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Design Plans Approved as Progress to Build Intellectual House Continues

Intellectual_House_web_teaserDesign plans were recently approved for the Intellectual House, a longhouse-style facility to be built on the University of Washington campus that will serve as a learning and gathering place for Native American students, faculty and staff, as well as the UW and surrounding community.

In February, the UW Board of Regents approved the project’s schematic design. The following month, the University’s architectural and landscape design committees approved new site and floor plans.

Intellectual House street view
An architectural rendering of the UW Intellectual House as seen from the street. By Stephanie Bower.

“This marks a major milestone in the effort to realize a nearly 40-year old dream to build a longhouse-style facility at the UW,” said Sheila Edwards Lange, vice president for minority affairs and vice provost for diversity. “Not only will the Intellectual House bring greater visibility to Native traditions on campus, its presence will contribute to an improved cultural understanding and sense of unity for the entire UW community.”

Also known by the Lushootseed language name Wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ (pronounced “wah-sheb-altuh”), the facility will feature a “village concept” that includes two primary buildings and a central outdoor gathering space on a site between Lewis and McMahon halls. Its design, created by the Seattle architectural firm of Jones & Jones, will showcase the Pacific Northwest coastal-longhouse style and include elements that speak to Native people from all regions of the country.

eNews-Spring-2013An art plan has been completed by the local firm 4Culture which identifies opportunities for the inclusion of Native art pieces throughout the buildings and grounds. New architectural renderings have also been created by artist Stephanie Bower to provide a vision of how the facility will appear after construction.

Intellectual House_interior
The interior of the Community Gathering Building. By Stephanie Bower.

Next steps include completion of construction documents by Jones & Jones. A construction company will be selected in the fall, followed shortly thereafter by a groundbreaking on the first phase of the facility – the Community Gathering Building and outdoor gathering space.

The 8,400-square foot Community Gathering Building will serve as an event site and meeting place to bring people from diverse cultures and backgrounds together. The outdoor site will feature a ceremonial space, cooking area, teaching area, Native arts exhibit area and a drop-off and welcome area. Both are planned to be open for use at the beginning of winter quarter 2015.

Phase two of the project will include further fundraising for the Teaching and Learning Building that will feature student programming space, meeting rooms, an arts lab and Elders lounge.

Intellectual House courtyard
The exterior of the Intellectual House including the outdoor gathering space. By Stephanie Bower.

The planning process to build Wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ has received input and guidance from UW community members, an elders committee and regional tribes. Donations and pledges totaling almost $6 million are supporting the design and construction of phase one. The Wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ name was gifted to the project by the late Vi Hilbert, a Lushootseed linguist and elder in the Upper Skagit Tribe.

More information is available on the Intellectual House web site.