Carolyn Geise FAIA (BArch UW ’63) has advanced the social and economic power of architecture in her unique career, in her practice as well as in extensive community activities in and beyond Seattle.
In a career combining special achievements as an architect, as a developer, and as a community organizer, Carolyn Geise has exemplified ideals of ethical practice and service to society. A professional activist since her architecture student days, when she staffed the AIA booth at Seattle’s World’s Fair in 1962, Carolyn Geise has served as a gubernatorial appointee to the Washington Board of Registration for Architects and as a member of the AIA’s national Ethics Council. Of special note, she devoted more than a decade of effort to the design and re-creation of a unique human and natural community environment in Seattle’s Belltown, the much-admired Growing Vine Street project. In May 2005, the Seattle City Council proclaimed May 2005 as “Carolyn Geise Neighborhood Month,” and designated the plaza at the top of the Cistern Steps in Belltown as Carolyn Geise Plaza.
She first worked with Jane Hastings in one of Seattle’s pioneer woman-owned design firms, and established her own firm, known as Geise Architects, in 1978. She has held several key committee and elective offices at AIA Seattle, including chairing the AIA Seattle Housing Action Task Force in 1998, whose work effectively informed then-Mayor Paul Schell on AIA’s Housing Action Agenda and gave the design community a substantial role in this important civic initiative.
Her practice encompasses a wide variety of work including notable residential design and facilities for special user groups such as homeless women and emotionally disturbed children. Her community-focused work includes creative efforts in public-private financing and pioneering work with neighborhood planning – for instance acting as both developer and architect in the reclamation of a 1914 factory building in Seattle’s Denny Regrade neighborhood. This successful project, the 81 Vine Building, has garnered considerable critical and public attention, becoming a keystone for Carolyn’s activism in the Denny Regrade and the Growing Vine Street Project – a planning effort to reclaim a residential street as a pedestrian-focused linear park of nature and art. Carolyn’s major contribution as a Regrade citizen, architect, and property owner has had a unique influence on the growth explosion in Seattle’s premiere downtown residential neighborhood.
Her advancement to the AIA College of Fellows in 1989 – as the only woman architect among 44 architects in the nation to achieve this honor that year – recognized her public service, her service to the profession, and the inspiration her professional achievement continues to provide to the ever-increasing number of women aspiring to success in the design professions. Her colleagues presented her with AIA Seattle’s highest honor, the AIA Seattle Medal, in 2001.
* Seattle P-I 3/23/05, Kery Murakami reports on current happenings with Growing Vine Street
* Seattle DJC 2/19/03, Clair Enlow: “A Watershed Moment on a Belltown Street“
* Seattle DJC/AIA Seattle Project of the Month 9/5/01, by Clair Enlow: “Growing Vine Street takes root at 81 Vine“
* Wild Ones, Growing Vine Street, by Marynn Whitman