Bellevue Botanical Garden Building, Washington Visitor Centre Design, Paul Kirk Architecture Images

Bellevue Botanical Garden, Washington

Bellingham Visitor Centre Building + Renovation design by Olson Kundig Architects, WA, USA

Feb 21, 2011

Bellevue Botanical Garden

Lightcatcher Building at the Whatcom Museum

Location: Bellingham, WA, USA

Design of original building: architect Paul Kirk

Design: Olson Kundig Architects

Olson Kundig Architects Undertake Major Improvements to Bellevue Botanical Garden

Project includes plans for a new Visitor Center and the renovation of a mid-century residence

Fundraising in progress

Rendering of the new Visitor Center at Bellevue Botanical Garden:

Bellevue Botanical Garden, Washington building
image © Olson Kundig Architects

Bellevue, WA: February, 2011 – Olson Kundig Architects is pleased to announce that plans are underway for improvements to the Bellevue Botanical Garden, with the Bellevue Botanical Garden Society actively working to meet fundraising goals.

This public project includes the new Visitor Center complex, renovations to a building by Northwest master architect Paul Kirk, and extensive site work. The improvements will allow the Bellevue Botanical Garden to serve greater numbers of visitors, expand educational programs for adults and children, highlight a growing collection of natural specimens, and serve as a natural oasis in a growing city. The project is targeting LEED silver certification or higher.

Bellevue Botanical Garden buildings
image © Olson Kundig Architects

Jim Olson, FAIA, founder of Olson Kundig Architects, led the design of the project. “The Bellevue Botanical Garden has the potential to become one of the finest botanical gardens in the world,” says Olson. “I grew up in the Northwest and have spent my life exploring ways to bring architecture and nature closer together, to blur the distinction of indoors and outdoors and to frame nature so that its beauty is celebrated. This project offers a chance to bring my lifelong exploration to a place where it would encourage others to love nature as much as I do.”

Since its opening in 1992, the Bellevue Botanical Garden has become one of the most heavily-visited public gardens in the Pacific Northwest. The design of the new Visitor Center defers to nature, blurring the boundaries between architecture and the gardens while creating spaces that allow the institution to meet its varied goals.

The scope of improvements includes new construction, renovation and site work.

• New Visitor Center Complex The centerpiece of the project is a new 8,500 SF Visitor Center complex, which will include an outdoor covered orientation space with displays and maps, a gift shop, meeting space, office space and restrooms. A sheltering roof, fernery walls, and gardens will unite the spaces and create a natural flow between indoors and out. Multi-purpose classrooms and meeting spaces are designed to meet the rising interest in all-ages education at the Garden. These flexible spaces will accommodate a wide range of programming.

• Renovation of the Shorts’ House The Shorts’ House was designed in the 1950s by Northwest master architect Paul Kirk. Jim Olson, who worked with Kirk early in his career and is internationally recognized for his residential designs, has remodeled the house to serve the Garden’s needs while retaining its intimate appeal. The 2,300 SF building will contain meeting rooms, a library, and accessory spaces to the Visitor Center.

• Parking Lot Reconfiguration The new parking lot will double the Garden’s current capacity and provide safer pedestrian access to the Visitor Center complex. As an extensive winter garden, the parking lot will establish the sequence and experience of the Garden.

Additionally, the Garden will undergo extensive landscape work and the development of outdoor circulation spaces. Existing gardens will be enhanced and new gardens will be developed, including the Fernery, Spring Court and the Iris Rain Garden.

The overall project is a collaboration between the Bellevue Botanical Garden, the City of Bellevue, and the design team. Jim Olson, FAIA, of Olson Kundig Architects has led the design team, teaming up with landscape architect Barbara Swift, ASLA, of Swift Company LLC, and the world-renowned botanist Dan Hinkley. Kevin Kudo King, AIA LEED AP of Olson Kundig Architects is the project manager.

Fundraising for the project is currently underway. In 2009 the Garden embarked on a capital campaign to raise the $11 million needed to complete the renovation and redevelopment project, with $6 million already committed through the 2008 Parks Levy passage, CIP Process and a challenge grant from the City of Bellevue. The Bellevue Botanical Garden Society is committed to raising the remaining $5 million to complete the redevelopment.

About Olson Kundig Architects: Olson Kundig Architects is an architecture firm based in Seattle, Washington, and led by four owners: Jim Olson, Tom Kundig, Kirsten R. Murray, and Alan Maskin. The 85-person office specializes in a range of projects both nationally and internationally, including new and renovated residential projects, particularly for art collectors; mixed-use buildings; academic and civic projects; museums and exhibit design; cultural centers; places of worship; urban design; and interior design. The firm was the recipient of the 2009 Architecture Firm Award, awarded by the American Institute of Architects. For additional information, please visit

About The Bellevue Botanical Garden: Since opening in 1992 in Wilburton Hill Community Park, in Bellevue, WA, the 53-acre Bellevue Botanical Garden has quickly developed into one of the most popular parks in the Puget Sound area, with more than 300,000 visitors annually. The garden provides a forum for public education in botany, horticulture and related fields, acts as a place for inspiration and reflection, and is a destination for spending time with friends and family. In 2009, the Garden was named “Best Park in the Northwest” by local King 5 TV’s Northwest Escapes Contest.

The Garden is managed by the City of Bellevue Parks & Community Services Department, and operates in partnership with the Bellevue Botanical Garden Society. This private/public partnership model requires ongoing assistance from volunteers in the areas of Garden operations and programming. It is open daily and free to the public. For additional information, please visit

Bellevue Botanical Garden images / information from Olson Kundig Architects

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