August 17, 2017

Arne Bystrom's work inspired ‘happy living'

  • The Seattle native was known for his custom houses, and also won a HUD National Award for projects in Pike Place Market.
  • Arne Bystrom, right, liked to reveal the structural details, particularly wood framing, in his projects.

    Award-winning Seattle architect Carl Arnold (Arne) Bystrom died Aug. 10 at age 90, according to a story in The Seattle Times.

    Bystrom was a Seattle native of Scandinavian heritage who served in the U.S Army in Korea in 1945-1946.

    Archives West said he graduated from the University of Washington School of Architecture in 1951 with the American Institute of Architects Medal for Excellence in Design.

    Bystrom was a fellow emeritus of the American Institute of Architects — its highest honor. He was president of the AIA Seattle Chapter in 1984, and received the 1998 AIA Seattle Medal.

    Alan Michelson, head of the Built Environments Library at the UW, said Bystrom was known for designing houses. Michelson said Bystrom was part of the regional modernism school that flourished here from the 1950s to the 1970s — a group that included Paul Hayden Kirk, Fred Bassetti, Ralph Anderson and the firm of Grant Copeland & Chervenak.

    Bystrom was a master of wood joinery and framing, and “really went out of his way to emphasize elaborate framing details,” Michelson said.

    One of his best known projects is the Reid and Peggy Dennis House in Sun Valley, Idaho. Michelson said it was designed to reveal the structural details, particularly in the wood framing, and lighting that called attention to the beams. “The interior of this place is a symphony of wood — different uses of wood all over the place,” he said. “It's incredible.”

    Bystrom and James Greco were in a partnership in Seattle from 1957 to 1966; and Bystrom was in private practice from 1967 on, he said.

    The Pacific Coast Architecture Database notes that Bystrom worked with the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department on several occasions. He designed Seward Park Cultural Arts Center and Madrona Dance Studio, and renovated the Greenlake Bathouse Theatre.

    Michelson said he worked on two restorations at Pike Place Market: the Soames-Dunn Building between 1976 and 1978, and the Seattle Garden Center Building between 1978 and 1980.

    Bystrom received over 30 awards for his designs, including two National AIA Honor Awards and a Progressive Architecture Design Award, according to Archives West. He won a HUD National Award for his work in Pike Place Market.

    Michelson said Bystrom also designed a number of Stuart Anderson's Black Angus restaurants.

    “Those were actually pretty interesting as designs go,” he said. “Those were actually pretty cool-looking buildings.”

    Bystrom served two terms on the Seattle Planning Commission, was a member of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board, and was a founding member of Pike Place Market Historical Commission, according to Archives West.

    A story in the DJC about Bystrom's 1998 AIA Seattle medal, said his life and work “express clear and important ideals for Northwest architecture: his consistent design philosophy, the inspired structures he creates, and his dedication to excellence in practice and service express integrity. The work he has created throughout his lifetime makes unsentimental use of the ruggedness, natural materials, and unique environment of the Northwest, applied with bold scale and rhythm — all wrapped together to inspire happy living and confidence.”

    His work appeared in an exhibit at Seattle's Nordic Heritage Museum titled “To Dwell with Nature, The Residential Architecture of Arne Bystrom” and was the subject of a masters of architecture thesis by Are Oyasaeter at the UW.

    According to The Seattle Times article, Bystrom was preceded in death by his sister Myrtle and his brother Albin. He is survived by his sister Eleanor; his daughter, Ashley Bystrom-McConnaughey; his son, Carl Bystrom Jr.; grandchildren Arne, Tava, Hannah and Haley; and his wife of nearly 57 years, Valerie.