The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center
Monday 17 Jun 2013


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The vision behind the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center is to educate, inspire, and motivate people through story-telling—sharing the work of others who are focused on improving the lives of people around the globe. Through interactive exhibits, visitors can investigate some of the challenges facing the world, learn how people are tackling those problems, and explore their own ideas and solutions to challenges that matter to them. 

The 11,000 sq ft exhibit unfolds through a series of six galleries. The experience begins outside the building on the sidewalk with provocations and informational exhibits stretching along the glazed street façade of the building. Views into the building reveal exhibits situated along a ramp that parallels the sidewalk, which in turn, opens to the galleries beyond. Together, sidewalk and ramp blur the line between exterior and interior space and begin the process of bringing passersby into an awareness and conversation about global issues. Inside, a series of five galleries lead the visitor through an exploration of the foundation history and interactive investigations (mechanical and digital) designed to inspire action: the galleries include the Voices Gallery, Family & Foundation Gallery, Partnerships Gallery, a theater, and the Innovation & Inspiration Gallery. The galleries and exhibits are organized through a system of large, free-standing steel armatures; exhibits plug into the armature framework unifying the aesthetic throughout the exhibit and facilitating the potential for future change.

By integrating a hierarchy of scale, space and material into the exhibits, the design brings dimensionality and attention to the many people and partners touched by the foundation in discrete, easily understood segments. Sustainability is incorporated into the design through the use of FSC-certified and repurposed wood, as well as an approach to information graphics that involves printing directly onto wood thereby eliminating the use of additional materials—the building envelope is LEED Gold Certified. With an emphasis on ideas—the design seeks to create a personal relationship between the visitor and the mission and work of the foundation and those it supports.

Location: Seattle, Washington

Design Firm: Olson Kundig Architects

Lead Architect: Alan Maskin

Olson Kundig Architects

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