Gates Hall

University of Washington Law School

Seattle, WA, USA University of Washington School of Law Mahlum, Architect-of-Record Education 202,000 ft2 / 19,000 m2 MCAA International Excellence Awards, Best of Show: Brick (2004)

Incorporating all the functions of the School of Law at the University of Washington into one facility, William H. Gates Hall is set on a gentle hillside bordered to the east by the tree-lined Memorial Way, a principal north-south axis within the campus. The new facility houses classrooms and seminar rooms, conference rooms and auditorium, a full research law library and law clinic, graduate program student center, student lounges, and faculty and administrative offices.

While many of the university’s existing academic structures are arranged to form quadrangle spaces, the Law School stands alone at the northern edge of the university’s core. The L-shaped building defines a courtyard and terrace that open south towards the greater campus. Beneath the terrace the library occupies the lowest two levels, providing a plinth for the composition. The scheme responds to the geometry of the old quadrangle and the surrounding urban grid of Seattle, creating a distinct identity for the school while grounding it firmly to the University.

The project provides teaching spaces appropriate to the modern law school curriculum, which emphasizes smaller classroom instruction, group discussion formats, practice skills training, and access to information technology. Classroom configurations were selected with pedagogical intent, from 25-seat seminar rooms with mock courtrooms to a 170-seat auditorium.

The concept of the school as community is vital to students and faculty. The spatial interpenetration between the two-story gallery, terrace and library invite interaction and reflection. The central focus of the library is the grand two-story reading room. It is flooded with light from four skylights at the terrace above and fritted glass at the south and east walls. Study rooms, computer consoles and lounge areas punctuate the reading room and stacked areas. The generous use of glass—unusual for this building type—allows for the extension of the landscape into the interior, wherein the conservatory-like quality of the space is reinforced and elaborated. Canopies and trellises protect benches at the gallery and perimeter from sun or rain and frame views in and out. The north and west façades act as a textured brick shell holding the layered, glassy volumes.

Image 1 / 9 | © Ben Benschneider