University of Washington: Prehistoric Monsters and Neo-Gothic Architecture

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Suzzallo Library opened in 1926. It was championed by the University of Washington's president Henry Suzzallo, who was dismissed before the library was completed. Following Suzzallo's death in 1933, the University named the library after him.

Suzzallo Library opened in 1926. It was championed by the University of Washington’s president Henry Suzzallo, who was dismissed before the library was completed. Following Suzzallo’s death in 1933, the University named the library after him.

On February 1, Dreaming of Landscapes will move to its new home at I hope you will continue to follow this blog at its new home.

I was surprised when the Seattle Urban Sketchers announced they would be visiting Suzzallo Library for their next meeting. I had visited the library on the University of Washington’s campus last October to sketch the building’s monumental reading room. Fortunately, the University of Washington’s campus always has something new to discover.

Tucked behind Suzzallo is Allen Library. The Allen Library opened in 1990 and was named in honor of Kenneth Allen, the University of Washington’s Associate Director of Libraries. Allen is connected to Suzzallo via a sky bridge and forms a library complex housing the main body of the University’s book collection.

Tomistoma machikanense is torn between eating the students above or below.

Tomistoma machikanense is torn between eating the students above or below.

If you take the time to walk through Suzzallo to Allen, you will find yourself greeted by the skeleton of Tomistoma machikanense. The 28-foot crocodile skeleton is a cast of a fossil held by the University of Washington’s Burke Museum. The skeleton appears to be walking up the lobby’s wall or waiting to drop on undergraduates as they pass beneath the monster.

Across the breezeway from the Allen Lobby, the Lower Suzzallo Lobby features a fun art installation called “Raven Brings Light to this House of Stories.” A flock of raven sculptures hangs over the lobby. Each raven holds a symbol or letter in their beak, symbolizing Raven bring light and knowledge to the world in Native American myth. The great part of this installation is the way it spreads into the surrounding book stacks. Ravens perch on shelves, watching patrons, while lost letters float over the stacks.

Stone work in the Suzzallo Main Lobby

Stonework in the Suzzallo Main Lobby

Suzzallo is also filled with a wonderful collection of reliefs and sculptures. The library facade is decorated with sculptures of major thinkers, including Moses, Isaac Newton and Benjamin Franklin. Inside, the library is decorated with intricate filigree and stone relief patterns. The interior is also note worthy for featuring reliefs of native flora and fauna.

More sculptures and reliefs are on many of the University of Washington’s buildings. Explorers and thinkers are common as are fictional characters who convey knowledge. I particularly liked a relief of the Native American Raven after visiting the Suzzallo art installation.

If you have time, and want to escape from Downtown Seattle, the University of Washington’s campus offers a wonderland of science and culture. Whether it is a recreation of a gothic cathedral, prehistoric monsters, or Native American myths, the University of Washington’s campus always has a surprise or novelty waiting for its guests.

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Stonework in the Suzzallo Main Lobby

Stonework in the Suzzallo Main Lobby



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View down the SAM upper lobby towards the north entrance. Inopportune: Stage One launches over the heads of visitors in a flash of lights.

Do you remember the highway chase scene from The Matrix Reloaded. Gas trucks exploded, cars do triple summersaults and the heroes escape unscathed. It is over the top, unrealistic and just about the point you probably stopped paying attention. At the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), the lobby transforms this type of Hollywood violence into a reflective art form.

SAM’s lobby extends across a city block. A series of terraces take us from the new upper lobby, added in 2007, to the old lower lobby. These terraces house the museum store, SAM Cafe, public art galleries and lecture halls. The most dramatic element of this space is a sculpture composed of nine ford sedans. Seven of these cars are suspended from the ceiling as if they have been thrown over the lobby by a massive explosion. Two cars at either end of the space anchor the piece to the floor.

This sculpture is Cai Guo-Qiang’s Inopportune: Stage One (2004). Cai Guo-Qiang is a Chinese artists best known for his spectacular firework art. However, he has also built a wide range of sculptural work as well. Inopportune: Stage One was originally created for the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. The piece removes the dramatization of violence presented by Hollywood and asks us to consider the deeper nature of violence, our relationship to it and how we respond.

Even if you are not in a reflective mood, Inopportune: Stage One is a perfect introduction to the SAM. If you are short on time and/or do not want to pay the $25 to enter the museum, I suggest following the upper lobby past the escalators to the public gallery space. There is usually a piece from SAM’s collection on display. In addition, the hallway past this space features a wonderful wall of glass art and a series of murals by local artists.

View from the SAM Cafe terrace. A ford hangs over the lower lobby as a patron walks through the public gallery.

Want to learn more about SAM and its collection? Visit here.

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European Cool, Meets Seattle Intellect

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The cuboid suspended above the reading room houses the Seattle Public Library Headquarters. The entire structure is wrapped in four foot square sheets of rip proof nylon designed to absorb sound in the reading room. Below this is the Seattle Room, which houses the library’s Seattle focused special collection, including government records, yearbooks, photos, art and other artifacts.

Have you been to the space needle, seen the flying fish at Pike Place Market and wondering what else there is to see in downtown Seattle. How about a visit to Seattle’s other worldly Central Library. The Seattle Central Library is located on the block bordered by Spring Street, Fourth Avenue, Madison Street, and Fifth Avenue.

The Central Library was designed by the Dutch Architect Rem Koolhause’s Office for Metropolitan Architecture in collaboration with Seattle’s LMN Architects. The building looks like a house of cards ready to fall at any moment. However, the building’s cantilevered spans are supported by a sophisticated system of angled columns.

Both sketches present dramatic looks at these angled columns. The living room sketch offers a stunning view up a column as it ascends three stores to hold up the library book spiral platform. While the reading room columns are more understated, we can still see the unique support structure that holds up the Central Library.

The first sketch is of my favorite room in the building, the Betty Jane Narver Reading Room. The room is located at the top of the library, above the activity of the library’s lower areas. The room has space for 400 patrons with a stunning view over the bustle of the city below. The room’s soaring ceiling was inspired by the cathedral like reading rooms of 19th century library design.

The last sketch is off the Living Room. The Living Room can be accessed off of 5th Avenue and serves as an indoor public space. There is a coffee cart operated by local chocolate maker Chocolati, which serves coffee and pastries. The Friends of the Seattle Public Libraries also operates a gift booth in this space, selling art by local artists. All proceeds from this booth support the Seattle Public Libraries.

The platform above the Living Room houses the Meeting Level and Mixing Room. The Meeting Level houses four rooms for community meetings and events as well as computer labs. The Mixing Room houses the library’s central reference desk and main computer area. Continuing past the Mixing Room, the library’s book spiral forms the Living Room’s roof and houses the library’s non-fiction collection.

A 6 block long ramp runs up the non-fiction collection beginning with 0 on the Dewey Decimal System at the bottom. The book spiral ends on a platform cantilevered over the library’s atrium, which allows daylight to flow down to the Living Room. This platform is the highest public point in the library and gives visitors a view over downtown Seattle and straight down to the Living Room’s floor six stories below.

A majority of the Living Room’s space is taken up by seating for reading and computer use. The Living Room also houses the library’s periodical section and collections of recreational reading materials, including science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, fiction, westerns, romance, audio books, and graphic novels.


To learn more about the Seattle Central Library visit here

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Into the Wild Blue Yonder

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A life size model of a wheel on the Mars rover Curiosity. Holes in the tread help with guidance and spell JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) in Morse Code.

This past weekend the Museum of Flight in Seattle held a preview of their recently acquired space shuttle full fuselage trainer. While the museum did not win the honor of displaying one of the space shuttles, they received this ply wood mock up as a consolation prize. The trainer sits in the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery surrounded by space artifacts and displays.

The needle of the Concord juts past the nose of the former Air Force One.

Founded in 1965, the Museum of Flight is the world’s largest private aerospace museum. The museum is located amidst Boeing’s many offices and hangers on Boeing Field. Although Boeing is a major patron of the Museum of Flight, the museum is independent of the Boeing Corporation with a collection covering the breadth of aeronautical history. Some particularly interesting aircraft in the collection include a Lockheed Martin SR-71 supersonic spy plane, the Boeing 707 that severed as the first Air Force One and a British Airways Concord.

A F-14-A Tomcat with landing gear detail. Entering service in 1970, the F-14 served as the United States’ primary navel air support aircraft until its retirement in 2006. It is particularly famous for its role in Top Gun (1986) and its use by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

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Want to visit or learn more about the Museum of Flight and its collections? Visit here

The Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal

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A ferry unloads cars at the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal.

Since ancient times, the Puget Sound has served as a highway for maritime traffic. Before the arrival of Europeans, the Seattle harbor served as a center of trade for the native Salish. A busy trade route ran along the Puget Sound carried by cedar canoes.

Shortly after the arrival of European settlers, the first passenger fleets on the Puget Sound were started in the 1850s. Known as the Mosquito Fleets, each private fleet was made up of a variety of steam powered boats. In the pre-freeway era, these steam ships filled the need for fast and cheap transportation across and along the Puget Sound.

Following World War 2, the Mosquito Fleets saw a gradual decline as the car replaced the fleet as a convenient means of travel in the Puget Sound area. However, the demand for transportation across the Puget Sound and to the Sound’s many islands remained. Since bridges were not practical the Washington State Department of Transportation launched its first car ferry across the Puget Sound on June 1, 1951.

Today, Washington State operates the largest ferry system in the United States. The Washington State Ferry fleet contains 22 ships with stops at 20 terminals. This week’s sketch shows the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal in West Seattle. This terminal provides access to Vashon Island and the City of Bremerton.

To learn more about the Washington State Ferry System visit here

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A ferry waits to load cars.


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