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

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.

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.

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.