Core Design Team

Firm: KieranTimberlake


Architect: KieranTimberlake
Landscape Architect: OLIN
Associate Architect (Dining Interiors): Graham Baba
Associate Architect (Local CA Support): GGLO
Engineer – Structural: Coughlin Porter Lundeen
Engineer – Civil: KPFF
Engineer – Mechanical Plumbing: Rushing with Tres West
Engineer – Electrical: Travis Fitzmaurice
Lighting Design: FMS
Building Enclosure Consulting: RDH
Acoustical Consulting: A3 Acoustics
LEED Admin/Sustainability: O’Brien360
Signage & Graphics: Studio SC
Accessibility Consulting: Studio Pacifica
General Contractors: WG Clark & Absher Construction
Photographer: Bruce Damonte

Project Narrative

The University of Washington is a public university with a 700 acre main campus located in Seattle’s University District. The North Campus had long been disjointed from the original campus core, both physically and programmatically.

Following years of continued growth and an expanding student body, UW proposed a multi-phase development plan in late 2014 to refine portions of the North Campus, renovating and replacing a total of four student housing buildings and introducing new academic facilities, sports fields, open greenery, and additional amenities for students. The University sought to extend the campus core into a new network of intimate and memorable outdoor spaces—formed by and fused to a new residential community.

A critical goal was to create a concept for the North Campus that would host its own identity and interconnectedness, as well as being integrated into the larger campus to enhance the use and appreciation of this part of the public realm. Pedestrian and vehicular access, in addition to increased access to natural landscape, were desired.

The design process began in 2015 and was completed in 2016, with overall construction across multiple phases beginning in 2016 and finishing in 2021. While the project initially targeted at least LEED Silver certification, it achieved LEED Gold in 2021.

The resulting neighborhood extends an historic campus fabric by weaving together four buildings and accompanying landscapes on a previously isolated and heavily sloped part of campus. The residences create a vibrant living-learning community for upwards of 2,000 students, fostering engagement and connection through dining, instruction, meeting, and recreation spaces.

The core of North Campus is assembled in a pinwheel formation around the Town Square at its center, with a meandering mid-slope path worked into the hillside to achieve full accessibility while maximizing engagement of the space, both built and natural. The neighborhood bustles with an intramural field, various student lounges, a student information help center, learning resource and tutoring center, classrooms, 300-person conference and event space, and the McCarty Innovation Learning Lab (MILL). Nestled alongside the Kincaid Ravine, the MILL is a collaboration between Housing & Food Services and the College of Engineering to provide easy access to makerspace tools, encouraging impromptu creativity and exploration within the student housing community.

By coupling each housing structure with a shared amenity, like student lounges, an information help center, learning resource and tutoring lab, classrooms, conference and event space, and the MILL, the North Campus Housing invites students to engage in their community beyond shared residency. Like the diverse flora and fauna incorporated throughout, this social ecosystem thrives through multi-use spaces and cross-disciplinary engagement. These multiple functions allowed the University to maximize engagement across their community, adding a valuable and cost-effective asset to the campus.

Situated on a natural plateau that frames the east ridge along a dramatically sloping part of campus, the residences prioritize green space by reducing impacts on the landscape and maximizing solar orientation where possible. The western red cedar rainscreens complement the surrounding environment and mature trees. The cedar slats are organized vertically over metal battens to create performative rainscreen facades and a woven visual effect, with loose inspiration drawn from the rich history of basket-weaving traditions of the Coast Salish peoples. Like the act of basket-weaving, the facades organically achieve ornament through the process of making, structure, and assembly.

Relative to the facade and its intricacies, and with the hope that knowledge of design inspiration would increase stewardship and pride in the craft of their work, the architects gave a design presentation to sub-contractors and craft workers. Performance data is shared via DDX dashboard with AIA 2030 Challenge, and project findings are presented internally in all-staff meetings.

The North Campus Housing takes advantage of grand natural backdrops like Union Bay and Mount Rainier while showcasing native plants to attract pollinators and support the local ecosystem. The edges of the master plan embrace mature campus landscapes and highlight the rich natural environment of the Pacific Northwest. Restoring native landscapes in the spaces between buildings, along with siting buildings and pathways on the hillside while allowing for full accessibility, was prioritized. A 5,000 SF green roof and dining terrace covers a large portion of the dining hall within Willow Hall, creating an additional habitat and contributing to overall stormwater strategy.

Overall construction cost was ~$350/SF for the four buildings and their significant landscape spaces. Considering Seattle’s desirable construction market, this was a notable project success. At a comparatively low price relative to other university housing work, the project provides a vast amount of much needed student housing across almost 650,000 SF of space—large buildings but with scale attuned to the site and the campus. Efficiencies driven into the design by working with—and not against—the main drivers of the 5-over-2 construction typology. As a result, the building design efficiency is better than industry standard for this project type and construction cost per GSF is better than industry average for this project type.