From ARCADE Issue 31.4. Subscribe to receive ARCADE in print.

Winkenwerder Hall University Washington Architecture 1

Details of by-pass wood construction and diagonal struts that resist wind and seismic forces eliminating the need for interior shear walls. Image from the Visual Resources Collection, College of Built Environments, University of Washington.

Our image of Seattle’s University of Washington campus is largely one of brick and stone. In addition to Rainier Vista, our recollections of the campus are shaped primarily by its historic core—the Liberal Arts Quadrangle (“The Quad”), the Central Quadrangle (Red Square), and the Science Quadrangle. In outlying areas the buildings are often more modern, but the primary material is still usually brick. There are exceptions — the best known is the Faculty Club (1958-60; now the University of Washington Club), in steel, glass and stucco, by Paul Hayden Kirk and Associates and Victor Steinbrueck. Much less well-known, but equally deserving of attention, is the Hugo Winkenwerder Forest Sciences Laboratory (1962-64; now Winkenwerder Hall). A tour-de-force of wood construction by Grant, Copeland, Chervenak and Associates, the building was recognized nationally with an AIA Merit Award in 1966.

One reason Winkenwerder Hall is not wellknown is that it is so well-hidden. Tucked into a grove of firs behind Anderson Hall (the Gothic Revival home of the Forestry School since 1924), Winkenwerder is virtually invisible from Stevens Way, the main road through the UW campus. Just walk behind Anderson Hall, however, and one will find a pleasant outdoor space framed on two sides by Anderson and Winkenwerder and on its third and fourth sides by Bloedel Hall (1970-71), also designed by Grant, Copeland, Chervenak, which repeats the structural system and architectural expression from Winkenwerder. Winkenwerder and Bloedel are three-story buildings that achieve their richness not through formal manipulations but, rather, through well-crafted, tectonically expressive detail.

In plan, Winkenwerder is a rectangle measuring 144 by 72 feet. The order of the building is determined by its glu-laminated wood structural system, which is based on a regular 12-foot module from north to south and an 8-foot module from east to west. The wood structure is a clear example of by-pass construction with pairs of 5 ¼ -by-17 ¾ -inch glu-lam beams extending through the building from east to west at 12 feet on center, passing on either side of the 5 ¼ -by-6 ½ -inch glu-lam columns; in the other direction, resting on these beams, at 8 feet on center, are glu-lam purlins, 5 ¼ by 9 ¾ inches.

Winkenwerder Hall University Washington Architecture 2

Three-dimensional view of the glu-laminated wood structure which provides structural support, architectural order, and visual character to Winkenwerder Hall. Drawing by University of Washington students Cameron Wu and Moonyoung Ryu.

The architects intended the building to have nearly complete flexibility within this structural frame. The plan is organized by a double-loaded corridor running on center from north to south; the corridor walls are fixed and designed to provide services to the laboratories. All other walls are nonstructural and could be removed. The diagonal struts are located on the exterior, providing lateral strength to resist wind and seismic forces, eliminating the need for interior shear walls and reinforcing the character of the building. The exterior expression of the upper two floors is wood frame and glass in-fill. Only at the lowest level, partly below grade, are the walls solid. The top floor is shaded by an exterior glass sunscreen, which helps maintain a temperate interior. The primary vertical circulation occurs in a glazed and light-filled atrium that occupies two of the regular bays.

In their published statement, the architects noted that the glu-laminated structural system provided an appropriate working environment for the study of forest products. They noted that, surrounded by a grove of trees, the building enabled the occupants to see the material “in its natural and finished state.”

Winkenwerder Hall University Washington Architecture 3

The skylit, light-filled atrium occupies two bays and provides for primary vertical circulation by means of the stairs partly visible through the glazing. Image from the Visual Resources Collection, College of Built Environments, University of Washington. 

Although Winkenwerder Hall is nearly fifty years old, it is still surprisingly fresh. In an era when many buildings create interest through formal manipulations, Winkenwerder reminds us that designs based on structural order and material expression may become quite powerful through their consistency, coherence and well-crafted detail.