Pacific Architect & Builder
1945 Yale Place East, Seattle, WA 98102
Pacific Architect & Builder
Pacific Builder and Engineer (PB&E) was founded in 1902 and published the weekly Construction News Bulletin. As took hold around the country, local architects began developing a nuanced regional approach to design. The significance of Modernism was not lost on the publishers of the weekly bulletin. In 1954, the publishers established a new monthly publication – Pacific Architect and Builder (PA&B).
As publishing activities expanded, a decision was made to invest in a building. PA&B published three consecutive “Progress Reports” about the building’s design and construction. In January 1961, the magazine cover featured the new building announcing “we have come to know firsthand what it means to be transplanted from a building – that is simply a building – to a structure that is indeed architecture.”
The magazine published throughout the 1960s, including a special feature on the Seattle’s World Fair (aka Century 21 Exposition) in 1962. The magazine published its last edition in 1973.
The building, located in Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood, is composed of three different elements: the concrete main office/printing block with its dramatic roof, a concrete block stock/loading area to the north, and the concrete stair and ramp on the east side. The steep site presented unique opportunities in the composition of elements most dramatically seen in the 50’ ramp bridging the gap between building and sidewalk and the stair tower hovering over the slope.
Dictated by the need for large unobstructed floor plates and the weight of the printing equipment, the main structure had to be concrete. The architecture takes advantage of the versatility of a concrete hyperbolic paraboloid roof covering the top floor. Since the roof spans between the exterior columns, steel clerestory windows infill the peaked roof forms and provide natural light to the dramatic ceiling and into offices.
On the upper two floors, the horizontal wood siding and steel windows are a modern wood curtain wall hanging off concrete structure. Between the steel sliding/fixed windows and the clerestory at the top floor, a row of translucent fiberglass panels is divided into a smaller rhythm. In 2017, Docomomo US/WEWA prepared and submitted a nomination, and the building was designated a Seattle Landmark.
The distinctive forms of the Pacific Architect and Builder’s Headquarters is a reminder of this enthusiasm generated by the 1962 Century 21 Exposition that stretched beyond the borders of the exhibition grounds. This bold expression of Modern architecture embraces the newest technology and embodies the magazine’s mission: to showcase the Northwest’s design and construction achievements. The structure is the work of two important designers: the Architect, A.O. Bumgardner and the Structural Engineer, Jack Christiansen. For Bumgardner, an active and important civic figure in Seattle, the building marks an important threshold between the smaller residential work of his early career and his larger commercial commissions. For Christiansen, the building is a fine example of the pioneering concrete forms and designs found around the region.
The Pacific Architect & Builder building is an outstanding example of experimentation in thin shell concrete that began to take place across the world in the post-war era. The hyperbolic paraboloid thin-shell concrete became a prominent building type in the Pacific Northwest. The simple warping of a rectilinear roof plane could negotiate both the need for logic and minimalism with the desire for expression. The form could be equally approached as an object of materially efficient engineering or as an architectural expression demonstrating variation within repetition.
The Architect and Engineer
Seattle architect A.O. (Albert Orin) Bumgardner (1923 – 1987) began his architectural practice in Seattle in 1953 and the firm he founded continues to practice today. During the early years, the firm focused mostly on single-family residential projects and some small institutional buildings. Bumgardner and/or his firm received Seattle AIA Honor Awards on a regular basis from 1954 to 1975. Within a few years of the PA&B building, Bumgardner’s partnership secured many new residential and commercial projects. The practice became the Bumgardner Partnership in 1967.
The building’s unique thin-shell envelope design was developed by Bumgardner and the structural engineers of Worthington Skilling Helle and Jackson. The original structural drawings were signed by Jack Christiansen. This collaborative effort is a distinctive trait within the Modernist work of the Pacific Northwest.