University of Washington Bill & Melinda Gates Center for Computer Science & Engineering

Seattle, Washington

Project Size:

140,370 square feet

Project Status:

Completed 2018

LEED Status:

Targeting LEED New Construction Silver

As by far the most in-demand college degree for Washington State employers and having recently surpassed business as the most popular major at the University of Washington, the Computer Science & Engineering department is expanding to accommodate significant growth in the coming decade. The program has risen to a top 10 national ranking in the period since 2003, when the existing 165,000-sf Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering, designed by LMN, was completed. Building on this success, the university returned to LMN to design the expansion project, which complements the Allen Center while representing the future of computer science at the university and across the region.

Site and Program
In a dense campus precinct surrounded by engineering buildings, the expansion site interacts with the existing facility across Stevens Way—a major campus circulation road shared by cars, buses, pedestrians, and bicycles—requiring a holistic approach to integrating campus circulation into the two-building program. A pedestrian circulation path through the steeply sloped, forested site crosses Stevens Way as well as two service roads as it approaches the Burke-Gilman Trail, forming a critical axial connection between Drumheller Fountain at the center of campus and the athletic facilities on the East Campus.

Within the expansion building, a variety of program elements including classrooms, offices, and workroom spaces are deliberately mixed and intermingled across 5 floors to encourage serendipitous interaction between faculty and students in different specialties. A roof-level event center takes advantage of sweeping views of Lake Washington and the Cascade Mountains to provide a signature experience for a flexible range of conferences and functions.

Departing from the minimalist, flexible building typology popularized by the tech industry, the CS&E buildings offer a warm, welcoming, and comfortable environment for students, researchers, and faculty—something very different from what would be offered in the private sector. The expansion building features a two-sided curving form that responds to the topography and flow of campus circulation. A richly detailed building façade system of terra-cotta panels in 4 texture types juxtaposes against crisp, modern black glass and metal, providing sun shading while reflecting the intermixed nature of the program within.

The site design reaches beyond the boundaries of the building with a shared plaza, improving pedestrian connections across Stevens Way and embracing the Mechanical Engineering and Civil Engineering buildings to either side. A coffee shop activates the primary entry at Stevens Way, transitioning between the exterior landscape to a sky lit central atrium with visual and circulation connections to all floors and program functions. The shared plaza continues through a series of stepped elevations along the north side of the building, remaining porous with the open circulation of the atrium while fully remaking the existing pedestrian path with natural edges defined by boulders and lush vegetation.