Bellevue, United States 2001



PROGRAM: art museum and educational facility
CLIENT: Bellevue Arts Museum
    SIZE: 39,000 sq ft
STATUS: complete

The Bellevue Arts Museum focuses on education and outreach rather than collecting. In fact the museum maintains no permanent collection but rather collaborates with local arts and educational institutions to provide innovative arts programming and changing temporary exhibitions. As an “art garage” open to the street, the museum provides a new pedestrian city scale at the center of Bellevue as well as an active workshop for new art projects.

CONCEPT: Tripleness is the organizing concept for the building. A non-dialectic openness of experience, thought and contact give character to space on three levels, in three galleries, with three different light conditions and three circulation options.

TRIPLENESS (non-dialectic openness):
-3 gallery lofts
-3 light qualities
-3 actions - see/explore/make (art, science, technology)
-3 main levels
-3 circulation directions

The spirit of openness of the Bellevue Arts Museum is expressed in the three main lofts which are each slightly warped and gripped by the end wall structures. The outer walls in a special “shot crete” construction support the inner lightweight steel framework. The three distinct lighting conditions of the three gallery lofts are analogous to three different conditions of time and light. Linear Ongoing Time is expressed in the evenness of the light in the north loft. Cyclic Time has its parallel in the arc of south light gallery. Its plan geometry corresponds roughly to the arc of the sun at 48° north latitude. Fragmented or Gnostic Time is reflected in the east-west skylights of the studios loft.

OUTDOOR TERRACES. The Bellevue Arts Museum originated as an exterior experience in the street fair. In this spirit, outdoor terraces extend the museum's top level. With sunlight and views, these terraces accommodate outdoor classes as well as exhibitions and events on summer evenings. The twilight sky will be particularly inspiring from these spaces. The open attitude of tripleness is realized in a semi-permanent exhibit program for each of the terraces:

1. "Right Hand Rule” Terrace
The properties of movement of a negatively-charged particle (electron) in a magnetic field are characterized by the "Right Hand Rule." The symbol in three fingers (digits) connects the hand crafted past of the Bellevue Art Museum to its digital future.

2. Terrace of Planetary Motion
Beginning with Kepler's 3 laws of planetary motion, this terrace exhibits recent cosmological discoveries via Hubbell Telescope and electronic digital telescopes. The Hubbell images are projected on the inflected street-facing facade.

3. Court of Light
The debate in physics concerning whether light is a wave or a particle is eventually opened: light is both a wave and a particle, depending on one's perspective. Here sunlight generates various unpredictable light phenomena.

4. Chromatic Terrace: Light projection
From blue, red and green white light is formed.

5. Court of Water
With East exposure the reflected light from a 2” deep water court dapples the gallery ceilings. Rain drops provide reflective patterns on rainy days.

6. Terrace of Wind and Shadow:
Light projected from special fixtures captures the drama of the wind in moving shadows cast on the wall.

FORUM. A stepped ramp up to the galleries pauses in a landing which double functions as a stage. Ascending to the next level one arrives at the Explore Gallery, a double-height skylit space with an adjacent artist-in-residence studio. Passing by the overlook to the Forum, the stepped ramp leads to the top level main loft galleries and the Court of Light.




  • architect
    • – Steven Holl Architects
    • Steven Holl ( principal )
    • Martin Cox ( project architect )
    • Tim Bade ( project architect )
    • Hideaki Ariizumi, Elsa Chryssochoides, Annette Goderbauer, Yoh Hanaoka, Justin Korhammer, Stephen O'Dell (project team)
  • associate architects
    • – Sclater Partners Architects
    • Alan Sclater ( principal )
    • Brad Smith ( project architect )
  • structural engineer
    • – Skilling Ward Magnusson Barkshire
    • Jay Taylor ( principal )
      – Guy Nordenson & Associates
    • Guy Nordenson ( principal )
  • lighting design
    • – L'Observatoire International
    • Hervé Descottes ( principal )
    • Peiheng Tsai ( project manager )
  • MEP design/build
    • – McKinstry Inc.
  • general contractor
    • – Sellen Construction
  • electrical engineer
    • – Sparling
  • acoustics
    • – Peter George and Associates
  • civil engineer
    • – W&H Pacific
  • geo-technical consultant
    • – Shannon & Wilson