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Odegaard Undergraduate Library

Miller Hull Partnership

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dmadsenweaetxdyvaydzcwq, hanley wood, llc

Project Name

Odegaard Undergraduate Library

Project Status



University of Washington


  • General Contractor: Mortenson Construction
  • Affiliated Engineers
  • Structural Engineer: Coughlin Porter Lundeen
  • Mayer Reed
  • Lara Swimmer

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Project Description


The interior renovation of this library at the University of Washington not only transformed an outmoded 1970s-era building but also reimagined the learning experience for students in the 21st century. The project also recognizes the inherent sustainability in renovation and reuse of a facility versus building new. Removal of the building’s most dominant feature—the imposing central staircase—essentially “found” an additional 6,000 square feet of previously underused space, the equivalent of 36 dorm rooms.

Constructed 40 years ago with few updates since, the massive 165,000-square-foot building could no longer keep pace with changes in learning, technology, and energy use and was long overdue for an update. The architect worked with faculty to identify a set of learning behaviors the building needed to support, then developed an architectural “kit of parts” to address each one: active learning, discovery of collection, consultation, prototyping, informal learning, individual study, and production. Each piece of the kit is color coded to highlight its significance in the academic experience.

The existing atrium was effectively reinvented to become the true “heart” of the building, both functionally and architecturally. Removal and replacement of the main atrium stair with a more efficient stair gained significantly more usable study and gathering space. Overhead, a large skylight adds light and airiness to the three-story atrium. At the perimeter, technology-rich classrooms for team-based learning during the day can be opened up for flexible nighttime study space. All spaces were designed for dual use throughout the 24-hour cycle. Overall, building space utilization increased by 13 percent.

The original oak stair railings were repurposed throughout the new atrium space. The remilled oak spindles enabled an undulating railing pattern, which adds interest and breaks up the massive space. Along with the new skylight, more efficient lighting, mechanical, and plumbing systems added significantly to the building’s improved energy efficiency.

For more information on the 2014 AIA Honor Awards, please visit
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