SEATTLE, WA.- Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects
, recipient of the American Institute of Architects 2009 AIA Architecture Firm Award, announced the opening of the Lightcatcher at Whatcom Museum
, a striking new addition to the City of Bellinghams downtown Arts and Cultural District. With its bold design and expansive facilities, the building is an architectural milestone for the city and a significant new resource in the cultural and civic life of Washington State and the region. The Whatcom Museum currently presents exhibitions on the art and history of the Northwest United States and provides extensive educational programming for visitors of all ages in two buildingsOld City Hall and Syre Education Center. The Lightcatcher will add 42,000 square feet of space to the museum and will house state-of-the-art galleries for art exhibitions and the new Family Interactive Gallery (FIG), among other things.
Designed by founding partner, Jim Olson, the Lightcatcher is named for its focal point and most innovative featurea spectacular, translucent wall 37 feet high and 180 feet long that captures the Northwests most precious natural resource, sunlight. The building utilizes natural materials endemic to the region and will be the first museum in Washington designed and registered to LEED Silver-Level specifications.
At the heart of the $11.6 million project, the lightcatcher gently curves to form a spacious exterior courtyard, bridging the Museums interior and exterior spaces. During daylight hours, the light-porous wall floods the halls and galleries inside with a warm luminosity, serving as a beautiful, eco-friendly, and energy-saving light fixture that will also help to ventilate the building. The elegant wall also reflects light into the Garden of the Ancients, the Museums courtyard that is destined to become one of Bellinghams most active public spaces. In the evening, the lightcatcher glows with the changing colors of the structures interior illumination. Lantern-like, it provides a warm and welcoming beacon to the community, as well as an attractive new civic feature downtown.
The lightcatcher wall celebrates the Northwest glass movement and glows like a yellowish agate from a nearby beach. I wanted to soften light like our clouds and create a sense of mystery like our mist and fog. It is also a glowing beacon at night, remarked Olson. The colors of the exterior and galleries reflect the bark of our trees and the rocks on our beaches, the ceilings reference weathered driftwood, and silver metal details reflect the Northwest's oyster light.
The nearly 7,000-square-foot lightcatcher is a dynamic, porous backdrop for sculpture, as well as a canvas for projected imagery and even shadow puppetry. Punctuated with openings, the exterior provides pedestrians with views of the art and activities within, ensuring the Museum will be as active outside as inside the structure.
The Lightcatcher achieves the institutions goal to provide a cultural and social center for the City of Bellingham, as well as a home for world-class art. The Whatcom Museum has given me the opportunity to explore new ideas about art, light, ecology, and people. It has also been a golden opportunity to create a public space that will become an integral part of the Northwest community, remarks Olson.
In the new facilities, the Museum will expand its exhibition capacity and consolidate its public, education, and childrens programs with:
State-of-the art, climate-controlled galleries for local and traveling exhibitions
Naturally ventilated spaces for public programming
Family Interactive Gallery (FIG) and community spaces with art- and environment-related activities
Resource space for story time and materials on exhibitions in the galleries
ARTCARTS with spontaneous activities for youth
Lobby, Gift Shop, and Café
Support facilities for exhibitions, collections, and education programs
The first floor of the building will feature a doubleheight Light Gallery with programming focused on the work of local artists, a second doubleheight exhibition gallery, and an interactive childrens learning space, among other amenities. The buildings second floor will house an additional exhibition gallery, meeting and classrooms, and Museum offices. Atop the Museum is a 3,000-square foot green roof, which will feature a horticultural learning exhibit.
Just outside the Museum, the sweeping form of the lightcatcher creates a unique and meaningful public spacethe Garden of the Ancients. Designed by landscape architect Charles Anderson, this 5,000-squarefoot courtyard and garden contains elements of regional significance, both cultural and environmental. The gardens immense glacial rock echoes the geology of the region and the distinctive rock outcroppings throughout Bellingham. The garden also contains native plants, such as ferns and a gingko tree, representing the regions significant natural history.