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
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
CAD system, project management, or other software used:
Lightcatcher contractor: Evergreen House
Lightcatcher glass is a sandwich of multiple layers of glass.
2) Structure in 16" airspace
3) Insulated unit consisting of:
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.
Floors in Lightcatcher Gallery are polished concrete with integral color (black)