Sound Transit University of Washington Station

Architect: LMN Architects

Owner: Sound Transit

Location: Seattle

Knitting together multiple modes of transportation, the 156,000-square-foot Sound Transit University of Washington Station creates a unified solution for a problematic and incredibly busy Seattle intersection. A gateway to the university campus, it provides a wealth of above- and below-grade experiences.

The primary component of the project is the train platform, which sits 100 feet underground and is accessed by escalators and elevators from a two-level glass headhouse. Clean and visually economical, the structure greets commuters at multiple levels, and allows foot and bike traffic to access alternatives to the street. New bike ramps play a critical role in expanding Seattle’s bicycle commuter network and connect the station to a 27-mile rail trail.

"An aesthetically inspiring jewel that doubles as fantastic public art." ~ Jury statement  

Design elements throughout the station create a sense of movement and connection with the urban fabric. On the mezzanine, green accents in the wall treatments reference a linear armature bearing light fixtures and elements of the public address system that winds through the circulation pathways creating a striking wayfinding element. At the heart of the station experience, the escalators and glass elevator pass through a 55-foot high central chamber, one of the highest interior volumes in the city. LMN Architects and artist Leo Saul Berk collaborated to create an integrated experience for travelers, where the architecture seamlessly merges with Berk’s artwork, Subterraneum, that expresses the geological layers of soil surrounding the station walls.

The station’s extensive mechanical systems are layered into the architecture, allowing design, artistic gestures, and daylight to take precedence. Hidden from public view are the massive emergency smoke ventilation system, track crossover, and maintenance spaces that consume nearly two-thirds of the total station area. Each end of the below-grade structure is anchored by an elliptical ventilation tower that provides supply and exhaust air.

Overall, the project solves many transportation and urban planning issues at once; each element was carefully considered as a component in the web of uses surrounding it. The result is a transit hub that beautifully navigates a very complex urban node.

"They have made descending deep into the earth pleasant, full of light and color and visual texture." ~ Jury statement

Additional information

Acoustical consultant: The Greenbusch Group

Architectural technical facilities coordination: Moniz Art & Architecture

Artist: Leo Saul Berk

Construction management: START: Seattle  Tunnel and Rail Team

Contractor: Hoffman Construction Company

Landscape architect: Swift Company

Lighting design: Light Wire

Prime consultant: Northlink Transit Partners: McMillen Jacobs Associates, HNTB and AECOM

Station mechanical/electrical/fire protection: HNTB  

Structural/station; civil/grading, utilities, roadway: KPFF Consulting Engineer

Structural/bridge; civil/site drainage; mechanical/EVS: AECOM

Survey: True North Land Surveying, Inc.

Systems design: LTK Engineering Services

Traffic consultant: Grijalva Engineering

Vertical transportation: Lerch Bates Inc.

Waterproofing/groundwater management: Dr. Sauer and Partners Corporation


Brian Caldwell, AIA (Chair), THINKTANK Design Group, Bozeman, Montana

Joshua Aidlin, AIA, Aidlin Darling Design San Francisco

Kiyomi Kurooka, AIA, DWL Architects + Planners Inc., Phoenix

John Paquin, AIA, Statesville, North Carolina

William T. Ruhl, AIA, RUHL WALKER Architects, Boston

Image credits

Sound Transit

Kevin Scott

Sound Transit

Kevin Scott

Sound Transit

Kevin Scott

Sound Transit

Kevin Scott

Sound Transit

Kevin Scott