University of Washington Life Sciences Building exterior view of west facade at dusk
University of Washington Life Sciences Building

University of Washington Life Sciences Building

Seattle, Washington
Art in Science

The largest STEM program in the state needed to expand its capabilities to meet growing demands. With more than a third of all students passing through the Department of Biology, the University of Washington looked to us to create a new facility that embodied the school’s core values of scientific discovery, collaboration, active learning, and environmental sustainability.

We designed a flexible, collaborative, and highly sustainable building. Large landings on the open stair and breakout spaces with soft seating create connections between students, faculty, and researchers. Innovative solar glass fins put science on display while generating enough electricity to light 12,400 square feet of offices year round. And a greenhouse located just a couple steps from Seattle’s largest pedestrian trail encourages the community to engage with the university and discover the science happening within.

“We are thrilled with the results, as are our faculty, staff, and students. It has immediately become a ‘must see’ building on any campus tour.”

– Robert Goff, Assistant to Chair, UW Biology Department

View of the south facade of UW Life Sciences Building with people biking and walking by on the Burke Gilman trail.
Seattle's twenty-seven mile Burke-Gilman trail runs next to the facility which allows the passersby a look into the greenhouses.
Close up view of the solar glass fins on the south facade of the Life Sciences Building

In a first-of-its-kind installation, the building uses “photovoltaics”—solar cells on thin film that are laminated within vertical glass fins and integrated into a glass curtain wall. This reduces unwanted solar heat gain while providing expansive views from within the offices. It also produces enough electricity to light all four floors of offices.

Open Space and Connections to the Community

The main staircase features oversized landings and encourages chance encounters between scientists. The glass box around it is designed to “disappear” when looking out to the courtyard, the primary campus thoroughfare. Additionally, a public deck invites interaction from pedestrians using the Burke-Gilman trail.

View of the west facade of the Life Sciences Building at dusk with students walking by on the outdoor steps.
What makes it cool

UW Solar, a student group at the university, was actively involved in the solar and water designs. Students wrote grants for funding, presented findings to the client, and now lead building tours to pass on their knowledge. Collaboration with future designers also ensures innovative solutions to climate change spread long after graduation.

Top floor of the main stair within the glass-box atrium with the afternoon sun streaming through.
Looking up at the first 4 floors of the main stair in the glass atrium
The high-tech glass system around the staircase seems to disappear as people look out to the public courtyard.
Flexible Planning

Charged with designing technical teaching and research spaces that are open, flexible, and efficient, we landed on a space that enables eighteen more pods that offer endless views through laboratories, offices, conference rooms, and break spaces. The result is a space that researchers are excited to study and work in.

View from research lab looking out to a collaboration space with a man drawing on a white board
Research labs are flooded with natural light.
Graduate students sitting in soft green chairs with one student drawing on white board
Breakout space by research labs foster collaboration.
Elevator core wrapped in natural wood
The study of nature within a biology building is a given. Yet the elevator bays in UW's Life Sciences Building go a step beyond thanks to the massive, locally-sourced trunks that frame the area.

Project Team

Anthony Gianopoulos
Andrew Clinch
Portrait of Devin Kleiner
Devin Kleiner