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Summary for 4000 15TH AVE / Parcel ID / Inv # 0

Historic Name: Undergraduate Library Common Name: Odegaard Undergraduate Library
Style: Modern - Brutalism Neighborhood: University
Built By: Year Built: 1972
The University of Washington’s Suzzallo Library was expanded for the third time in 1963 to provide additional stacks and study spaces for undergraduates, as well as graduate students, and archival and special collections. It soon outgrew its capacity as student enrollment rose in the 1960s by an estimated rate of 1,000 students per year (Columns, “Columns Turns 90”). Along with this growth was a need for more space for growing library collections. With the post-war rise in graduate programs, different types of research activities emerged to be served by separate undergraduate and graduate libraries.

The new library, later named the Odegaard Undergraduate Library at the retirement of University of Washington President Charles Odegaard, was built as the second of three new buildings located on the Central Plaza, along with Kane Hall to the northeast (1971) and Meany Hall to the south (1974). The new open space in front of Suzzallo Library was a four-plus level underground parking garage with a paved plaza above, and a collection of new surrounding buildings conceived of to complement the original Gothic Revival style library (first phase 1926) and the Administration Building (Gerberding Hall, 1949). Construction of the new central plaza was allowed after the 1965 demolition of the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition theater, Meany Hall, following damage to it from a major earthquake in 1964. In early 1967 the Regents, following a recommendation by the University of Washington’s Architects’ Commission, approved the new classroom-lecture hall-auditorium building, undergraduate library and performing arts center, following a development plan by Kirk, Wallace, McKinley & Associates that had been approved a year earlier. 

The new undergraduate library was planned to hold 180,000 volumes and accommodate 2,000 students along with food services for 600. All three buildings would be situated over a 1,000-car parking garage with its exhaust carried out by a tall bell tower (Seattle Times, February 14, 1967). This approval was followed by an allotment of $7.6 million in state funds, approved by the House for capital construction to include the new undergraduate library. 

To expedite the construction of the buildings and the central plaza, a single general contractor was selected by the University of Washington, Sellen Construction of Seattle. The construction cost for the buildings and garage and associated road relocation was estimated at $16 million (Seattle Times, June 12, 1968). In 1971 the garage and Kane Hall were completed, followed by the new Undergraduate Library, which opened in 1972. The construction cost was $4,600,000 (Johnston, p. 115).

Kirk, Wallace, McKinley & Associates designed the undergraduate library and performing arts center, while Walker & McGough was chosen for the lecture hall. The firm, led by Northwest architect Paul Kirk, was well-known to the University of Washington in the 1960s having completed the Faculty Club and McMahon Hall dormitory on the east side of the campus.

The Odegaard Undergraduate Library is part of a building assembly, along with the Central Quad. Together they represent the late mid-century history of the campus development and Brutalist style architecture. 


University of Washington Alumni Association, “Columns Turns 90 – A Celebration,” Columns, (accessed December 29, 2016).

Johnston, Norman J. The Fountain & the Mountain: The University of Washington Campus, 1895 - 1995. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995, pp. 67, 113, 115-117.

Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, ed. Shaping Seattle Architecture: A Historical Guide to the Architects, 2nd ed. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2014, 296-301, 401, 459.

Seattle AIA website, Honor Awards, (accessed 10.25.2016).

Seattle Times.

“3 Units Proposed for U.W.’s New Suzzallo Quadrangle,” Seattle Times, February 14, 1967, “Focus on Olympia – University Funds,” March 7, 1967, p. 8.

“For Contractors – U.W. To Explain Quad Project,” June 12, 1968, p. 32. 

“Come Home Alumni,” November 10, 1968, p. 8.

 “U.W. planning $24.5 million in new buildings,” January 3, 1971, p. 27. 


University of Washington Libraries 

Odegaard Undergraduate Library, (accessed December 29, 2016).

Manuscripts and Special Collections. Digital Photo Collections, (accessed December 29, 2016).
The Odegaard Undergraduate Library is situated at the northwest corner of the central plaza, Red Square, along with associated buildings Kane Hall and Meany Center for the Performing Arts. Both the library and performing hall were designed by architects Kirk, Wallace & McKinley, and both received Honor Awards in 1973 from the Seattle chapter of the AIA (Seattle AIA). The design of these two brick-clad Brutalist style buildings reflected that of Kane Hall, which was designed by Walker & McGough. The library’s placement oriented its primary facade and library entry facing east toward Suzzallo and Red Square, changing the focus of the central quadrangle towards the center of campus and away from the Henry Gallery and Campus Parkway to the west. 

The building is largely a cubic mass, generally a flat roof square with projecting middle sections and some shed roof sections. It was designed as a concrete frame with pre-stressed beams and an exposed structure, clad is smooth-finished red brick veneer. Consistent with a Brutalist style design, it featured rationale grid of 4.5’ that served as the basic module for narrow fin walls with narrow glazed relights at 9’ centers making up large expanses of the perimeter sections, along with solid sections that contain service spaces and stairwells. Because of the pre-existing grade, which sloped downward to the west, the grade floor was set 15’ below the first floor and elevation of the Central Plaza. Upper floors were tall, with floor-to-floor heights of 19’ at the first floor and 15’-6” on the second and third. The tall perimeter walls rose 50’ to 65’ to the roof slab, where they were capped by the 5’-3”-tall sloped concrete roof sections. A large clerestory section in the center extended the roof by an estimated 15’. 

The main entry on the east facade featured five paired doors and relights within an approximate 54’ recess. The original library was an open volume in the center where broad stairs, centered below the clerestory roof section and aligned with the entry, rose through a large opening at the second and third floors. Book stacks and informal reading areas were arranged around this space, with small study carrels along some perimeter walls. In addition to library spaces on the first through third floors, the original building included a cafeteria, service and storage spaces, and newsstand on the ground floor. A language laboratory was fitted into a mezzanine on the first floor opposite the main entry.

The Odegaard Undergraduate Library underwent a renovation in late 1997 when a new 240-seat computer center was installed. The interior was renovated again from 2012 to 2013 to serve changing study patterns, team projects, and greater computer use. The project, which included upgrading building systems, opened up the interior space and repositioned stacks. The architects for the project, Miller|Hull, won an honor award for the design from the American Institute of Architects in 2014.

Detail for 4000 15TH AVE / Parcel ID / Inv # 0

Classication: District Status: NR
Cladding(s): Brick Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Varied roof lines Roof Material(s):
Building Type: Education - Library Plan: Square
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: three
Unit Theme(s): Education
Major Bibliographic References

Photo collection for 4000 15TH AVE / Parcel ID / Inv # 0

Photo taken Aug 29, 2016
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