AKA: University of Washington, Seattle, School of Law Building #2, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - public buildings - schools - university buildings

Designers: Bouillon, Christofferson, and Schairer, Mechanical Engineers (firm); Hansen, Robert, Associates, Incorporated (firm); Joyce / Copeland / Vaughan / Nordfors, Architects (firm); Meadows, John, Associates (firm); Mitchell / Giurgola Architects (firm); Sellen, John H., Construction Company, Incorporated (firm); Shannon and Wilson, Incorporated, Geotechnical and Environmental Consultants (firm); Skilling, Helle, Christiansen, and Robertson, Incorporated, Engineers (firm); Alfred Lincoln Bouillon (engineer); John Valdemar Christiansen (structural engineer); Lloyd F. Christofferson (mechanical engineer); Lee Gordon Copeland (architect); Romaldo Giurgola (architect); Harold Guida (architect); Robert Hansen (acoustical engineer); Helge Joel Helle (structural engineer); Clayton Robert Joyce (architect); John Meadows (architect); Ehrman Burkman Mitchell Jr. (architect); Leslie Earl Robertson (engineer); Robert Henry Schairer (mechanical engineer); John Henry Sellen Sr. (building contractor/civil engineer); William L. Shannon (civil engineer); John Bower Skilling (structural engineer); Burton Keith Vaughan (architect); Stanley Wilson (civil engineer)

Dates: constructed 1974-1975

total floor area: 129,000 sq. ft.

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1100 NE Campus Parkway
Seattle, WA 98105-6605

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Condon Hall #2 has elicited grunts of disgust or swoons of admiration from its beginning. Among many faculty who resented the building's nearly off-site location, cramped spaces and fortress-like construction, the building was unpopular since it opened in 1974. For architects and designers, however, reviews were much more positive. They admired its honest, utilitarian construction and minimalist forms, articulated earlier at nearby Gould Hall, finished in 1971. The building presented to many obstacles to retrofitting its interior, particularly in supplying electricity to a school rapidly adopting computers for all tasks. Plans for an additional law school building fizzled in the economic turmoil of the 1970s and ended during the Recession of 1982. Failure to build a 207,000-square-foot Condon Phase II, demoralized many and forced faculty to teach in overly large classrooms and work in many tight, oddly configured spaces, particularly in Condon's Law Library. Plans developed over two decades to replace the building, and by 2001 construction began on the third UW Law School, William H. Gates, Sr., Hall.

Building History

The celebrated Philadelphia architectural firm of Mitchell / Giurgola prepared the design for this second $5.1 million University of Washington (UW) Law School Building named for John Thomas Condon (born 09/20/1863 in Port Gamble, WA Territory-d. 01/05/1926 in Seattle, WA), the school's second dean. Romaldo Giurgola (1920-2016) was a key designer on the project, working with Rollin R. LaFrance (born 04/12/1937), Mitchell / Giurgola's Project Architect. (La France worked with Mitchell / Giurgola between 1963 and 1989.) In 1967, however, the UW alumnus Minoru Yamasaki (1912-1986) was to prepare plans for a new UW Law Center located on the site where Condon Hall would be built. It is possible that Yamaksaki's workload precluded him from completing this assignment, as he would be working on New York's World Trade Centers at about this time. (See "U.W. Plans for Renewal Tract Shown," Seattle Times, 01/02/1967, p. 38.)

Mitchell / Giurgola worked with a Seattle-based associate architectural firm, Joyce, Copeland, Vaughan and Nordfors. Srucutral engineers were Skilling, Helle, Christiansen and Robertson, while the foundations-soils engineers were Shannon and Wilson, and the mechanical engineers, Bouillon, Christofferson and Schairer. Robert Hanson Associates, Incorporated provided acoustical expertise and John Meadows Associates cost accounting expertise. The general contractor was the John Sellen Construction Company.

During the mid-1970s, just after it completed the Condon Hall #2, Mitchell Giurgola was also in the running for a combined shopping center-park-and-art museum to be erected at Westlake Mall in the center of Downtown Seattle, This project fell through, forcing the Seattle Art Museum to find another site on 1st Avenue at Universtiy Street. The plan was still being considered in 1980. (See "Westlake Mall Designers OK'd," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 11/04/1975, p. A16, Barbara Huston, "Museum Challenges Westlake Designer," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 08/27/1978, p. D1 and "Grant for Westlale Monorail Terminal, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 06/28/1980, p. 2.)

The Seattle architectural firm, Joyce / Copeland / Vaughan / Nordfors, Architects, served as Associate Architects on Condon #2. Between 1933 and 1974, the UW Law School occupied Condon Hall #1, a quad building, just northeast of Suzzallo Library, that was subsequently renamed Gowen Hall. In comparison to Gowen, Condon Hall #2, was larger, and thought adequate to provide space for approximately 500 students and 30 faculty.

Soon after Condon #2's opening in 08/1974, the concrete tower received many architectural awards, including a Citation of Excellence from the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Philadelphia Chapter, 1976, and the Distinguished Building Award, Pennsylvania Society of Architects, 1977.

Law faculty and students, however, began to grumble about its "brutalist" features, its narrow halls, lack of light and penal character. By the 1990s, faculty and well-heeled alumni had begun to agitate for the construction of a new building; some said that oppressiveness of Condon #2 might endanger the viability of the law school itself. Adding to its unpopularity, the law school was located well away from the main campus, across from two undergraduate high-rise dorms. The law school was to have been built in two stages; the first phase would contain a law library and reading room, offices, classrooms, seminar spaces, and a moot court to accommodate 500 students; during the second, facilities for 50 post-graduate students were to be erected, along with the doubling of the size of the law library. Phase I contained 129,000 square feet, with a budget of $3,814,900 for general construction and $250,000 for furnishings; the law library was to contain 40,977 square feet of the Phase I building. Due to economic "stagflation" of the 1970s, Phase II never commenced. A Seattle Times article of 01/25/1973 said of this proposed second phase: "A second phase of the center, on Northeast Campus Parkway, calls for additional office and library space. That unit is not funded." (See Julie Emery, “U.W. construction to dip,” Seattle Times, 01/25/1973, p. F7.)

The failure to complete the second phase exacerbated space problems in classrooms and the library. In addition, the building's massive concrete structure was difficult to modify; when personal computers became popular during the 1980s, Condon #2 lacked the electrical capacity to accommodate them. ADA requirements could not be met easily, leaving disabled students at a great disadvantage.

A 2001 article in the UW Alumni Magazine Columns, summarized the official reasons for abandoning Condon Hall #2: "The current library is overcrowded and divided inefficiently among seven floors, inconveniencing users and creating security problems. A quarter of the collection is in the basement, not easily accessed by users. The new library will be far more accessible and efficient. The rest of the current law school building also has been overcrowded virtually from the moment it opened in 1974. Over the years, changes in legal education compounded the building's inadequacies. There is less use of large lecture halls today and more emphasis on small classes and seminars. Condon Hall's thick-walled concrete construction restricts the ability to install wiring and infrastructure for today's technologies. The computer lab fits only 35 students. Electrical outlets are scarce in classrooms and offices." (See Columns, "Briefings: Law School Returns to Heart of Campus in William H. Gates Hall," 06/2001, accessed 08/06/2015.) A campaign to move the law school finally succeeded by 2003, when the Gates Family led the fundraising needed to erect Gates Hall, the third law school building.

Starting in March 2006, Condon Hall #2 was used as a temporary facility to house the Departments of Architecture and Construction Management, Applied Mathematics, and Aeronautics & Astronautics. Following this, c. 2007-2009, Condon Hall was used as a University of Washington "surge" building, for several humanities departments, while Savery Hall was retrofitted. From 2010-2012, those who worked in the Husky Union Building (HUB) were transferred to Condon #2 during its massive renovation, and, in 2012, occupants of the first University of Washington Ethnic Cultural Center (ECC) moved here.

Building Notes

Drawings of Condon Hall #2 can be found in the Mitchell / Giurgola (Philadelphia Office) Collection, Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania. See local id #: aaup.015.V.121.1, aaup.015.V.122.1, and aaup.015.V.122.2.


A Seattle Times article summarizing current building projects on the University of Washington campus in early 1972 noted: "Completion dates of other projects under way [at the University of Washington] are a $5.1 million law school library, 1973.”(See Julie Emery, "U.W. beginning last big year of rapid capital expansion," Seattle Times, 01/02/1972, p, F2.)

As the building has been used as a "surge" space during the 2000s-2010s, Condon Hall #2 has been altered many times to accommodate new departmental occupants.

PCAD id: 6834