AKA: Public Viewing Aquarium, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - exhibition buildings - aquariums

Designers: Bassetti / Norton / Metler / Rekevics, Architects (firm); Bassetti, Fred, and Company (firm); Kramer, Chin and Mayo, Incorporated, Civil Engineers (firm); Frederick Forde Bassetti (architect); Ark Chin (civil engineer); Kramer (civil engineer); Mayo (civil engineer); Mayo (architect); Richard B. Metler (architect); Philip Charles Norton (architect); Karlis Rekevics (architect)

Dates: constructed 1975-1976

1483 Alaskan Way
Waterfront, Seattle, WA 98101

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During the 1970s in Seattle, an enthusiasm for historic preservation swept over the city. It was understood that tourists came, in part, to see the historic structures that had made the city unique, and during this decade renovation of Pike Place Market and Pioneer Square complex of 19th century structures began in earnest. The use of a vacant warehouse at Pier 59 on Seattle's waterfront provided an opportunity to preserve the historic building and to provide a new and exciting attraction for the downtown, one that would educated children and tourists alike. Interestingly, the Seattle Aquarium opened in 1977, the same year as planning began on the Monterey Aquarium, a facility reusing the 1916 Knut Hovden Sardine Cannery on its waterfront.

Building History

According to the Seattle Times of 05/23/1976, the Seattle Aquarium was to cost $3 million and serve between 700,000-900,000 visitors per year. It was located on a public site situated between Piers 59 and 69. (See "Strong Growth Continues in Downtown Seattle," Seattle Times, Downtown Seattle Development Association 1976 Annual Report Section, 05/23/1976, p. 8.) It opened on 05/20/1977.

The institution's purpose has been summarized: "...The nonprofit Seattle Aquarium serves as the largest platform for ocean conservation and engagement in the Pacific Northwest. With a mission of Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment, it leads educational, conservation and regional research initiatives for a healthier planet. A thriving and vibrant Aquarium is a key part of Seattle." (See Seattle Aquarium.org, "Three Northwest Zoos and Aquariums Honored with National Award for Empathy for Animals Program," published 10/03/2018, accessed 09/15/2021.)

Building Notes

The Seattle Aquarium was accredited by the The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).


Renovation work was done on the Aquarium c. 1989. Later, a $41 million expansion opened on 06/22/2007, that included an exhibit called, "Window on Washington Waters," a 40-foot tank with local marine life. The City of Seattle financed $22 million of repairs to the foundation pilings of Pier 59 at this time. The Aquarium itself raised $18 million for this and future projects.

PCAD id: 3079