Odegaard Undergraduate Library | The Miller Hull Partnership

The interior renovation of this library at the University of Washington not only transformed an outmoded 1970s-era building but also reimagined the learning experience for students in the 21st century. The project also recognizes the inherent sustainability in renovation and reuse of a facility versus building new. Removal of the building’s most dominant feature—the imposing central staircase—essentially “found” an additional 6,000 square feet of previously underused space, the equivalent of 36 dorm rooms.

Constructed 40 years ago with few updates since, the massive 165,000-square-foot building could no longer keep pace with changes in learning, technology, and energy use and was long overdue for an update. The architect worked with faculty to identify a set of learning behaviors the building needed to support, then developed an architectural “kit of parts” to address each one: active learning, discovery of collection, consultation, prototyping, informal learning, individual study, and production. Each piece of the kit is color coded to highlight its significance in the academic experience.

The existing atrium was effectively reinvented to become the true “heart” of the building, both functionally and architecturally. Removal and replacement of the main atrium stair with a more efficient stair gained significantly more usable study and gathering space. Overhead, a large skylight adds light and airiness to the three-story atrium. At the perimeter, technology-rich classrooms for team-based learning during the day can be opened up for flexible nighttime study space. All spaces were designed for dual use throughout the 24-hour cycle. Overall, building space utilization increased by 13 percent.

The original oak stair railings were repurposed throughout the new atrium space. The remilled oak spindles enabled an undulating railing pattern, which adds interest and breaks up the massive space. Along with the new skylight, more efficient lighting, mechanical, and plumbing systems added significantly to the building’s improved energy efficiency.

Additional Credit

  • Contractor: Mortenson Construction
  • Engineer – MEP: Affiliated Engineers, Inc.
  • Engineer – Structural: Coughlin Porter Lundeen
  • Graphics/Wayfinding: Mayer Reed

Photo Credit

© Lara Swimmer

Odegaard Undergraduate Library

Jury Comments

The story of how the architects saved this building is a critical aspect of this project. The designers took a dark, Brutalist building and enlivened it.

The jury respected that, through careful programming, the architects found additional square footage within the existing structure and eliminated the need to add on to the building. The interventions—the stairs, trellis, and special spaces—are important program elements.

It is well detailed. The railing facet and how it falls into the underside of the structure is amazing. Both artificial and natural light are important to the project. This is an excellent example of architectural renovation.

2014 Institute Honor Awards for Interior Architecture Jury

  • David Montalba, AIA, Chair
  • Montalba Architects, Inc.
  • Santa Monica, California
  • Casey Jones, Deputy Director
  • U.S. Department of State
  • Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Mary Morissette, AIA
  • 4M Design
  • Denver
  • Robert H. Quigley, AIA
  • Architectural Resources Cambridge
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Josh Shelton, AIA
  • El Dorado Inc
  • Kansas City, Missouri

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