Bellingham, Washington


Client: City of Bellingham

Completion Date: November 2009

Program: A two-level, 42,000-square-foot headquarters for the fine-art exhibitions of the Whatcom Museum, which focuses on the history and art of the Northwest. The Whatcom also keeps galleries and education spaces in existing downtown buildings; the new structure adds art galleries, an interactive gallery for children, a store, a café, a courtyard, and a green roof.

Design Concept and Solution: With an eye to making the activity on the inside of the museum visible on the outside, the Olson Kundig team conceived the new building as a museum turned inside out. Its central feature is the Lightcatcher, a 37-foot-tall, 180-foot-long curved glass wall that cuts through the museum and defines an interior courtyard. The courtyard brings the outdoors into the heart of the Whatcom, while openings in the Lightcatcher—and in the walls of the museum—invite pedestrians to look inside. The Lightcatcher doubles as something of a natural light fixture, capturing sunlight and reflecting it into the courtyard. The color of the glass ranges from a nearly translucent white to warm tones of yellow and salmon (when lights in its base are switched on), which imbue the interior with a lanternlike glow. With black concrete flooring and wood ceilings that translate to the floors and overhangs of the courtyard, the architects further blend the indoors and outdoors.

Total construction cost: $11.55 million

Olson Kundig Architects
159 South Jackson St., Suite 600
Seattle, WA 98104
Phone: 206.624.5670
Fax: 206.624.3730


City of Bellingham

Project Manager
City of Bellingham/Public Facilities District

Olson Kundig Architects
159 South Jackson St., Suite 600
Seattle, WA 98104
Phone: 206.624.5670
Fax: 206.624.3730

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Jim Olson, FAIA, Principal in Charge (registered architect)
Stephen Yamada-Heidner, AIA, LEED AP, Project Manager (registered architect)
Olivier Landa, LEED AP, Construction Administration Manager (registered architect)
Michael Picard, LEED AP, Architectural Staff (registered architect)
William Franklin, Architectural Staff
Megan Zimmerman, LEED AP, Architectural Staff
Debbie Kennedy, LEED AP, Interiors
Cristina Acevedo, Interiors

Interior designer:
Olson Kundig Architects
159 South Jackson St., Suite 600
Seattle, WA 98104, USA
Phone: 206.624.5670
Fax: 206.624.3730

Structural Engineer:
Magnusson Klemencic Associates
1301 Fifth Avenue, 3200
Seattle, WA  98101-2699

Mechanical Engineer:
TAC  Engineers
95 South Jackson St., Suite 300
Seattle, WA 98104

Civil Engineer:
Wilson Engineering
805 Dupont Street, Suite 7
Bellingham, WA  98225

Electrical Engineer:
720 Olive Way, Suite 1400
Seattle, WA  98101-1853

Landscape  Architect:
Charles Anderson Landscape Architects

720 Olive Way, Suite 1400
Seattle, WA 98101-1853

LEED Consultant:
David Nelson & Associates, LLC
P.O. Box 270254
Littleton, CO 80120

Cost Estimator:
Robinson Company
101 Stewart St., #925
Seattle WA  98101

Eskilsson Architects
1932 First Avenue, Suite 815
Terminal Sales Building
Seattle, WA  98101

Geotechnical  Engineer:
GeoEngineers Inc
Plaza 600 Building
600 Stewart St, Ste. 1700
Seattle, WA 98101

Land Survey:
City of Bellingham, Dept of Public Works
210 Lottie Street
Bellingham, WA 98225

720 Olive Way, Suite 1400
Seattle, WA  98101-1853

General contractor
Ebenal General, Inc.
P.O. Box 31548
Bellingham, WA 98228

Tim Bies, Olson Kundig Architects (
Benjamin Benschneider (

Kevin Scott, Olson Kundig Architects

CAD system, project management, or other software used:
ACAD 2006, sketchup



Structural system:
Slab on grade, concrete footing and stem walls, supporting concrete tilt panels at exterior with steel columns interior, supporting slab on metal deck and steel joists/metal deck at roof.

Exterior cladding
Metal insulated wall panels by Uniclad

Single ply roof membrane by GAF

Storefront Windows
4” Aluminum storefront with zero site-line windows by PAC Aluminum

Storefront glass:
SolarBan 60, Low-e, insulated storefront unit glass by Hartung.  The SolarBan product is in the storefront glass only.

Lightcatcher Glazing
Lightcatcher glazing fabricator: Northwest Industries

Lightcatcher contractor: Evergreen House

Lightcatcher glass is a sandwich of multiple layers of glass.
From the exterior:
1) Single glazing - Acid etched exterior surface on Walker Starphire, low iron, by NWI.  (Low iron makes it whiter instead of greenish tint that "standard" glass has)

2) Structure in 16" airspace

3) Insulated unit consisting of:

a) Walker Starphire with amber color, patterned frit on outer surface, laminated to a clear Walker Starphire with low-e coating on inner surface
b) 1/2" spacer
c) Acid etched interior surface on Walker Starphire, low iron, by NWI.

Hollow metal by Builders Hardware

Interior finishes
Exposed galvanized steel by Inline Steel

GWB by VanBeek

Painting by Long Painting

Low VOC paints, adhesives, sealers, and stains by Sherwin Williams

Ceilings in the Lightcatcher Gallery and public spaces are slatted tight-knot cedar with a transparent stain.
Ceilings in upper galleries are acoustical metal decking and joists.

Floors in Lightcatcher Gallery are polished concrete with integral color (black)
Floors in upper galleries are carpeted
Courtyard surface is concrete slab on grade that drains to a rain garden

Gallery Lighting: Lightolier

Elevator: ThyssenKrupp

Dual flush toilets (with water from the cisterns), waterless urinals and low flow plumbing fixtures

Sinks and urinals are Kohler.