May 17, 2018

UW’s first Seattle Historic Landmark

Built 100 years ago by the Navy at the tail-end of WWI to house seaplanes, then acquired by the UW to be used as Washington Rowing’s boathouse, the ASUW Shellhouse served the UW until 1975, when it was threatened with demolition.  It was ultimately saved, becoming the first building on campus to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. This March, it was the first UW building to be nominated as a Seattle Landmark, and, just two weeks ago, was officially designated as such, having met 5 of the 6 criteria.

This Friday, Affiliate Assistant Prof. David Strauss (M. Arch ‘85 and partner at SHKS) will lead a charrette along with Associate Prof. Kathryn Merlino, to explore an overall plan for the building’s reactivation. The building renovation is intended to bring students back to the water, celebrating the shellhouse as an iconic landmark for our campus, city and country.  Facilitators will guide small groups made up of a diverse mix of fields, to help tackle the planning for the internal program, and the external flow to the building utilizing site materials and UW Recreation’s vision for the building’s future.  Strauss’s partners at SHKS, Jonathan Hartung (M. Arch ’83) and Kevin Kane (M. Arch ’95) are among the experts working on the transformation of this historic building.  Through a feasibility study requested by UW Recreation, they began exploring ways to preserve its historic character while bringing new life to it, and exploring the implications of possible renovation.  The predesign process included a community-wide process of interviewing all stakeholders (tribal, military, maritime, rowing, students, faculty, staff, and alumni) to plan for its dynamic restoration.

Future uses of the space may include a rowing museum (commemorating master shell-builder George Pocock’s involvement in the rowing program, as well as the 1936 UW crew team whose story was eloquently chronicled in Daniel James Brown’s best-seller, “The Boys in the Boat“) as well as an event venue, lecture space and classroom facilities.

100 years after it was built, the shell house that was home for “The Boys in the Boat” could have, for $10 million, a grand revival. / SHKS Architects











Artist’s view from the new mezzanine looking east through the shell house’s giant doors. / SHKS Architects












The original shell house stands at the southeastern point of the UW campus, facing the Montlake Cut at the edge of Lake Washington. / University of Washington