Olson Kundig Architects has announced that work has started on the historic rehabilitation and adaptive re-use of the Foss Waterway Seaport, Puget Sound’s premier maritime heritage, education and recreation centre. When building rehabilitation is completed, the new 45,000 sq ft public facility will feature an expansive maritime heritage museum, compelling indoor programme spaces (including a K-16 marine science and environmental education centre), a heritage boat building shop and the ‘Discovery Wharf’ children’s learning centre.
In addition, the Seaport will feature 11,000ft of docks and floats for recreational and educational boat moorage and on-the-water activities, and public open spaces for events, festivals and casual activities. When fully renovated, the improvements will make the Seaport the largest maritime heritage education centre on the West Coast, with spaces for families, students and the entire community to discover, explore, work and play.
The Foss Waterway Seaport building - once a part of the commercial Balfour Dock - is the last remaining unaltered section of a 0.9 mile-long continuous heavy timber frame warehouse that defined Tacoma’s waterfront for almost a century. Built in 1900, the remaining 350ft-long portion straddles the shoreline immediately beneath Tacoma’s downtown. It was originally designed and built in the bridge-building language of nineteenth century railroad engineering, with flat trusses supporting its over-water volume, and 150ft-long timber trusses carrying the overhead load of its monitor roof.
The adaptive re-use improvements, which will include preservation, new construction, renovation and site work, lend themselves to the following three design goals: the centerpiece of the project is a new glass-faced north façade, which will reveal the preserved historic trusses; to minimise impact to the impressive large volume of space, the design will create controlled ‘boxes’ within the overall space; the 150ft-long historic trusses will be preserved and emphasised.
The project is expected to cost $7.7m overall. The City of Tacoma is funding $2m for exterior and seismic renovations. The remaining $5.7m will be raised through an ongoing capital campaign. The first round of construction began in March of 2012 with the replacement of the building’s deteriorated brick north front wall with the glass-faced façade. The overall project is expected to be completed in January of 2015.