School of Oceanography, University of Washington

Seattle, Washington

1 / 7 – Photo credit: Art Grice
“This 110,000 SF, five-story academic/laboratory building sited on a waterfront urban university campus is dedicated to oceanographic research.”



The Ocean Sciences Building sits in a critical position on the University’s campus, adjacent to existing Oceanography buildings and the dock on Portage Bay serving the School’s research vessels. With its brick base and articulated metal panel and glass facades, the Ocean Sciences Building shapes an architecture that bridges the context of the existing Medical Center buildings, the buildings along the working waterfront, and the main campus to the north. Carefully detailed sunscreens, fins and reveals articulate and express the building’s internal functions and solar orientation. The building’s entrance is covered by a large canopy that marks the end of the Portage Bay vista. The wave-like shape of the glazed lobby corridor along the south façade echoes the form of the undular wave motion studied by the building’s occupants.

Internally, the Ocean Sciences Building is organized into two wings, one of laboratories, the other of faculty offices. The two wings converge at the crossing of two major axes and create the building’s core, or ‘heart’. This ‘heart’ organizes the lobbies and vertical circulation, such as elevators and monumental stairways. Shaped into a multi-story hollow, the ‘heart’ opens to a clerestory at the roof to bring light to the lower floors. From a monumental stair, one experiences the vertical center of the building with its gently curving, biomorphic roof lid raised above the top of the hollow, evoking the bottom of a boat or the belly of a creature.

Project Data

Seattle, Washington
1996 – 2000
University of Washington
110,000 sf


Design Award