Shannon and Wilson
3652 – 3670 Woodland Park Avenue North Seattle, Washington 98103
Shannon and Wilson
The source of content for this page is from the Seattle Landmark Nomination Application researched and prepared by Susan Boyle of BOLA Architecture Planning, Inc. & Docomomo.US_WEWA,
Shannon and Wilson, pioneers in the field of soil and rock mechanics and foundation engineering, was established in Seattle in 1954 by William L. Shannon and Stanley D. Wilson. The company remains an active geotechnical, earth and environmental consulting firm. In the past six decades it has completed over 15,000 projects in the Puget Sound region and throughout the nation.
In 1959, with business booming, Shannon and Wilson decided to invest in their own building. Anticipating future growth, they planned for a building twice as big as they currently needed.
The Shannon and Wilson building design was led by NBBJ partner Perry Bertil Johanson. During World War II, Naramore Bain Brady and Johanson (NBBJ) was established when Johanson partnered with Floyd Naramore, William Bain, Sr., and Clifton Brady. The partnership emphasized a “team” approach to design and a service approach to practice. In the 1940s, NBBJ focused on institutional work such as public schools and medical facilities. The decade of the 1950s was a period of evolution for NBBJ, as evidenced by the firm’s designs for the downtown Seattle Federal Reserve Bank, and two early downtown Seattle towers – the Public Safety Building, and the Washington Building. NBBJ pursued more commercial work in the 1960s including its own office building on First Hill and the Shannon and Wilson Building. NBBJ’s work has been cited repeatedly in annual architectural journal articles and this has continued for over 60 years.
The building’s structure is made of reinforced concrete with a dramatic warped-panel concrete roof shell – a modular arrangement of segments that extends beyond the exterior walls to shelter the perimeter space. The street-facing facades are composed with only a few materials: concrete block, aluminum frames and clear glazing, each to address different internal functions. Tall panels of glass within aluminum frames to the underside of the pitched roof plates along the west and north facades providing ample daylight to office occupants, while the east and south facades contain only large clerestory windows.
The perforated concrete blocks that make up the screen walls partially shade the glass behind, and allow a varying quality of day light at an indirect angle to enter interior spaces. The blocks create a distinct pattern and texture along the face of the building, operating in tandem with the roof above. Where the screen wall is present, the projecting roof also seems to float above the glazed sections of the building. Behind the screen walls and within the shallow setback, there are some large concrete pavers, set at angles to the public sidewalk, amongst landscaping of shrubs and trees inspired by Japanese landscapes and gardens.
The interior was created as a series of lofty spaces, with the underside of the roof exposed, giving a tent-like impression. This spatial quality has been largely preserved, and is emphasized by the current lighting scheme, with indirect light fixtures rather than ones suspended from the ceiling.
The Shannon & Wilson Office Building is an intact example of Modern style architecture that experimented in thin shell concrete technologies popular across the world in the post-war era. This bold expression of Modern architecture embraces a synergy of architecture, landscape, and engineering to create a new style of office workspace.