AKA: University of Washington, Allen Library, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - public buildings - schools - university buildings; built works - social and civic buildings - libraries

Designers: Barnes, Edward Larabee and Lee, John M.Y., and Partners (firm); Fisher / Marantz, Architects (firm); Hanna / Olin, Limited, Landscape Architects (firm); Mortenson, M.A., Construction Company (firm); The Richardson Associates (TRA) Architecture, Engineering, Planning, Interiors (firm); Edward Larrabee Barnes (architect); Michael S. Barratt (architect); Daniel T. Casey (architect); Jules Fisher ; Paul Marantz (architect); Morton A. Mortenson Sr. (building contractor); Morton A. Mortenson Jr. (building contractor/civil engineer); Laurie Olin (landscape architect)

Dates: constructed 1988-1990

5 stories, total floor area: 215,000 sq. ft.

University of Washington Campus, Seattle, WA 98195

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Building History

Paul G. Allen (1953-2018), Co-Founder of the Microsoft Corporation, donated $2 million in funding for this library building located adjacent to the Suzzallo Library at the center of the University of Washington Campus. Allen requested that the building be named for his father, Kenneth S. Allen, who began working at the UW Library in 1951 and remained Associate Director of Libraries from 1960-1982; In total, Paul Allen generously provided the UW Libraries with $10 million, one-fifth of which was ear-marked for the construction of the Allen Library. The cost of building the Allen Library and re-landscaping the area in front of the nearby Student Union Building was $38 million.

The building was designed to house the Natural Sciences Library, the Department of Special Collections, Library Administration, and study and reading spaces. For Barnes/Lee, Daniel T. Casey, served as Design Associate, Michael S. Barratt, Project Architect. Mortenson Construction collaborated as the Building Contractor for Allen Library.

Building Notes

Ground breaking occurred in 07/1988 and the opening came in 09/1990; Allen Library contained 215,000 gross square feet when built. Janet Donelson acted as the Project Manager for the University of Washington (UW) on the Allen Library. The design is a Post-Modern, contextual variation on the Gothic architecture of Suzzallo Library next door. Its two main features were the North and East Towers, standing 88 and 84 feet, respectively.

A portion of the UW High Energy Physics Laboratory stood on this site prior to 1988. In 1990, the Allen Library accommodated 1,056,000 volumes.

In 1989, the Seattle Times surveyed the increased use of colorful terra cotta in contemporary design, citing the Allen Library as one example. (The article referred to it as "Suzzallo," although it was a distinct portion built later to Suzzallo's south and east.) "Other new projects incorporating terra cotta include a huge three-dimensional mural in the downtown Metro station below Westlake Park and the new addition to Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington. 'We were interested in doing something at Suzzallo that was contextual, in harmony with existing buildings out there,' said architect Dan Casey, with Edward Larrabee Barnes/John M.Y. Lee and Partners, the New York firm designing the Suzzallo addition. Casey is design-team leader on the Suzzallo project. Though architects say its color capacity may be infinite, those who've worked with terra cotta say achieving a particular hue takes patience, experimenting, even cultivating, a new eye. The terra cotta for Suzzallo's addition, to be completed in fall 1990, will appear with simple geometric designs and some sculpted relief on panels under the windows between the floors. The desired color for the material was 'sort of a gray green with some blue in it,' Casey says. But the actual glaze, achieved after weeks of trying different color combinations, ended up being three different colors: green and blue with black speckles. 'It looks a little bit like the skin of a brook trout,' he says.Terra cotta is a hands-on, labor-intensive material that may last forever on top of a building but is fragile on the ground." (See Marsha King, "Feats of Clay--Architects Turn Back to Terra Cotta to Bring Vivid Colors to Buildings," Seattle Times, 03/12/1989, p. L1.)

In 1993, the Allen Library received the "Brick in Architecture Award" from the AIA/Brick Institute of America.


HVAC equipment in the sub-basement of the Allen Library was replaced between 05/30/2019 and 06/09/2019.

PCAD id: 6347