What’s New in the ‘Hood: UW College of the Built Environments’ Library

This is “my” college library!  This is the college where they teach architecture and planning at the University of Washington, my profession presently and for many decades in the past.  On Saturday, 5 April 2015 about 25 of us arrived at Gould Hall on the university campus for a tour of the library of the College of the Built Environments.1  The tour, like the others was sponsored by Historic Seattle and was one of their “Digging Deeper” series. Our Historic Seattle host was Luci Baker Johnson; our Archives host was Alan R. Michelson, Head of the Built Environments Library.

This library is a treasure trove for those of us who love house histories, architects and their work product or neighborhood context, particularly if it relates to Seattle or the Northwest.

DD CoBE audAlan gave us a brief introduction to the collection of this library, one of 16 in the University of Washington system of libraries.  His overview pointed out some of the unique library holdings which include local, national and foreign architectural periodicals, academic books, historic preservation style guides and theses.  Alan also pointed out some of the online resources that would be of value.

A couple of collections or individual holdings caught my eye which I wish to investigate again.

DD CoBE Seattle collAlan and his team have identified all the Seattle resources and placed them in a single area (see left).  This includes a number of books and resources on individual neighborhoods.  I want to come back to see what they have about my neighborhood, Queen Anne. In the collection, the library holds the Folke Nyberg and Victor Steinbrueck’s visual assessment of the neighborhoods of Seattle–in fact, they have many copies.2  Sixteen neighborhoods were assessed by the authors.  I learned that I have an incomplete book on Queen Anne because the maps were published on very fragile paper which falls apart at the creases.  It is a comfort to know that Alan has a stack of these books in his office so the book can be rescued whenever the present copy wears out.  The set is on line at the Historic Seattle website in a downloadable PDF form.

DD CoBE slidesIf anyone ever wanted to know what 130,000 slides looked like here is a picture (left) of only about a 1/4 of the collection housed in the adjacent but independent Visual Resources Collection.  The staff video tapes all the lecturers that come to the College to speak and put them on line.  They are also aggressively digitizing the slide collection.

An online resource Alan started at a previous institution and continued here at UW is the Pacific Coast Architects database,  a record of architects who worked on the west coast with links to their projects, their firm and other individuals connected with their work.  Check it out.

Another resource I found interesting was the Architects and Landscape Architects of Seattle 1876-1959 and Beyond.3  The author, Duane Dietz extracted the names of every architect and landscape architect from Seattle city directories for that time period.  That had to be a labor of love to complete that arduous task but what a wonderful resource to have today!

The library has large tables and chairs near natural light for serious study and casual seating for more relaxed reading in furniture designed by famous designers (ex: Alvar Aalto).  There is a scanner and a color copier which can do large scale prints; there is a charge for printing but not for scanning.

This library should be a stop on your list of repositories if you are researching a particular style of architecture, architect or builder, especially if they were active in the Seattle area.  The library is located on the third floor of Gould Hall at 3949 15th Avenue NE, Seattle, WA.  Call ahead for hours at 206.543.7091 (this is especially true for all university libraries due to their keeping “interim hours”) or email Alan with your questions at alanmich@uw.edu.

Happy Hunting!


1We toured UW Special Collections last year. You can read that blog by clicking here.
2Folke Nyberg & Victor Steinbrueck, A Visual Inventory of Buildings and Urban design Resources for Seattle, Washington : commenced in 1975 (Seattle: Historic Seattle Preservation and Development Authority, n.d.).
3Duane Dietz, Architects and Landscape Architects of Seattle, 1876 to 1959 and Beyond (Seattle: n.p., n.d.).


2 comments on “What’s New in the ‘Hood: UW College of the Built Environments’ Library

  1. Thanks! A wealth of resource info here in your post.

  2. a gray says:

    What a treat your visit must have been.

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