2019 Skyline Awards, Cultural: National Nordic Museum

Plus: Silver Award winners Pacific Seas Aquarium and Center for Wooden Boats Wagner Education Center

August 22, 2019

Bill Virgin


This article appears in the September 2019 issue. See more about the winners of the 2019 Skyline Awards here. Click here for a free subscription.

National Nordic Museum
2655 N.W. Market St., Seattle

The predecessor of whats now known as the National Nordic Museum was housed for years in a leased school building in a residential neighborhood in Ballard. The museums organizers and supporters wanted a larger, more modern building in a more visible location and a facility that, as the largest American museum dedicated to the history and culture of Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Finland, would reflect the identity and culture of Scandinavia and the Nordic impact on the development of the Northwest.

The three-story, 57,875-square-foot building on Market Street in the heart of Ballards commercial district, which opened last year and cost $45 million to build, has permanent and temporary exhibition galleries, an auditorium, three classrooms, a cultural resource center, collections storage, gift shop, cafe and administrative offices. The distinctive interior touches include, according to architectural firm Mithun, a linear fjord that weaves together stories of the Nordic American experience. Bridges crossing the fjord intensify the experience of migration, connecting Nordic and Nordic American exhibits. A vertically-striated zinc skin wraps the building exterior; inside, fjord walls are composed of faceted white planes evoking glacial origins.

Silver Award

Pacific Seas Aquarium
5400 N. Pearl St., Tacoma

Tacomas Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium needed a new facility to replace its aging North Pacific Aquarium. The splashy Pacific Seas Aquarium includes 35,000 square feet of exhibit space, a 260,000-gallon tank featuring warm-water oceanic marine life and another 65,000-gallon tank for marine life local to the Pacific Northwest, plus classroom space. The $51 million project, which opened last year, was complex and intensive, including trying to operate a construction project in the middle of an active and busy park, designing to accommodate all the equipment necessary to sustain a saltwater aquarium and careful placement of a 35-foot-long, 24,000-pound acrylic window.

Center for Wooden Boats Wagner Education Center
1010 Valley St., Seattle

Just as The Center for Wooden Boats preserves Seattles maritime heritage while introducing those traditions to modern audiences, the new 9,200-square-foot Wagner Education Center combines elements of historic boatbuilding shops with modern touches. Designed by Seattle architect Tom Kundig, the center is the modern front door for the growing museum, with movable exterior panels to allow for the control of natural light and to open or close the building, and flexible interior space a youth classroom can be converted to a sail loft in the evening. The centers boat shop provides space for restoration of the museums largest boats and the construction of new boats from historic designs.