Museum of History and Industry

Seattle, Washington

Project Size:

Renovated area: 52,338 square feet

Project Status:

Completed 2012

LEED Status:

Certified LEED Commercial Interiors Platinum


Civic Design, Interior Design, LMN Tech Studio


A Place Comfortable with Boeing, Anarchists and Frasier

The New York Times, 12/28/12

A history museum that also shows our present and future

Daily Journal of Commerce, 1/7/13

Design Perspectives -- MOHAI: A Sense of history in a place of change

Daily Journal of Commerce, 1/16/13

'Water World' Seattle opens LMN Architects' Museum of History and Industry

The Architect's Newspaper, 5/31/13

Selected Awards

2014 AIA

Washington Council Civic Design Award

2014 National Building Museums

Buildy Award

2013 American Architecture


2013 AGC

Build Washington Awards, Private Building $10-25 Million

2013 European Centre & the Chicago Athenaeum

American Architecture Award

2013 Historic Seattle

Beth Chave Preservation Award

2013 State Historic

Valeria Sivinski Award for Rehabilitation

Seattle’s 1942 Naval Reserve Armory Building, formerly an underutilized, decaying structure at the center of major redevelopment plans for the South Lake Union neighborhood, is transformed into a key community asset as the home of the Museum of History and Industry. The LEED Platinum certified renovation makes subtle but sweeping enhancements to the original building to ensure a long future life. The Museum now hosts hundreds of visitors daily and anchors a cluster of waterfront-related historic resources in the newly designed South Lake Union Park.

Site and Program
South Lake Union, historically a commercial and light industrial neighborhood with ties to Seattle’s maritime industry, has undergone a development upheaval in the past decade. It is often seen as a model community for the city’s sustainable future through civic-oriented projects such as the Mercer Corridor Streetscape Design and the multi-block Amazon Headquarters. The Museum of History and Industry joins these and other progressive, mixed-use developments in redefining the district’s sense of place, welcoming an influx of thousands of new residents and creative, knowledge-driven businesses.

Exhibits center on the rich history of innovation in Seattle industry, tracing the city's cultural journey from wilderness to global recognition in maritime, aerospace, computer technology, music, and many other fields. Adjacent site assets, such the Center for Wooden Boats, a collection of historic ships, and a waterfront history trail, are used as view elements, interacting with the exhibits inside and the overall museum experience. As New York Times architecture critic Edward Rothstein remarked, “It is difficult to imagine the same objects on display elsewhere having the same effect.”

The interior layout of the existing building consists of a 40-foot high “Drill Hall” with a balcony around the perimeter of the second floor. The renovation masterfully incorporates new finishes, a dramatic architectural stair and glass elevator, generous daylight throughout and an inviting atmosphere for large-scale exhibits and special events. LMN’s interior design team built on the existing wood and concrete material palette with finishes that are suitable for the Museum and, in particular, supportive of an appropriate acoustic environment. Exhibit spaces flow through the first and second floors, while a café on the ground level opens to a newly built outdoor terrace that interfaces with the park. Continuing the building’s aesthetic, the added west terrace matches the original 1942 materiality, including a pair of reproduced Art Deco-style light fixtures with custom-designed molded eagles flanking the entrance. The successful renovation of this landmark was partially funded by federal historic preservation tax credits.

LMN Tech Studio
Retrofitting a WWII-era military structure to house sensitive historic artifacts required careful study of daylight intensity in the exhibit spaces to provide appropriate shading and solar protection without compromising the 360-degree views that are a hallmark of the site. The LMN Tech Studio conducted this study using a High-Dynamic Range Imaging (HDRI) camera to capture data about ambient luminance in the existing building. This data was fed into daylight simulation software and used to create a dynamic map of daylight intensity throughout the year on the upper floors and the large atrium space. The exhibit designer used this information to plan the flow and placement of exhibits, strategically shading certain openings while preserving views of Lake Union’s context as an integral part of the storytelling. Some 94% of interior spaces have access to views, and 77% are daylit to a level allowing lights to be off.