatures.

The scene was embellished by beautiful, natural, table arrangements by floral designer Teressa Johnson Studio, and gorgeous handmade menus by Lauren Essl of calligraphy studio Blue Eye Brown Eye. Each Gather dinner features plant-based meals made by different chefs, and the GRAY Gather dinner featured Logan Cox, formerly the chef at Sitka & Spruce, and proprietor and chef at soon-to-be-open restaurant Homer on Beacon Hill. The courses were influenced by the robust flavors of the middle east, such as sumac, orange blossom, and tahini, and the brightly flavored chickpea stew was served with coconut yogurt and carrot chutney. The wine, which included a rosé that hasn’t been released to the public yet, was provided by Matthews Winery.

After dinner, came the panel. Among the questions put to the group were, “While Seattle booms with new construction, how do we tend to the core of our city? How do we create meaningful spaces that engage the community and preserve the history while also constructing new environmentally and socially responsive buildings? How do we address homelessness and affordable housing?” The short answer is, it’s complicated. But in a relatively short amount of time, the panelists brought up some excellent points. Dale, whose company focuses on mixed-use development, said, “There’s a lot of [commercial] design happening now that is clearly meant to last for a short period of time—there is a need to re-establish the idea of 100-year building.” Murray’s sentiments addressed the big picture: “Seattle needs to think bigger. Our problems are mass transport and other systems; the city will grow whether anybody plans or designs for it.” On a more localized level, Thornton added that she wishes people would engage face to face with each other more often, which is part of the reason her hotels, such as The Lodges on Vashon, don’t have any TVs in the bar. Steinbrueck first lauded the Pike Place MarketFront expansion as being an achievement 40 years in the making as a pedestrian-friendly area in the city. As the discussion came to a close, the panel was able to touch on the issue of homelessness, with Steinbrueck adding that “The amount of available jobs [for those displaced into homelessness] doesn’t get talked about enough—why not also have a jobs agenda?” There was room to continue the discussion likely for hours past the allotted time.

The net event proceeds were donated to The BLOCK Project, an independent initiative that takes a community-plus-housing approach to the issue of homelessness. “The BLOCK Project invites the community into the task of ending homelessness by building BLOCK Homes in the backyards of residential lots. Each self-sufficient structure will become home for someone currently suffering from homelessness. This innovative model unleashes the power of community by revealing that we each have a role in ending homelessness,” reads the website. The BLOCK Project is a cause that is close to GRAY, and we continue to look for ways to promote and support them.

GRAY was thrilled to be a part of this wonderful evening with the design community! There are many people to thank for this event in addition to everyone mentioned above, such as event sponsors Olson Kundig, Conrad Romano Architects, and Encore Architects. Room & Board provided the modern seating. Voyager’s Table provided cocktails, and the brushed gold ware was from Balancing Balloons. It was all captured on camera by photographer Melissa Kaseman. For information on upcoming Gather Seattle events, check out Gather’s website.

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