Ralph H. Burkhard

Burkhard, Ralph H.

(1908 – 1993)

Born in Bar Harbor, Maine, on July 18, 1908, Ralph Halbert Burkhard received a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from Syracuse University (1930), then a Master’s degree from MIT in 1931. While in school, he also studied structural engineering and sculpture–two endeavors which are highly reflective in his architectural designs. An ardent student, Burkhard was also enrolled at the Beaux Arts Institute of Design in New York City from 1932 to 1933. Upon graduation, he spent ten plus years working for a variety of architectural firms in New York City, Maine and Washington D.C. Among his more high-profile jobs before migrating to the Pacific Northwest was working as group leader on the Pentagon Building for the U.S. Engineers Office (1941-1943).

In May of 1943, Burkhard moved to Seattle where he served as a mechanical engineer for the Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter project. After the war, he established his own architectural practice and began to push the architectural envelope with his innovative designs. Quickly his work began to receive several awards and accolades. In 1945, he was one of two cash prize winners for a General Motors Architectural Design Competition for an automobile dealership. Then in 1951, he received a Seattle AIA Honor Award for Southgate Elementary School, which was followed up two years later by a National Honor Award for his design of Foster Junior-Senior High School (1951) in Seattle. Burkhard also received local AIA awards for Clark’s Cleaners (1955) and the Health & Physical Education Building/ Nicholson Pavilion (1959) at Central Washington University in Ellensburg.

Burkhard specialized in educational projects. Among his designs are several buildings at Highline Community College (1961-66), Kenmore Elementary School (1955), Melody Hill Elementary School (1958) in Mountlake Terrace, Mountlake Terrace High School (1959), and Alfred Cleveland Hall (1963) at Washington State University. Many of his designs used unusual and innovative building techniques and systems such as the Gymnasium at Mountlake Terrace High School (1960) which was the first major use of triangular glue-laminated beams on the West Coast. Kenmore Elementary School, incorporated a corrugated thin shell roof, and Nicholson Pavilion (1959) and Courson and Muzzall Halls at Central Washington University (1964) featured cable-suspended walls and roof plates.

Burkhard served on the King County Board of Adjustments and the City of Normandy Park Planning Commission. He passed away on December 30, 1993.

– Michael C Houser

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