Bellevue Art Museum
Steven Holl Architects

February 23, 2001 /

Seattle, Washington, USA

Photo: arcspace

The Bellevue Art Museum, clad in three basic elements, red-stained concrete, hand-sanded aluminum panels and the glass of its huge windows and skylights, is a bold statement in the midst of sterile towers, downtown shopping and traffic.

In good weather the cafe open onto Bellevue Way and the pedestrian walk that links the transit center and The Bon Marche in Bellevue Square.

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

The museum's motto, "See, Explore, Make Art," led Holl to the design concept of "tripleness." A non-dialectic openness of experience, thought and contact, give character to space on three levels, in three galleries, each with its own personality and unique quality, with three different light conditions and three circulation options. The galleries define sequences of movement as well as the main public spaces.

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

The Lobby space, an oval two-story atrium space, can be used for numerous events such as opening receptions and special dinner events. From the Lobby a stepped ramp leads up to the galleries and a landing which functions as a stage. From here a "floating" stairway winds upward through the center of the structure.

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

The third floor outdoor courtyard, the "Court of Light", is an elliptically shaped outdoor terrace where visitors can track the movement of the sun at the winter solstice. Holl calls the top floor the "fifth facade".

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

On the top level, where terraces accommodate outdoor classes as well as exhibition and events on summer evenings, one terrace has a shallow pool.

Photo: arcspace

Holl's aim of the design for the museum was to "provide opportunities for active participation in museum life by individuals and groups representing the entire community." Ambitious programs focused on education and outreach, include studio classes for adults and children, an artist-in-residency connected to the Explore Gallery, The Pacific Northwest Arts Fair, workshops, demonstrations, screenings, performances, and readings.

He always carries a 5-by-7-inch notebook; he paints every day starting in the morning when his mind is uncluttered and continues in the office, on airplanes, and in hotel rooms. Sometimes he paints building spaces, other times abstractions. While Holl painted, his assistants poured rubber cement in latex gloves. Then they cut off three fingers, chopped off tips and played with the shapes. They made a series of small, often bizarre models with stumpy digits. Eventually, the fingers molded into what became Holl's ultimate concept: "tripleness".

Sketch courtesy Steven Holl Architects

Sketch courtesy Steven Holl Architects

Model photo courtesy Steven Holl Architects

Facts about Bellevue Art Museum

Total Area:

36,000 ft2

Project Architects :
Tim Bade and Martin Cox

Associate Architect:

Sclater Partners Architects, Seattle, WA


Sellen Construction Company, Seattle, WA


Bellevue Art Museum

Last updated: December 19, 2013

See also

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