The Beckoning Cistern at 81 Vine Street is designed in the shape of a hand emerging from a sleeve. The hand reaches toward the downspout, which leans from the face of the 81 Vine Building to meet the hand's index finger. The Beckoning Cistern's designer, environmental artist Buster Simpson, compares the sculpture to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, with Adam reaching to touch the hand of God.
Symbolic as the sculpture may be, it is also functional. Roof runoff flows from the downspout to the outstretched index finger and divides, some cascading over the thumb into a water garden and series of pools, and some flowing into the cistern to be stored for later use, such as watering the garden.
The Beckoning Cistern is a 10-foot high, 6-foot diameter blue corrugated cylinder constructed of galvanized aluminum (the sleeve) with a green metal hand emerging from its top. The entire structure is placed on a tilted concrete slab set in the water garden. The water garden with its three cascading planters is, in turn, set in lush native plantings of ferns, shrubs, and woodland plants. A smaller, companion garden nestles against the building; the sidewalk passes between the two.
The Growing Vine Street plan calls for defining and enhancing Vine Street as a watershed, with a runnel flowing along a heavily vegetated watercourse for the entire length of Vine Street. Along the eastern portion of the street, its passage will be a slow, stately meander. That changes, however, at First Avenue, where Vine Street takes a sudden, two-block dive towards Elliott Bay. The Cistern Steps is designed to take dramatic advantage of this slope.
The Growing Vine Street plan calls for the street to zig-zag on the slope between First and Elliott Avenues. From First, the street will slant northerly toward the mid-block alley and then southerly back toward Western. The pattern will be repeated in the block between Western Avenue and Elliott, where the Cistern Steps is located.
The Cistern Steps consists of a series of three terraced concrete planters tapering from a wide plaza at the alley to the narrow sidewalk right-of-way at the intersection of Vine Street and Elliott Avenue. The runnel will flow from planter to planter, ending in a pool formed from a large, rough-hewn piece of Northwest jade at the foot of the slope. In this segment of Vine Street, there is no adjacent building to feed the runnel, so water will be received from the newly constructed Vine Building across the street, which was designed with a special collection system for roof runoff just to supply the runnel.
Like the Beckoning Cistern, the Cistern Steps has been designed to delight pedestrians as well as to process and use roof runoff in an ecological manner. The water gardens of the planters will echo the lush greenery of the adjacent Belltown P-Patch. Even more color will be added with inlaid tile signage on the plaza walls at the alley and on the risers of the steps in the sidewalk passing between the P-Patch and the Cistern Steps. Even the stair railings will be works of art forged by Belltown's own Black Dog Forge!