AKA: Seattle Art Museum #1, Seattle, WA; Seattle Asian Art Museum, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - exhibition buildings - museums

Designers: Bebb and Gould, Architects (firm); Hoggson, Noble, Landscape Architect (firm); Charles Herbert Bebb ; Carl Freylinghausen Gould Sr. (architect); Noble Foster Hoggson Jr. (landscape architect); Walter Charles Wurdeman (architect); Samuel Yellin (ironworker)

Dates: constructed 1932-1933

1 story

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1400 East Prospect Street
Capitol Hill, Seattle, WA 98112-3303

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Building History

The firm of Bebb and Gould received the commission for the Art Institute of Seattle from the heiress Margaret MacTavish Fuller (1860-1953) and her son, Richard Eugene Fuller (1897-1976), who served as the Art Institute of Seattle's first Director. The Fullers made of gift of $250,000 in 1931 to the Art Institute, providing most of the funds for its construction. During the design phase, Fuller contacted Laurence Vail Coleman (1893-1982), President of the American Association of Museums (AAM) from 1927-1958, to consult on the space planning of the new building, contributing expertise about the placement and proportioning of galleries, offices and storage areas. Coleman provided Fuller a report in early 10/1931 that strongly influenced the final plans of the museum as built. One key result of Coleman's recommendations was the significant enlargement of basement storage areas. (See T. William Booth and William H. Wilson, Carl F. Gould: A Life in Architecture and the Arts, [Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995], p. 157.)

The chief designer within Carl Gould's office on the Art Institute was Walter C. Wurdeman (1903-1949), a graduate of the University of Washington (UW), Department of Architecture in the late 1920s, who would go on to form a partnership with Charles F. Plummer (d. 1939) and Welton Becket (1902-1969), a UW classmate, Class of 1927. The three would later design one of Los Angeles's great Streamline monuments, the Pan-Pacific Auditorium (1934). Construction on the Art Institute began in 1932 and concluded by early Summer 1933. The opening occurred on 06/29/1933 housing a notable collection of Asian art and artifacts.

Noble Hoggson, Jr., (1899-1970), worked as the original Landscape Architect for the Art Institute of Seattle in 1933-1934.

The museum's collections were divided in 1987, when a new space, designed by the NJ firm of Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown, was opened for displaying Western art, while the old space was reserved for Asian art. This new Asian Art Museum opened on 08/13/1994.

Building Notes

The museum featured a reinforced concrete structure, with a front facade covered in sandstone. The back and sides were faced with concrete stucco. Aluminum entry gates by the Polish-born, Philadelphia-based iron worker, Samuel Yellin (1885–1940), protected the exterior of the Indonesian Room. (Previously on the West Coast, Yellin produced iron work for the US Naval Air Station in San Diego, CA, in 1920.) The main entry of the Dallas Aquarium at Fair Park, Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas, TX, (1936), resembled the front facade of the Art Institute of Seattle; Seattle's new museum had a stripped-down classical formality to it, typical of some Art Deco buildings of the 1920s. Exterior ironwork above the main entry had a pronounced vertical geometry to it, typical of Art Deco. Influence of the Streamline Moderne Style was also apparent, particularly in the lobby. Upon entry, one proceeded past walls with streamlined corners, the curves of which were accentuated by bending stainless bands.

The American Architect included a list of materials used in the new museum in its issue of 01/1934: "Construction. Reinforced concrete faced with hard-surfaced Wilkeson sandstone, ligh gray-buff in color. Skylights over main galleries, all exterior flashing, copper. Terraces, walks and bases, Wilkeson sandstone. Rams and camels at entrance are Chinese sculptures from the early Ming dynasty. Grilles, door, sash, etc., of entrance aluminum. Entrance hall: floor, red Levanto terrazzo with base of Belgian Black marble; walls, imitation Travertine with strips of gold terra cotta; deep door jambs, dark green scagliola; plaster ceiling with gold leaf. Garden court: slate floors; base and fountain: Travertine; walls, imitation Travertine; floors of galleries, wood composition tiles. Floors in offices, lecture room and service areas, mosaic tile. Library on ground floor finished in oak; board room in walnut. Galleries are lighted by two systems, both under centralized remote control. One employs indirect illumination from reflectors in continuous troughs; the other includes reflectors mounted above skylights. All reflectors are equipped with lenses for color correction." (See "The Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington," American Architect, vol. CXLIV, no. 2621, 01/1934, p. 29.) Scagliola is imitation marble (or some other stone), created with plaster and a mixture of glues and dyes.

Tel: 206-654-3100 (2006).


The museum was altered to house just the Seattle Art Museum's Asian collections, and opened to the public in 1994.

The museum required approximately $15 million worth of repairs to its HVAC system and seismic upgrades in 2012.

PCAD id: 3303