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June 16, 2014

Bellevue Botanical Garden opens new visitor center designed by OKA

Photo by Chris Burnside [enlarge]
The visitor center was designed to meet LEED gold standards.

The new 8,500-square-foot visitor center at Bellevue Botanical Garden opened last weekend at 12001 Main St. It was designed by Olson Kundig Architects.

Other firms on the team are Cornerstone General Contractors, contractor; Swift Co., landscape architecture; Dan Hinkley, horticulture; Magnusson Klemencic Associates, civil engineering; WSP, electrical/mechanical/plumbing engineering and lighting design; KPFF Consulting Engineers, structural engineering; Cite Specific, specifications; Transpo Group, transportation; Tuazon Engineering, fire suppression; and The Watershed Co., wetlands biologist.

The project also involved improvements to the 53-acre garden, and adding 69 parking spaces, for a total of 119.

Construction cost $9.46 million.

Bellevue Botanical Garden opened in 1992 and has become one of the most popular public gardens in the Northwest, spurred by a growing interest in native plants and gardening, as well as educational and family-focused programs at the garden.

The original visitor center was in a house designed in 1957 by prominent Northwest architect Paul Kirk. That house now will be used for other functions.

The new visitor center was designed to meet LEED gold standards. It has a covered outdoor orientation space, gift shop, resource libraries, meeting rooms and administration spaces.

Olson Kundig said in a press release that the program areas are arranged as small structures under broad roofs so visitors can move from inside to outside and from one building to the next through the gardens.

A double-height education wing can be subdivided into classrooms and meeting spaces for events such as the Living Lab Program. Spaces open onto the gardens via large rolling doors.

The new terraced parking lot and entry are surrounded by new plantings. Pedestrian pathways lead to different gardens.

Olson Kundig said the new center's design merges civic functions with residential scale. The goal was to create intimate, inspirational spaces for exploration and reflection, and blur the boundaries between architecture and nature.

Jim Olson, the design architect, said, “The building is uniquely Northwest, inspired by our modern mid-century master architects, especially Paul Kirk.”

The Olson Kundig design team includes Olson; Kevin Kudo-King, project manager; and Martina Bendel and Misun Chung Gerrick, project architects.

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