Civic Design Awards Interview with Ryan Bussard, AIA (Perkins+Will)

University of Washington Husky Union Building Renovation and Expansion
2013 AIA/WA Civic Design Awards - Honor
Firm: Perkins + Will // Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

Perkins + Will Seattle’s Associate Principal, Ryan Bussard, AIA, joined us for an interview regarding last year’s Civic Design Design – Honor Award win for the University of Washington Husky Union Building Renovation and Expansion. Read more after the break:

AIA Washington As project designer, what were your duties on the UW Husky Union Building Renovation and Expansion?

Binder1_Page_857Ryan Bussard, AIAI was able to work on the project from the very beginning, from the interview all the way through the Construction of the project. During that time, I worked closely with our client, the University of Washington, and our Design Principal, Peter Busby, to generate the initial design concept of the atrium, development of the major public and programmatic spaces, and the exterior massing and fenestration scheme. By being involved throughout the project, I was able to work closely with our team to continue the development of these design concepts both at a large scale, as in the atrium space – its materiality and feel, all the way down to individual details like the customized sunshade and glazing connectors at the new entries. I was also involved in project presentations, meetings and work sessions with our client, which consisted of Capital Projects, the students and the HUB and UW administrations, to understand their goals, programmatic needs and confirm that their vision was met.

#2: The lyceum is a particular triumph: tremendous care for sustainable design, careful detailing (and follow-through), and configurable light/acoustics. What does the process for this great space look like at Perkins + Will?

Binder1_Page_854The opportunity initially came from a collaborative value engineering session with our structural engineer, client, and consultant team. In that meeting, it was determined that by rebuilding what was a solid concrete and brick box, we were able to both transform a key building program as well as reduce the structural impacts that were being caused to the rest of the building by this heavy and antiquated structure.

We sought to invert the inflexible, dark and inwardly focused room into a light filled volume that is connected to the campus, celebrates the long span structure and incorporates natural Northwest materials.

Once that decision was made, we sought to invert the inflexible, dark and inwardly focused room into a light filled volume that is connected to the campus, celebrates the long span structure and incorporates natural Northwest materials.Binder1_Page_855 We developed the design fairly quickly using conventional foam core models, sketchup models and CAD drawings to understand the proportions of the room, sight lines and materiality of the space. One of the unique features of the space is the array of pivoting motorized wood panels along the glazed exterior wall. We had completed a number of projects where investigated using internal insulated wood panels to achieve a double façade and mitigate solar loading. The uniqueness of the space and acoustical challenges allowed us to push this idea further and achieve the two goals that we had for the project: increase the energy performance/ sustainable features and turn these features into beautiful design opportunities.

#3: How responsive were UW students, faculty, and staff during the eco-charrette? Any surprises, interesting discussions?

Binder1_Page_850The University was incredibly supportive in the pursuit of integrated sustainable solutions and ultimately the attainment of a LEED Gold certification. During the project, we had a number of eco-charrettes on the project during the early conceptual masterplan, pre-design and design phases of the project. The only surprise I had was how consistent the message was throughout the multiple phases of the process from the staff, University leadership, administration, Capital Projects and the students in making the center of student life on campus, the HUB, one of the greenest buildings on campus.

The only surprise I had was how consistent the message was […] in making the […] the HUB, one of the greenest buildings on campus

Two interesting outcomes of the eco-charrettes were finding outdoor areas for edible gardens (we will have planters outside the student terraces for this) and realizing that our carbon footprint was greatly reduced by retaining large portions of the existing structure and 1949/52 exterior.

#4: The bold removal of the old circulation and creation of a massive atrium strengthen themes of connection, transition, and openness throughout the project. How was this balance between open and private, new and old reinforced during design?

Binder1_Page_851Opening the building, retaining meaningful heritage components of the building like the 1949 main entry and 1952 facades, and introducing light, space and visibility into the building were fundamental goals of our client. By introducing the atrium, we were able to achieve these goals. Within the atrium, the organizations and clubs were placed to maximize their visibility and connectivity to the students and create synergies between programs. Quieter or more sensitive aspects of the program naturally migrated to the upper floors of the building. However, it was important to the client for each programmatic element to have a front door on the new atrium’s main street and be visually connected to it. The introduction of the large wooden folds in the atrium space comprised of wall and ceiling elements, syncopated with the glass monitors, allowed us to create a formal design device that creates a balance between closed and openness. The breaks in the vertical wooden planes were glazed and programmed to emphasize either programmatic entries or visual connections to significant program spaces. It was also important to be able to occupy the atrium in different ways – with delicate glass and steel communicating stairs, bridges, alternating walkways and the suspended lounge space at the center of the atrium.

A key goal of the design was to create a cohesive identity and unify the 5 separate additions into a comprehensive architectural language – a heritage component and the new contemporary HUB. The balance between these two was achieved internally by retaining and reinforcing the historic western façade internally and externally. In addition, historically significant components within the building have been preserved, restored and given prominent locations within the building. An example of this is the Norling Mural, a mural painted in 1949 commemorating the history of the University up to that time, which was restored and with the outstanding logistical support of our contractor was protected during demolition and relocated into the new student lounge space. Salvaged Carved stone elements were retained and put on display at the ground floor dining and entries. The travertine stone paneling from the 1952 addition was removed, refinished, and reinstalled along the Eastern wall of the atrium creating a tangible reminder of the historic HUB. The balance of old and new represents the duality of the university: the connection to the past HUB legacy while also creating a new canvas for today and tomorrow’s students.

#5: Are there any upcoming projects that you and Perkins + Will are particularly excited about?

We were recently awarded the student union revitalization project at Eastern Washington University. In many ways, some of the challenges we experienced on the HUB are also present on this project. The student and administration support and energy are fantastic and it represents an opportunity to transform their building and that area of the campus. We also are completing the design of several large and high-profile projects including the Allen Institute for Brain Science in South Lake Union and the Center for Life Science | San Diego in La Jolla, California – a LEED Platinum science and research building that features dramatic cantilevered offices and labs constructed of architectural concrete. We will also have a number of smaller interesting projects underway which will include the groundbreaking this spring for the King County Library System’s Tukwila library – a 10,000 square foot free standing building that will be seen as a centerpiece in the redevelopment of Tukwila International Boulevard. Lastly, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Student Union addition will be completing construction later this year; it is a project where we were able to achieve LEED platinum and meet the 2030 challenge despite its challenging environment.

About Perkins+Will

Perkins+Will was founded on the belief that design has the power to transform our lives – in commerce, our culture or our communities. By gaining a holistic view of our clients’ vision, needs and context, and adding creativity and innovation, our work solves complex problems and transforms our clients’ businesses and missions, often helping to make them leaders in their fields. We believe that great design has the power to do this. (Source)



University of Washington Husky Union Building Renovation and Expansion
Firm: Perkins + Will
Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

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