Miller Hull

Odegaard Undergraduate Library & Learning Commons

University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Miller Hull has truly raised the bar for what we expect from our design partners. We could not have asked for a better team to guide us in our discovery of what our Learning Center of the Future could and should be. University of Washington
Client University of Washington
Size 165,000 SF building | 50,000 SF renovated area
Completion 2013


We were enlisted by the University of Washington to renovate the 1970’s era Odegaard Undergraduate Library—and re-imagine it as a learning commons of the twenty-first century. The building was designed by Paul Hayden Kirk, one of the most significant Pacific Northwest architects of the era. It occupies a location at the heart of campus on Red Square. Approximately 10,000 students used the building each day, as a place for research and technology access, despite the fact that it was designed for a different time; one where a visit to a library was a solitary endeavor to study quietly or access the collection.

The University had bigger plans for Odegaard. They envisioned the library as the epicenter for creating pedagogical change on campus. The team worked with UW instruction researchers to create an insertion into the building for learning behaviors such as: discovery of collection, consultation, prototyping, and production. Each insertion is color-coded to create a recognizable family within the existing building, including

  • New team collaboration booths inserted in place of original individual study carrels provide breakout space in classrooms as well as team workspace after hours.
  • Team spaces incorporate flat screen monitors for students to plug-in personal laptops and share content.
  • Interactive walls act as collection display areas and express computer/printer “hotspots;” as well as iconic landmarks to assist with wayfinding—much like “watering holes” or “connectivity nodes.”

In saving the landmark building, the University recognized the inherent sustainability in renovation and reuse of the facility. To optimize the building’s functionality without adding square footage the team consolidated staff and circulation areas and was able to double the amount of work spaces. By removing the main atrium stair and replacing it with an amply sized but much smaller stair, the ground floor of the atrium became a usable area for students and the edges of the atrium were employed as additional counter seating and break out areas adding activity and life to the main atrium. Already heavily used but outdated, Odegaard can once again call itself the vibrant center of learning for University of Washington undergraduates.