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

Seattle, Washington

Project Size:

138,760 square feet

Project Status:

Completed 2018

LEED Status:

Targeting LEED New Construction Silver


Education Design, Interior Design

The new Bill & Melinda Gates Center for Computer Science & Engineering greatly expands the capacity of the University’s School of Computer Science and establishes a new standard for the study of computer science to attract a broad and diverse student population. The building enhances the School’s connections to the campus, community, and thriving local technology sector, and through its spatial and programmatic synergies with the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science, it creates a new hub of interdisciplinary research and learning on the University of Washington main campus.

The building presents a strategic counterpoint to the minimalist, bare aesthetics popularized by the tech industry by offering a warm, welcoming, and comfortable environment for students, researchers, and faculty. The program includes classrooms, an undergraduate commons, capstone workrooms, graduate research spaces, a robotics laboratory, faculty and staff offices, a 240-seat lecture hall, a rooftop event center and a street-level café. The core program elements—research spaces and offices—are arranged around a central atrium and are deliberately intermingled across the upper three floors to encourage serendipitous interaction.

The large central atrium provides visual and physical connections across the building and acts as the School’s cultural heart. The space fosters interaction between students and researchers, reinforcing the department’s reputation for innovation and collaboration across disciplines. A roof-level event center features sweeping views of Lake Washington and the Cascade Mountains, providing a signature experience for a range of conferences, interdepartmental functions, and industry events. Throughout the building, collaboration spaces offer opportunities to extend collaboration in a variety of settings and scales.

On its exterior, the Gates Center is a two-sided curving form that embraces its central atrium and responds to the topography and flow of campus circulation. The building envelope celebrates old and new, juxtaposing modules of subtlety shimmering terra-cotta panels floating in front of a crisp black metal and glass subsurface. The depth of the composite system is finely tuned and varies across the building, providing solar shading to the rooms beyond and representing the organization of spaces within. In its composition, the ordered, vertical façade geometry of the western end of the building reflects the formal qualities of adjacent buildings within the central campus. As it moves east, the arrangement becomes increasingly fragmented, echoing the varied and haphazard campus edge.

The site design unites the surrounding engineering buildings through an integrated plaza, enhancing pedestrian connections across Stevens Way, and along the northern edge of the building as a major campus connection. Like the façade, the site establishes an orderly urban condition to the west and becomes increasingly informal as it migrates eastward.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Center strengthens the mission of the Paul G. Allen School by enhancing the inclusivity of the department, attracting a diversity of students to the surging program. The building and its site represent a strategic integration of major campus forces and departmental aspirations, creating a major new campus hub at the University of Washington.