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Construction Students help Seattle Children’s Theater

The Seattle Children’s Theatre is regarded as one of the nation’s top children’s theater companies. Its home at Seattle Center was completed in the mid-1990s and a pavilion was added in 2000.

But the building, part of which was originally built in 1956, is not as energy efficient as it could be. The theater has been looking into making improvements, but hasn’t settled on a scope or budget.

So it was a happy coincidence when a team of six University of Washington construction management majors contacted SCT earlier this year and asked if they could work with the theater as part of a contest to design an energy upgrade.

Read more.


AIA Honors and Awards Luncheon

Celebrating design excellence at the AIA New York Chapter’s Honors and Awards Luncheon on April 21. This year’s honorees include former UW Department of Architecture faculty member, Sharron Egretta Sutton, FAIA. Dr. Sutton is an activist educator and scholar who promotes inclusivity in the cultural makeup of the city-making professions and in the populations they serve, and also advocates the use of participatory planning and design strategies in low-income and minority communities. She has been a faculty member at the University of Washington, Pratt Institute, Columbia University, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Michigan where she became the first African American woman in the United States to be promoted to full professor of architecture.

Dr. Sutton holds five academic degrees in music, architecture, philosophy, and psychology, and has studied in independent graphic art studios internationally. She is a registered architect, certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, and was once a member of the musician’s union in New York City. Her fine art is in the Library of Congress and has been exhibited in and collected by galleries and museums, business enterprises, and colleges and universities. She previously practiced architecture in New York City and, as a freelance orchestral musician, performed in Radio City Music Hall, for the Bolshoi and other ballet companies, and in such Broadway hits as Man of La Mancha, Fiddler on the Roof, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Dr. Sutton recently published the book When Ivory Towers Were Black: A Story about Race in America’s Cities and Universities.

On Earth Day, check your privilege

Thaisa Way 2014 at North Lake Union Waterway 15

On the first Earth Day 47 years ago Saturday, some 20 million Americans marched to focus attention on the need to protect our environment. Here in Seattle, many of us say we care about the environment, but it is communities of color and poor and low-income people who are bearing the brunt of environmental pollution today. And without significant engagement and planning, they will be hit hardest by climate change.

That is profoundly unjust.

Consider three big environmental challenges: poor air quality, heat waves and flooding.

Read more.

A Visual Tool for Guiding Urban Change

Photo-powered “urban diaries” can give residents a powerful new way to contribute to the dialogue that shapes their cities.  Affiliate faculty Chuck Wolfe explains: 

At this moment of epic political gridlock at the national level, localism is back. Increasingly, cities are devising local solutions to the pressing challenges of the 21st century — from transportation and housing affordability to climate change. But localism can also lead to gridlock, especially in rapidly growing cities.

I have observed this in my hometown of Seattle, where a building boom is dramatically reshaping city life and policy conflicts abound. Across both face-to-face and social-media encounters, it seems ever more difficult to achieve consensus on a form of the city amenable to older and newer residents alike. A new tool — the “urban diary” — can contribute to breaking the gridlock by helping to forge a pluralistic vision of the kind of city that people want to inhabit.

Read more…

Mexico City Studio: Affordable Housing in a Mega-City

For 12 CBE students, their home, studio, and living laboratory for winter quarter was Mexico City. With a population of almost 25 million people, Mexico City is facing critical deficiencies in infrastructure, transportation, and affordability. For the fourth Mexico City Studio, the Department of Architecture challenged students to address the issues of affordable housing and access to public resources, while sustaining the region’s identity, community, and history.
To explore these issues, co-instructors Professor Dave Miller and Cory Mattheis, M. Arch ’11, tasked the students with designing a new zoning proposal for the San Miguel Chapultepec neighborhood. While each student addressed an individual site, collectively their proposals needed to add up to a larger statement about the neighborhood and city. Together the students came up with guiding principles to ensure their individual plans worked with the greater scheme and came together throughout the quarter to assess each other’s proposals.

Miller and Mattheis encouraged proposals that would increase density while respecting the existing context. To achieve this, the students visited more than a dozen surrounding neighborhoods, towns and cities, which allowed them to understand the greater regional context of pre-Columbian, colonial, modern, and contemporary architecture and met with local architectural and planning leaders.

Project outcomes and inspirations from the Mexico City Studio: Affordable Housing in a Mega City are on display in Gould Pavilion from April 11 – May 19.
Visit the Gould Pavilion website to learn more about the exhibit and hours.

Student Perspective
Anna Urban, M. Arch. Candidate
Hometown: Monkton, Vermont

How studying in Mexico City was a good experience for studying Seattle:

I’ve been following the issues of affordability, zoning and density in Seattle, so it was interesting to learn about the unique – and sometimes similar – challenges that exist in Mexico City. While the city is no longer increasing in population as quickly as in past decades, development is expanding at the edges where land is cheaper. This has resulted in commute times becoming longer, pollution, less walkable neighborhoods, rising costs of housing, and limited access to public transportation, water and services. At the same time, neighborhoods like the one we studied that would be ideal for increased density are resistant to change. Because of these sentiments, we learned a lot about the importance of involving community in conversations and finding solutions through democratic participation.

The most interesting part of the studio and experience:

Being in Mexico City was an amazing opportunity. It felt particularly important to try to understand issues in Mexico and get to know local people at a time with increasing tension between our two countries. The most interesting thing about the experience was simply living in Mexico City for 10 weeks. With such a vibrant public life, there is a lot to learn and enjoy just from going about your daily routine. The informal life on the sidewalk, and the institution of the neighborhood market were particularly fascinating to get to know.

Learning from local leaders:

In talking with local architects, we learned about a common issue facing architects and developers – the need for affordable housing to make sense economically. We took their feedback and came up with our own guidelines for affordable units. Our class researched and proposed square meter sizes appropriate for studio, single, double and triple bedroom units, basing them on proposals we had seen from local architects such as Felix Sanchez.

Local architects’ candid feedback at reviews and discussions helped us understand that we were not designing in a familiar context, and allowed us to respond more appropriately. These contacts also allowed us access to projects we would otherwise not have been able to see. We visited several architecture offices, which gave us a view into the reality of building in Mexico City. While we lost our soccer game against Javier Sanchez Architects, we loved getting to know them and sharing thoughts on architecture and politics.

Aside from architects, we heard from local urban planner, Laura Janka who highlighted the city planning department’s efforts for a more habitable, equitable, sustainable city while also increasing economic opportunities. Her perspective furthered our emphasis on involving the general public in conversations and solutions to issues related to urbanism.

The assignment:

Each student was tasked with creating a proposal to increase housing density and space for a public program that contributed to the neighborhood. By coming up with an “urban vision” and a new zoning proposal, we understood the issues more deeply and were therefore able to better address them in our projects and in the way our projects related to each other’s. Several students saw an opportunity to create and activate a pedestrian alleyway. My project was part of this proposal, cutting through a city block and proposing new housing along an east-west corridor, with extensive public and private gardens on the south side and the roof.

Project outcomes and inspirations from the Mexico City Studio: Affordable Housing in a Mega City are on display in Gould Pavilion from April 11 – May 19.

Visit the Gould Pavilion website to learn more about the exhibit and hours.

CBE Husky 100 Student: Ru’a Al-Abweh

Planning with People and Questioning the Answer

Throughout fall quarter, second year Master of Urban Planning student Ru’a Al-Abweh spent much of her time listening to people’s stories for her thesis project. She asked them about where life had taken them and how this had shaped what home and community mean to them. People contemplated their identity, their history, and personal relationships. As she spoke to more and more people, she was touched by their honesty, strength, kindness, humility, and welcoming demeanor. The people Ru’a met, who she likes to think of as friends, are members of Seattle’s Tent City 3. When she started forming her thesis topic, Ru’a initially wanted to study something related to urban planning in Jordan – the country she’s from. However, passionate about understanding how places and people affect each other, she decided it would make more sense to focus on an issue in Seattle, where she would have more time and capacity to build relationships with people.

“One of the reasons I wanted to understand homelessness and transient life came from the similarities I saw between the residents of Tent City 3 and the refugees who come to Jordan. Some of the similiarities include the state of being “unsettled”, the complex meaning of home, and the value they place on community. In addition, both groups are unfortunately often feared, shunned, or othered. On a global level, homelessness, migration, and informal settlements are becoming more prevalent and people in these situations often feel connected to multiple places and identities. It’s important to recognize that the idea of home, community, and place are not monoliths –and I think urban planners need to be more critical of the way we conceptualize these ideas, how they manifest in the built environment, and how we ultimately affect people’s lives and well-being, for better or for worse,” Ru’a said.

Prior to receiving a Fulbright scholarship to attend UW, Ru’a earned a bachelor’s of architecture from the German Jordanian University, where she realized that her fascination with the design of the built environment stretched beyond the realm of a building. She then spent two years working for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) where she was involved with designing a transitional shelter and planning a camp for Syrian refugees. During her time with the UNHCR, Ru’a learned that when people shape their own environments, this creates a sense of ownership and community resilience –two invaluable characteristics that top-down planning often fails to achieve.

In combining her interest in self-created and self- managed communities, public space, and issues of international concern, Ru’a designed her own master’s specialization: Community Based Public Space Planning and Design (for Global Challenges). Her specialization influenced her thesis topic, as she not only wants to support community-led planning, but also wants to understand what this means to different groups of people, particularly those who are marginalized.

“For my thesis I’m asking questions beyond what it means to not have a house, but what home and community really mean, what the role of public space is, and who we are prioritizing it for.” Ru’a said. “Having grown up in a country that I wasn’t from and had the privilege to live in several places, my own feelings about home and community are multifaceted.”

Ru’a says that Tent City 3’s stories have been crucial to understanding how mainstream cultural constructs of home and community influence the built environment planners create.  

“Related to the traditional ideas of urban design and planning, I want to understand how theoretical and cultural values can dictate our understanding of home and how this manifests in built communities. So far, my findings are showing that the way we traditionally plan our environments may be contributing to schisms in our societies and driving people apart, rather than resulting in the inclusive, diverse places we strive to be a part of. Maybe this research will push urban to reevaluate how we design and plan,” she said.

While Ru’a is questioning some traditional ideas of urban planning, she also sees the positive impact and value good planning and community engagement can have on a city. Last summer she interned for the San Francisco Planning Department and developed a community outreach program called Civic Center Stories to get to know the people who spend time in the neighborhood. The program was so successful, the planning department has adopted it as part of their outreach efforts for the Civic Center Public Realm Plan, a long term plan for improving the Heart of the City.

From urban design studios at UW, Ru’a has had the opportunity to work on public space planning for tsunami resilience in Aberdeen, WA, rethinking the right to public space for Cascade Park in South Lake Union, and a community design strategy to bring home-based business to the public realm in Ciudad Romero, El Salvador. She also had the opportunity to practice community engagement in urban design studios and other courses, such as one that involved a community listening session for the neighborhood plan of Finn Hill, Kirkland. Ru’a acknowledges the impact each of these experiences has had on her and looks forward to sharing the stories of Tent City 3 and its community with planners who also seek to question the answer.  

Following graduation, Ru’a plans to stay in the United States and is  currently on the search for an opportunity to gain more professional experience in urban planning. In the future, she plans to return to Jordan, where she wants to help promote a culture of community engagement in urban planning, particularly for public spaces, which she says are limited and historically haven’t been prioritized. While she knows she can’t tackle this challenge single-handedly, she has faith that she will find a community that wants to tackle it with her.  

Each year, the Husky 100 recognizes 100 UW undergraduate and graduate students from Bothell, Seattle and Tacoma in all areas of study who are making the most of their time at the UW. This year, Master of Urban Planning Student Ru’a Al-Abweh was selected as part of this prestigious group of forward thinkers and innovators.

2017 CBE Research Open Labs

Data, Climate Change, and Design

May 19, 2017
Gould Court
12:30 – 3:00 p.m.
Organized by the College of Built Environments in collaboration with Urban@UW


How can we use the rapidly increasing available data and data analytics to create better urban design and policies to address climate change? Six panelists will share their experience and exchange views on how new data and data tools can advance the action of cities to mitigate and adapt to climate change across the Cascadia Corridor.

Featured panelists will include:
Stephanie Chang, Professor and Canada Research Chair, UBC
Jenny Liu, Assistant Director of NERC (NW Economic Research Center) and Assistant Professor at Portland State
Ken Yocom, Associate Professor, UW Department of Landscape Architecture
Joe Casola, PhD, Deputy Director, UW Climate Impacts Group
David Beck, Senior Data Science Fellow & Director of Research, E-science and Assistant Research Professor UW Chemical Engineering
Ali Modarres, Director & Professor, Urban Studies, UW Tacoma
Panel Moderator: Jan Whittington, Associate Professor, UW Urban Design and Planning

Designing on our National Treasure: The National Museum of African American History and Culture

Zena Howard, AIA
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
6:00 p.m. 
Location: UW Seattle campus
Presented by: the College of Built Environments

Register for the event
Zena’s presentation will focus on how the design team behind the Smithsonian Institution’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture realized the owner’s vision for creating a distinctive new cultural experience on the National Mall.  In designing many of the museum’s unique features, the team was inspired by familiar imagery and experiences from both African and American history.

Zena Howard AIA, LEED AP

Zena is a Principal and Cultural Practice Co- leader with Perkins+Will. Her planning and design work is focused on museum and cultural institutions, libraries, civic buildings, and higher education facilities. Her projects typically involve specialized design goals such as environmental stewardship, LEED Certification, historically-significant building preservation, and community economic development.

As Senior Project Manager for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, she was the point person for the Smithsonian Institution in executing multiple decades of planning to create this important national museum. Zena directed the Freelon Adjaye Bond/Smith Group team of four architecture firms and 29 consultants throughout pre-design, design, construction documentation, and fast-track construction. 

A native of North Carolina, Zena earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture from the University of Virginia.  She currently serves on the North Carolina State University School of Architecture Advisory Board and the University of Virginia Alumni Association Board of Managers.

Read more: Meet Zena Howard, The Architect Behind D.C.’s African American Museum

Zena’s representative project experience include:

  • Anacostia and Tenley Friendship neighborhood libraries in Washington, DC
  • Motown Museum in Detroit, MI, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall
  • The new Brooklyn Village neighborhood initiative in Charlotte, NC
  • International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, NC

Building Details for the National Museum of African American History and Culture:
Washington, D.C.
Size: 397,000 SF on
10 levels (5 above and 5 below ground)
Tracking LEED GOLD 

The museum, designed by the collaboration known as Freelon Adjaye Bond / SmithGroup, honors the significant social, economic, and cultural contributions that African Americans have made to this country over the last several centuries.

The design includes exhibition galleries, an education center, a theater, an auditorium, a cafeteria, a store, and offices, was one of the largest and most complex building projects in the country.

The museum is the most sustainable national museum ever built, and the greenest of all Smithsonian Institution buildings. It features such design elements as rainwater harvesting, roof-mounted photovoltaic solar panels, extensive daylighting, and high efficiency mechanical systems. It is tracking LEED Gold certification.

The distinctive three-tiered building exterior is inspired by the Yoruban caryatid, a traditional West African wooden sculpture that bears a crown, or a corona, on top. The resulting upward-reaching form is both a contrasting and complementary presence among its neighboring structures on the National Mall. The pattern on the bronze-colored corona, made up of 3,600 cast-aluminum panels weighing a total of 230 tons, was inspired by the ornate ironwork of Charleston, South Carolina; Savannah, Georgia; and New Orleans, Louisiana—much of which was created by enslaved and free African Americans.

With 60 percent of the structure underground, designers and engineers had to create a continuous retaining wall around the perimeter of the site—extending 65 feet down at its maximum height—to secure the building’s foundation in the tidal marshland below Washington, D.C.

Moving Toward Zero: Q&A with Associate Professor Kate Simonen

Architecture Associate Professor and CLF Director Kathrina Simonen
Architecture Associate Professor and CLF Director Kathrina Simonen

What is the Carbon Leadership Forum and why is the group is relevant?  

The Carbon Leadership Forum is a collaborative research effort between industry and academics. The group is focused on understanding and reducing the total life cycle carbon emissions in buildings. In particular, we study embodied carbon emissions—or the emissions that takes place when building materials are manufactured and used.

Our UW research team collaborates with a range of building industry professionals who are experts in low carbon construction. Through our partnerships we are able to advance research and develop industry initiatives, which lead the industry towards low carbon solutions.

Photo by Architecture 2030

Photo by Architecture 2030

The CLF has defined and published a number of new benchmarking best practices for industry. How are the new guidelines being used?

In 2012, the CLF developed one of the first sets of Product Category Rules (PCR) for reporting the environmental footprint of concrete, which enables concrete producers to more accurately report their product’s carbon footprint. This standard has been used to develop and report the average concrete mix data for both North America and Canada enabling concrete to contribute to LEED v4 materials credits. Concrete suppliers throughout North and South America have started adopting this standard, which is crucial to our research and studying the impact and potential reduction in carbon outputs. In the design phase, our data enables architects and engineers to use carbon, and other environmental impacts, as a performance criteria in addition to common criteria such as cost and strength when specifying and selecting concrete.

The Embodied Carbon Benchmark study is the first stage of a project looking to establish benchmarks for the embodied carbon in buildings—the total carbon emissions related to the products and materials used to construct and maintain a building over its life span.

For this project we compiled the largest known database of building carbon footprints—normalized to units kgCO2e per square foot (or meter) of floor area. This project helped us establish the order of magnitude, typically around 1,000kgCO2e/m2, and range, commonly between 200-500kgCO2e/m2, of building carbon footprints. For the next stage of the project we will develop standards to track and report building Embodied Carbon (the LCA Practice Guide).  

The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Practice Guide tackles the need-developing guidance on how to conduct whole building life cycle assessment studies as well as report embodied carbon results. In practice, architects and engineers can use the LCA Practice Guide to achieve green building credits.

How are the results of your research being used to move the needle on policy and industry practice to reduce carbon emissions in the building life-cycle?

The Carbon Leadership Forum is supported by a great group of building industry professionals with a passion for reducing the use of carbon in the built environments and working to integrate LCA into practice. Many of the leaders in our partner firms engage with us closely so we can be effective.  As a group, we sponsor initiatives where we feel the industry needs additional tools, inspiration, or data.  Current initiatives include developing model specifications that engineers can insert into their project specs to collect LCA data, creating the Embodied Carbon Network—a communication group to extend our reach into the building industry, and Collaborating with Ceres and the U.S. Green Building Council to launch the Building Industry Climate Declaration.  

Zero net energy (ZNE) buildings are the current gold standard for reducing emissions.  However, building new, ZNE buildings will generate substantial emissions. Is there a solution to the problem?

In order to meet the ambitious targets of the Paris Agreement and keep global temperatures from rising above 2°C and avoid catastrophic, irreversible climate change, global emissions need to peak no later than 2020 and fossil fuels be phased out by 2055. That means that in addition to driving to zero operational carbon, we need to drive to zero embodied carbon.

When Ed Mazria from Architecture 2030 first proposed the idea of driving to zero embodied carbon by 2050, I laughed. I’m not alone in thinking that this is an impossible goal.  We know how to build zero operating carbon buildings, lots of insulation, solar panels etc. In order to make a path to zero embodied carbon we need to know more about where we are today. The CLF research and initiatives are focused on understanding where we are and developing strategies to help the building industry move to zero embodied carbon. This will likely be a multi-pronged approach to use materials more efficiently and less of them, use lower carbon materials, and reduce the carbon intensity of our power. However if we look at buildings built today, embodied carbon will contribute over 50% of the carbon emissions before 2050.  For those of us designing and building buildings, the embodied impacts are a major part of our industries contribution and an area that must be addressed if we are to meet climate targets.

Learn more about the CLF’s carbon research on their publications page.

Design in Drawing: A Year-long Workshop Series

The Department of Landscape Architecture has joined forces with Seattle’s GGN firm to launch a series of weekend workshops, which focuses on representation in design. Drawing is a means of thinking and it is a language of dialogue.

“Drawing is a language that expands and enhances our visions for the future of our landscapes and as such calls for a robust and rigorous investigation and exploration,” Professor of Landscape Architecture and project leader Thaisa Way said.

Thus the workshops are posing and answering questions around how we draw, what we draw, and how we read drawings. Each of these experiences informs design as process and development and shapes how our communities understand and respond to design ideas and visions.

Student Perspective: Allison Ong, MLA

The workshop
Alan Maskin started with a presentation about his personal history and relationship with drawing, some of his work, and inspirations. On Saturday we spent the first half of the day doing some very quick exercises, which forced us to think about lineweights, shadows, perspective, and section. The rest of the weekend was spent on a group project that we worked on furiously through Sunday afternoon.
The workshop challenged us both technically and emotionally. On the technical side, we were constantly working at a large scale. At no point was the paper I was working on any smaller than 2’ x 4’. We worked in mediums I am uncomfortable and inexperienced with such as chalk and collage. On the emotional side I was constantly struggling with hesitation to make permanent marks, fear of messing up, anxiety about whether I could come up with anything original and creative, etc. It was really a weekend-long deep-sea dive into the wringer of drawing. Yet through all of these challenges our instructors created a very comfortable and supportive environment.

Why drawing is important to being a designer
Drawing is a way of communicating. Like any language, you get more fluent at using and understanding it through study and practice, which is what we did during the workshop. I think drawing is especially important for designers because it can convey an idea immediately and often with more persuasive detail than can a verbal or written explanation.

My experience as a student
Typically in the landscape architecture department, the only time we see professionals is for reviews and critiques. It felt very refreshing to work together with students and professionals from other disciplines. As landscape architects, we know that we will work with architects, planners, engineers, construction management, etc. once we are professionals. However, as students we rarely have the opportunity to interact with any of these groups.

This experience gave us an opportunity to work side-by-side as equals, which was really liberating. The weekend served as an inspiring reminder of the practical and impractical applications of our schoolwork as well as a reminder of the joy of creativity.

Student Perspective: Jean Ni, MLA

The workshop
We began with a Friday night lecture filled with inspirational ideas and images. Saturday began with several rapid-fire warm-up exercises, then transitioned into our 6-person collaborations on a larger project. I often get lost in the computer programs that are essential to creating graphic documents in school, and the weekend was a wonderful break to allow full exploration in the single medium of hand drawing. Some moments transported me back to elementary school-level exploration and play with materials, methods, and interactions with my team. This course felt like a no-stakes, fun, and experimental form of visual play and intellectual expansion. It is important for me to get outside of the academic pressures and that I often impose on myself during studio work, and develop skills while remembering that I actually enjoy drawing.

Why drawing is important to being a designer
Drawing is a way to communicate your ideas with others – being able to see rather than hear or read what someone is proposing is an effective way to share what is mentally perceived in your brain.

My experience as a student
I value interdisciplinary work in my everyday academic work, but have often sought this out in departments even outside of landscape architecture. It was great to engage with people in different specialties especially from CBE. I made some great contacts, got to know other people better, and enjoyed working outside of landscape architecture. Thanks to Olson Kundig and GGN for engaging with the UW students in this! It was awesome to work with professionals in the field and see their drawing process in the midst of our own.

Drawing What You See

Led by Michael Vergason, landscape architect, Michael Vergason Landscape Architects

Michael Vergason’s workshop focused on drawing what the artist sees. Vergason shared with students his drawing history and journey to find inspiration. Landscape students spent the weekend using Japanese format notebooks with accordion pages, to draw trees, bridges, and courtyards. They explored historic sites through drawing through plans, sections, and perspectives.

Drawing Pictures In Your Mind

Led by Alan Maskin, architect, Olson Kundig

In early February the department hosted Alan Maskin ’88 and his associates from Olson Kundig. With Maskin, the students learned to draw what they imagine. Students from landscape architecture, architecture, real estate, urban planning, and construction management heard about Maskin’s approaches to drawing and design. Maskin emphasized the influence and legacy of Emeritus Professor Frank Ching on his work. Students spent time on specific drawing exercises and gradually shifted to the grand landscape of the imagination including reimagining downtown Seattle. In teams, the students created three vibrant murals of a possible future for green and blue Seattle.  

Next Workshop: Drawing as Speculation

Led by Teresa Gali Izard, ARQUITECTURA AGRONOMIA, a landscape architecture firm located in Barcelona and currently faculty at the University of Virginia.

April 28-30, 2017

Professor Thaisa Way is an urban landscape historian. She is the Executive Director of Urban@UW and recently published The Landscape Architecture of Richard Haag: From Modern Space to Urban Ecological Design.

Protectors of the Presidio – Alumni Robert and Christina Wallace

Robert Wallace, B.A.E.D. ’77, M.Arch. ’83 and his wife, fellow UW graduate Christina Wallace, ’85 have spent the last 24 years in charge of restoring and preserving one of the oldest continuously operating military posts in the United States – the Presidio of San Francisco. Now converted to a national park, the 1,491 acre Presidio and nearly 800 buildings is now home to 3,000 people and 225+ businesses. Rehabilitated and converted spaces also include museums, schools, cultural and learning centers, a hotel, numerous recreational facilities, art installations, hiking trails and a campground. As the Associate Director of Architecture for the Presidio Trust, Robert has managed the majority of the park’s rehabilitation projects. Christina also works for the Presidio Trust as the Senior Preservation Project Manager.

How you came to work in preservation?

Rob: My pre-professional UW degree was focused on architectural design without much emphasis on existing or historic buildings. But before returning to graduate school my first projects as an intern architect in Seattle all involved historic buildings and I think that initiated an appreciation for the challenges of working with the constraints of existing conditions. It wasn’t until my graduate studies and the influences of department faculty who emphasized the study of history and urban form that my interests gravitated towards this area of the profession. Since becoming licensed in 1985, I have worked on numerous new buildings and additions but I estimate that 80 percent of my professional portfolio has involved the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of historic buildings in an urban context. Of course, having a preservation specialized spouse has also been a major influence on my interests in historic preservation!

Christina: After graduating from UW in 1985 with a degree in Architectural History from the College of Arts and Sciences, I went directly to graduate school at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation in New York. I had always been interested in history, architecture and preservation and knew that Columbia offered the best program, coupled with the fact that Rob and I both wanted to live and work in New York City. I graduated with a Master of Science in Historic Preservation, with a concentration in Conservation. We both worked in New York City until moving to San Francisco in 1992.

Aerial view of the Presidio. Photo: Carl Wilmington
Aerial view of the Presidio. Photo: Carl Wilmington

What Presidio projects are you most proud or found most challenging?

Rob: I’m most proud of being the primary Presidio architect since the beginning of this amazing transition, even before the Army transferred the post to the National Park Service in 1994. As a group, we have since rehabilitated over 350 of the historic buildings and I have had some sort of design management role on all of these buildings. I often say that the current project is the most challenging but our current project is proving to be pretty darn challenging. We are converting an 1895 brick barracks to a 42 room lodge for park visitors, using carbon fiber, shotcrete and micropile seismic reinforcing methods while protecting an archeologically sensitive site under the basement. And we will have some very interesting and unusual guest rooms too. Come visit us!

Christina: I have been at the Presidio for 10 years and have worked primarily on the oldest structures with the most complex preservation and conservation issues. The most challenging was the rehabilitation of the Officers’ Club, including the seismic strengthening of the original adobe walls. I recently completed the new Presidio Visitor Center, where we rehabilitated an original guard house (jail) into a new use open to the visiting public.

Why is the Presidio important?

Rob and Christina: The entire Presidio of San Francisco is designated as a national historic landmark, the highest level of historic recognition in America. Not just because it is one of the oldest continuously occupied military installation in the U.S. (founded by the Spanish in 1776) but because of its amazing variety and quality of military buildings and landscapes of all types in a spectacular location. The buildings themselves are not monumental or particularly unusual but the collection of so much in this one strategic location is what makes it special. So we don’t have many individual landmarks, but the whole is a landmark.

Another aspect to note is that our special enabling legislation required the Presidio Trust to become financially self-sufficient within 15 years of transfer or the entire site would be disposed of as surplus government property. I am very proud to say that the Presidio Trust accomplished this goal in 12 years and, with the National Park Service, we are successfully preserving the Presidio for future generations to use and enjoy.

Do you have a favorite memory of UW?

Rob: There are too many, but here are a few: The camaraderie of the students in the design studios, good coffee, using the city of Seattle as an opportunity for projects, getting the Architecture Thesis Award, more coffee and of course, the Architecture in Rome program, which can be a truly life changing experience.

Christina: Attending the Architecture in Rome program was a highlight of my UW years, not only the time spent in Rome, but the preparation classes before and the annual fund raising dinner back in Seattle. At that time the students prepared the entire meal, including making the pasta by hand! It was a labor of love.

Watch Robert and Christina’s lecture, part of the Department of Architecture’s 2016 Winter Lecture Series – The Presidio – Lessons from the Presidio of San Francisco: Building Rehabilitation and Adaptive Reuse.

New Books: Planning for a complex world

Three Urban Design and Planning faculty have published new books that cover long-term planning efforts, the complexities of intersecting ecology and the built environments, and what individuals can do to help planners make smart decisions.

Cities That Think Like Planets: Complexity, Resilience, and Innovation in Hybrid Ecosystems

By Marina Alberti, Professor of Urban Design and Planning and director of the Urban Ecology Research Lab

As human activity and environmental change come to be increasingly recognized as intertwined phenomena on a rapidly urbanizing planet, the field of urban ecology has risen to offer useful ways of thinking about coupled human and natural systems. Bridging the fields of urban planning and ecology, Alberti describes a science of cities that work on a planetary scale and that links unpredictable dynamics to the potential for innovation. It is a science that considers interactions – at all scales – between people and built environments and between cities and their larger environments.

University of Washington Press

Learning from Bogotá: Pedagogical Urbanism and the Reshaping of Public Space

By Rachel Berney, Assistant Professor of Urban Design and Planning

Once known as a “drug capital” and associated with kidnappings, violence, and excess, Bogota, Colombia, has undergone a transformation that some have termed “the miracle of Bogota.” Beginning in the late 1980s, the city emerged from a long period of political and social instability to become an unexpected model of urban development through the redesign and revitalization of the public realm-parks, transportation, and derelict spaces-under the leadership of two “public space mayors.” Berney shows how, through the careful intertwining of new public space and transportation projects, the reclamation of privatized public space, and the refurbishment of dilapidated open spaces, the mayors enacted an ambitious urban vision for Bogota without resorting to the failed method of the top-down city master plan.

University of Texas Press

Seeing the Better City: How to Explore, Observe, and Improve Urban Space

By Charles Wolfe, Affiliate Associate Professor of Urban Design and Planning

While big data, digital mapping, and simulated cityscapes are valuable tools for understanding urban space, using them without on-the-ground, human impressions risks creating places that do not reflect authentic local context. Seeing the Better City brings our attention back to the real world right in front of us, focusing it once more on the sights, sounds, and experiences of place in order to craft policies, plans, and regulations to shape better urban environments. Through clear prose and vibrant photographs, Charles Wolfe shows those who experience cities how they might catalog the influences of urban form, neighborhood dynamics, public transportation, and myriad other basic city elements that impact their daily lives.

Island Press

Celebrated Change Maker: Diane Sugimura

20050330-03-007Diane Sugimura, MUP ’07 spent 38 years working for the City of Seattle and for the last 14 years of her career led the City’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD), responsible for the full range of development activities.

During that time, she worked with six mayors and through the economic highs and lows experienced by our changing metropolis. “When I started at the City, it seemed that each year the powers-that-be would question whether we needed a planning function and if so, how it should be organized, what its responsibilities should be, and of course, how to fund the programs,” Sugimura said. It was a disheartening experience during those early years when the City was debating what to do about planning in Seattle.

Sugimura explains her career in planning came from her desire to contribute to positive change in her community and despite hurdles, she stayed committed. “My early mentor, Beatrice Ryan, had faith in my ability to learn and grow, and challenged me to challenge her during policy discussions. Since then, I have relied on a range of deputy mayors and mayors’ chiefs of staff for advice and assistance. While each administration was different, and the people unique, there was something to learn from them all,” Sugimura said.

In 2002, Mayor Nickels re-organized a number of City departments and brought planning and development together for the first time, and asked Sugimura to lead the new department. She believes the change was significant and facilitated an improved relationship between the two functions, streamlining coordination between the development of policies and new codes, with the implementation of those policies. Not everything worked the first time around, particularly on leading-edge ideas, like in the mid-1980s when the department was proposing the integration of mixed-use development projects.

In addition to the re-org, Mayor Nickels introduced the Race and Social Justice Initiative to all City employees, a bold new plan, which first looked internally at how City employees worked together. Sugimura explains the change was big and took time for the City family to evolve.

diane-sugimura-dayAnother change, implemented in 2006, was to bring the City’s interdepartmental Green Building Team together to work within the DPD. New policies and programs were adopted, such as green factor landscaping provisions inspired by a program in Berlin, Germany. Continued work on stronger energy codes, regulations to encourage smaller more efficient structures, new built green and LEED standards, additional support for use of alternative transportation options, and the Living Building Challenge ordinance, were all put in place.

In correlation with the updates, one of Diane’s most important projects was to help lead the redesign of the City’s comprehensive plan, now called Seattle 2035. She explains, the new plan better recognizes the value of urban villages and continues the commitment to support this strategy, encouraging development where infrastructure investments have been or will be made.

Sugimura said the City was committed to keeping the same four core values in mind – building community, economic opportunity, environmental stewardship, and social equity. The values are the same, but some of the emphasis has changed, such as adding “race” to social equity. “While our values haven’t changed, our demographics have and the equity gap has expanded. A great city is only sustainable if a broad range of people can live, work, and enjoy the city together,” Sugimura said.

To foster equity, Sugimura and her team analyzed the city, defining areas with low or high access to opportunity, and low or high risk of displacement. With the 2016 creation of the Office of Planning and Community Development, land use planning must now go hand-in-hand with transportation strategies, human services, public health, economic development, arts and culture, all in conjunction with working with the people of Seattle to build community, an approach Sugimura supports.

Through the changes, Diane kept her team focused on advocating for improved land use planning, coordinating with transportation alternatives and investments, working for more affordable housing options, strengthening neighborhoods, and becoming a climate-friendly city. And because of that focus, Sugimura left a legacy that exemplifies collaboration, inclusiveness, and opportunistic growth. Sugimura also acknowledges that not everyone in the city agrees with the changes that the City has put in place, but is confident the City has been, and is, heading in the right direction.

And while she retired from her position as director of DPD in 2015, she’s staying involved. She’s an active member with the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, an organization she’s been involved with since the early 1970s.

Sugimura also says her perspective has changed a bit. She’s now more interested in the people side of planning and how communities work and interact. She is currently chairing the Yesler Terrace Citizen Review Committee, which is looking at what it takes to create a successful neighborhood and will be participating in a tutoring program for Yesler residents. “Being involved with community activities helps bridge my personal and cultural interests, with my professional work in areas of community building, historic preservation, economic development, and helping to grow in an equitable way,” she said.

Diane Sugimura will deliver the College of Built Environments annual Dean’s Distinguished Lecture on Tuesday, February 7, 2017 at 6:00pm in Architecture Hall, Room 147. The title: “The Portland Livestock Yard, The Move to Seattle, The Pike Place Market and Capitol Hill: What’s Planning Got To Do With It?”

Diane Sugimura holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Washington and a master’s degree from Oregon State University. In 2013, she was named a Living Building Hero by the International Living Future Institute and was honored as a Cascadia Fellow by the Cascadia Green Building Council. In 2016, she received the Municipal League Foundation’s Public Employee of the Year Award.


Bringing the UW to Your City

lcy-classTwenty eight miles south of Seattle is the City of Auburn. Native land of the Muckleshoot people and home to 70,000 residents, 28 parks, and a durable central business district, Auburn is the first partner for the University of Washington’s new Livable City Year (LCY) program.

The LCY program dedicates one year to a regional city, and directs multiple undergraduate and graduate classes from around campus to tackle the city’s self-identified needs, assessment projects, and opportunity analyses.

In just the first quarter, students are taking on issues like housing stock, homelessness assessment, business to business collaborations, storm utility efficiency, and cultural mapping. Dedicating thousands of hours to on the city’s projects they will produce their findings and reports to city departments and leaders in an effort to help guide big decisions for their community’s future.

“Our model is based on projects having interdisciplinary and experiential learning components. While working with community partners is nothing new to CBE or UW, we have more than two dozen projects partnered with various city departments, meaning we can respond to a myriad of interconnected community issues, and that reach is new.” Born said.

Beyond the opportunity for the city, both students and faculty from all sides of campus are connecting in ways they never have before. Born also says he and his co-director, Assistant Professor Jenn Otten from the School of Public Health, are seeing Foster School (Business) classes make connections with students from the College of the Environment and School of Social Work, realizing how much their work has in common and sharing knowledge.

“I’ve had a number of conversations with other LCY faculty that have changed the way we both teach,” Born said. “LCY represents many of the great synergies the university stands for—a commitment to high academic standards in teaching and learning and an interest in meaningful community engagement and public service.”

And another benefit for students—professional experience. Born explains that students are working with professionals on real world issues, working in teams and making conclusions that have tangible impact.

Along with leading the LCY initiative, Born is co-teaching with Assistant Professor Rachel Berney an undergraduate course in the Department’s Community, Environment and Planning program. The course, Planning in Context, has student teams working on two LCY projects: one examining the concept of place-making and finding ways to increase residences’ sense of place and community identity, and another developing parts of a draft element of the Auburn Comprehensive Plan that deals with physical, social, and economic connectivity across the city’s neighborhoods.

Currently, there are 11 projects being run through five colleges or schools across UW. In the coming year, Born and Otten are looking forward to welcoming more units into the LCY program, including the Law School and the Evans School for Public Policy and Governance, and seeing what kind of impact the collective group can have on the community. He also acknowledges the wide support he and Otten received when they first pitched the idea to campus leaders and said that he’s proud to see the university living out its values on interdisciplinary collaborations, students learning outside the classroom, and community impact.

Learn more about the Livable City Year program and see a list of classes on their website. We’ll be sharing the outcomes of each quarter throughout the year. Read about Branden Born’s planning research on urban food systems and how decisions are made – who wins and who loses and who is missing from the decision making table.

In addition to the College of Built Environments and the School of Public Health, the LCY program collaborates with UW Sustainability and Urban@UW, and received foundational support from the College of Built Environments and Undergraduate Academic Affairs. The program is also working with non-profit organization Association of Washington Cities. Livable City Year is based on the University of Oregon’s Sustainable City Year Program and is a member of the Educational Partners for Innovation in Communities Network.

Forging bold climate solutions

Fast-forward 100 years and picture cities and states with boundaries reshaped by the dwindling availability of a precious resource — water. After a century of climate change, ecosystems everywhere face intense development pressures. Plant and animal species have adapted and migrated to new habitats in their fierce struggle to survive.

Students in our McKinley Futures Studio spend one mind-bending quarter pondering scenarios like these, collaborating on potential solutions to a host of challenges that might someday change the way every living thing on the planet coexists.

Funded through an endowment from distinguished Seattle architect and UW alumnus David McKinley and his wife, Jan, this interdisciplinary studio broadens students’ perspectives on how to envision the problems that will test them as they plan, design and build for the future.

“This studio pushes students to think about problems from a larger sphere of ecological influence, to look beyond the boundaries of a particular building site and to engage all the forces that come to play on a city or region,” says Dave Miller, former chair of the Department of Architecture and the professor who leads the studio.

Students like Kameron Selby push themselves to ask critical questions on both abstract and pragmatic levels as they collaborate across disciplines to plot out their vision for ways cities like Seattle or Los Angeles might adapt to a future short on water.

“It was an opportunity not only to design something, but to dig deeper and consider how our ideas might actually play out in the future,” says Kameron, who’s pursuing a dual master’s degree in architecture and landscape architecture. “We created this narrative, something that could be true — how the government reacted, what happened to people. It taught us to push the limits with our critical thinking and decision-making.”

In the era of “New Age Nomads” that Kameron and his studio partners envision, people with scarce access to water would lead migratory lives. They’d take shelter from place to place in structures formed when algae essentially slurps up a sea shell-like byproduct of desalinating water, forming the façades of buildings where these nomads would live for a while before packing up and moving elsewhere.

A type of nuclear energy that doesn’t create toxic waste would power the process of making seawater drinkable. The heat given off by desalination plants could also be harnessed as a renewable source of energy for cities.

“This is such a forward-thinking and creative studio program — one that captivates both students and professors by projecting design concepts into the realm of ‘possible, probable and preferred’ futures,” says David McKinley.

“Jan and I are deeply impressed by the research that’s come out of this studio so far and hope that someday all UW students get such imaginative and informative opportunities to think critically about the future of their disciplines.”

Healing gardens bring Nature in

Surrounded by the sights, scents and sounds of nature, two veterans speak softly with each other seated side by side on a mahogany bench. Moments earlier, each was surrounded by stark white walls in a treatment room steps away inside Seattle’s VA Hospital.

“When you’re dealing with PTSD, this is a beautiful place to come just to take a deep breath,” says Richard Coleman, who served on submarines in the 1970s.

His friend, Vietnam vet Tom Urban, describes the healing garden designed and built by UW landscape architecture students as “my medication.”

Professor Daniel Winterbottom speaks passionately about the therapeutic value of nature to all people, but especially to those who have faced trauma.

“When you are stressed, it is nature that will bring down the cortisol levels, blood pressure, heart rate, and restores our energy to deal with stressful situations,” he explains while sitting amid the sound of falling water, the flutter of birds and dragonfly wings, and the wafting scent of budding blooms in the VA Hospital garden. Above his head, etched into the wall, is one of several plaques: Nature surrounds me with peace, soothes my torn nerves and comforts me.

Gina Kim, who graduated in 2016 with a Bachelor’s in Landscape Architecture, served as project manager for the 27-student team who created the garden over 20 weeks.

“While this was a culmination of everything we learned it class, it taught us things we could never have learned in the curriculum,” she says. “We had to consider the availability and cost of materials. Some things that might have looked good in design weren’t good ergonomically for the veterans. It was a dose of reality.”

Students conducted focus groups with veterans and VA staff, read letters from vets through the ages, and considered the poetic and sensory effects of their work. Gina called it “humbling.” Her professor called such projects “transformative for students who are just figuring out their place in the world.”

As Gina plans a career in human-centered landscape design, she says she “can’t imagine designing without seeing how real things affect real people. It’s not just aesthetics alone. (The VA project) was colossal in terms of my education. I learned so much from it.”

Professor Winterbottom believes the future holds great promise for even more hands-on work like this that has an impact far beyond its direct beneficiaries.

“As a public institution, the UW can both teach and give back to the community in a very powerful way to benefit both students and taxpayers,” he notes.

Thanks to private funding from generous donors, the VA Hospital is brightening the lives of the 100,000 patients served there each year. Gifts to UW College of Built Environments will continue projects like these, which Professor Winterbottom says “makes students not just better designers but better people.”

Travel scholarships change perspectives


Huddled over his sketchpad, Justin listened intently as renowned artist and UW Professor Emeritus Francis Ching opened students’ eyes to new ways of zeroing in on the most remarkable architectural details worth capturing in his drawing of the Pantheon.

“He wasn’t teaching us how to draw or sketch,” Justin says. “He was teaching us how to see.”

The 10-week travel studio in Rome led by Department of Architecture Chair Brian McLaren stands out as one of the most formative experiences Justin had as a master’s student in architecture at the UW. He’s grateful for the donor-supported scholarships that made the trip possible for him and many other students.

“I never would’ve been able to go if it hadn’t been for my scholarship,” says Justin, who now works as a sustainable design specialist at the Seattle architecture firm GGLO.

Because of limited private funding, some students don’t get these amazing opportunities.

“Every student should have access to these leading-edge experiences,” says Professor McLaren. “The lessons you learn when you venture outside your culture, your comfort zones — they’re invaluable.”
Standing in the City Center of Copenhagen, Joel Miller never would have guessed that a network of beautifully spacious public squares used to be four-lane roads.


Forty years ago, thick traffic jams clogged streets throughout the Danish capital. Today, Copenhagen reigns as one of the most pedestrian- and bike-friendly cities on the planet.

Joel and other students could have learned about it in a classroom lecture or textbook. But during a study abroad trip funded by our generous partners at the Scan Design Foundation, they got to see, hear and really experience answers to their questions about how and why it all happened.

“It was incredibly inspiring to see both how a city could transform like that, and how they pulled it off while facing a lot of the same civic obstacles that we see today in the United States,” Joel says.

Returning to the UW, Joel applied lessons learned in Copenhagen to his travel studio project: a bold proposal to transform the heart of Seattle’s University District with more people-friendly spaces.

Storefront Studio Recognized for Public Service

StorefrontStudio Award 2016Each spring a dozen undergraduate students arrive in a new community with notepads and drawing pencils. They walk the streets, meet locals, and sketch prominent and underutilized spaces and are thinking about how the community could better identify the town’s strengths and find ways to be more inclusive. And with that, the students begin a 10 week studio course that will produce ideas and plans for growth, based on how the community views their identity and opportunities.

Thirteen years ago senior lecturer Jim Nicholls, AIA began teaching the Department of Architecture’s Storefront Studio and in that time, 17 communities and more than 200 students have benefited from the positive exchange of knowledge, ideas, and design.

“For many students, this is their first experience with a real world client group and set of constraints. Set in a community, the students are no longer learning in an abstract or removed setting,” Nicholls said.

The focus of the studio is an investigation into the historic Main Streets of Washington State communities. The students’ design outcomes and recommendations help facilitate discussion and funding for various community generated projects. Like in Snoqualmie, where students analyzed historic preservation and economic revitalization, completed green street strategies and a new Riverwalk network of footpaths.

In recognition of Nicholls’ work, which has taken place in White Center, Carnation, Des Moines, Chinatown, Vashon Island, and Renton, King County is recognizing the Storefront Studio’s impact on the region’s small business districts with the John D. Spellman award for achievement in historic preservation. Presented by County Executive, Dow Constantine the county’s Historic Preservation Program, Nicholls and some of his students accepted the award on Thursday, October 13 in Renton.

“Although individual programs and projects vary greatly depending on needs and interest, every project enhances community resilience, authenticity, and economic prosperity through historic preservation,” Nicholls said.

Snoqualmie residents also viewed the town’s train artifacts as one of their strongest assets, thus the students proposed a new lighting scheme and visual representation of the businesses hosted in the train cars. A community porch, new bus stops and enhanced pedestrian core were also proposed.

“Throughout the project, students meet with the community in a series of town hall style meetings and facilitate meaningful insight and feedback and has been key to our success over the years,” Nicholls said.

See all of the Storefront Studio projects at Read more about the award in the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce.

Tomorrow’s innovations in our labs today

Professor Kimo GriggsBy both designing and doing, our students will build a better world.

What role might robotics play in designing and building tomorrow’s structures?

How did the tools used to construct buildings hundreds of years ago evolve into the tools we use today — and how can they lead us to invent new tools for future innovation?

In what ways can we meld conventional tools with digital design technology to devise creative ideas that can change the world?

The answers to these questions and more are being discovered by students in the UW College of Built Environments’ Fabrication Laboratories. Evolved from the traditional wood and metal shops of the past, our contemporary Fabrication Labs are vibrant centers of experiential learning and student-driven research.

“These are places where students both design and make things, so they are forced to deal with the consequences of their designs in very real ways,” explains Professor and Associate Dean Kimo Griggs, faculty advisor to the labs. “Once they’re in the working world, if they want to do something new or better or innovative, knowing how things are made helps them come up with ideas that can be produced efficiently, individually or on a mass scale. And it’s those kinds of ideas that can change the world.”

Thanks to the opportunities they have to stretch their curiosity and develop their skills in the Fabrication Labs — something we do differently than the majority of other universities — our students graduate with a richer and more nimble ability to practice their craft, Professor Griggs says.

“Students come to understand that they’re part of a continuum, using tools that have been developed incrementally through the years,” he points out. “They learn that they can contribute to the next innovation by mimicking what’s been done before but with different tools, coming up with fresh ideas, trying out cutting-edge methods and then using the strategies they learned here when they enter the workplace.”

Donors play a critical role in keeping the labs up to date with high-quality tools and equipment. One example is a recently purchased robotic arm.

“We may add tools to the labs without knowing what students might do with them, and then train them and let them tell us what those tools are good for,” says Professor Griggs. “Our students are the innovators and experimenters.”

Wendell H. Lovett, 1922 – 2016

Contributed by Prof. Jeffrey Ochsner

Architecture Professor Emeritus Wendell Harper Lovett (1922-2016), who taught at the University of Washington for almost half a century, died on September 18, 2016; he was 94. He is remembered by his many students and colleagues for his passionate commitment to architecture.

Wendell was born and raised in Seattle. He entered the University of Washington architecture program in fall 1940. By 1942 his student work showed his growing interest in the new directions of modern architecture. After military service during the Second World War, he graduated in 1947 with his B.Arch., also receiving a medal for excellence in design. Wendell went on to MIT where he earned his M.Arch. in 1948; one of his MIT student instructors was Alvar Aalto. On his return to Seattle, Lovett joined the Bassetti & Morse, where he remained for three years rising to the position of Associate. He also joined the faculty of the Department of Architecture as an instructor in fall 1948. Lovett was appointed as Assistant Professor in 1951, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1960 and Professor in 1965. As a young faculty member, Lovett was known for his fierce advocacy of the modern movement and for his encouragement to students to use new technologies in their design projects.

Lovett left Bassetti & Morse to open his own firm in 1951. His first widely recognized project was the house he designed for himself and his family in the new Hilltop planned community in Bellevue. Completed in 1951, this project showed the influence of Mies and of the Case Study houses in California. It was published in Architecture d’Aujourd’hui and received a design award in 1953. Throughout his career, Lovett’s work would win many accolades and receive national and international publication.

From 1959 to 1961 he was a partner in The Architect Artist Group (with Daniel Streissguth, Gene Zema, Gerard Torrence and Spencer Moseley) in the design of the Nuclear Reactor Building on the University of Washington campus (destroyed, 2016); Lovett is generally recognized as the lead designer on this project.

Lovett was always interested in product design as well as architecture. His earliest effort in this direction was the “Flexi-Fibre” chair (later “Bikini” chair) dating from 1954, which was displayed in Milan. In 1966 he created two metal fireplace designs, the “Firehood” and “Toetoaster,” for the Condon-King Company. These were later mass-produced and are now in widespread use.

As explained by Professor Emeritus Grant Hildebrand, Lovett was profoundly influenced by his year teaching at the Technical University of Stuttgart, with Professor Rolf Gutbrod, with the support of a Fulbright grant, in 1959-60. Lovett’s attention to the architecture of “enclosure” and “containment,” and toward spaces that he would later call “stop” spaces and “go” spaces, grew from this experience. His subsequent work moved away from an emphasis on transparency and technology and toward a focus on enclosed spaces, framed views and protected places. Hildebrand subsequently explained Lovett’s work after the mid-1960s in terms of “prospect and refuge.” This approach to design is evident in Lovett projects such as the Lauren and Ann Studebaker residence, Mercer Island (1969-71), Gerald and Jo Frey residence, Bellevue (1971-72), Max and Carol Scofield residence, Mercer Island (1974-76), Charles Simonyi residence, Medina (1986-89, and later), Cutler-Girdler residence, Medina (1995-97), and others. The Simonyi and Cutler-Girdler residences were later documented and analyzed in the book, A Thriving Modernism: The Houses of Wendell Lovett and Arne Bystrom, co-authored by Grant Hildebrand and T. William Booth and published by the University of Washington Press in 2004.

Lovett received recognition for his designs throughout his career, including numerous design awards. His work appeared in a variety of publications including A+U, Architecture d’Aujourd’hui, Architectural Record, Architecture Minnesota, Arts & Architecture, Domus, GA Houses, Process: Architecture, Toshi Jutaku, and others. Lovett was also included in the film “Modern views: A Conversation on Northwest Modern Architecture.”

Lovett was elected to Fellowship in the AIA in 1978; he received the AIA Seattle Chapter Medal in 1993. In 2004, Lovett’s name was added to the “Roll of Honor” on the frieze of Architecture Hall Auditorium in recognition of his contributions to the profession and to architectural education. When Lovett was nominated for the Chapter Medal colleagues noted: “In a career spanning several decades, Wendell Lovett has had a significant influence on fellow practitioners. In his work — which includes numerous award-winning and thought-provoking residences — he has consistently and rigorously pursued an aesthetic of excellence and expression of form appropriate to means and place. His practice has demonstrated the value of thorough resolution of every detail. He has also influenced generations of Northwest architects through teaching and a lifetime of publication based on his work.”

In over four decades at the UW, Professor Wendell Lovett was an inspiring teacher for several generations of students. He will be remembered for his commitment to modernism, the quality of his designs and his expectations for student achievement.

Note: The BE Library holds a small Wendell Lovett collection, including models of seven houses, a Bikini Chair, his Hilltop house dining table, and (in the exhibition case) assorted items from his office including drafting tools and desk paraphernalia.

Read the Seattle Times’ obituary.
Cutler-Girdler House; photo is by Gregg Krostad.

Image published in A Thriving Modernism: The Houses of Wendell Lovett & Arne Bystrom (UW Press, 2004) by Grant Hildebrand and T. William Booth.

Gervais Reed residence
Architect: Wendell Lovett
Built: 1957
Location: Hilltop neighborhood of Bellevue, WA
Date of photograph: 2008

Wendell Lovett designed the house and many of the furnishings for UW Art History Professor, Gervais Reed, and his wife Connie, who lived here from 1955 until 2012. It was located in Bellevue’s Hilltop housing tract, a subdivision formed by a group of UW faculty and other professionals in about 1950. Hilltop was an experiment in cooperative land purchasing and management that continues to the present. The Reed House marked a bold new formal direction for Lovett, reflecting his study of Modern architecture in the Pacific Northwest, as well as Europe, particularly Italy.