Miller Hull

Washington State Library Archives Building

Tumwater, WA
Through reimagining the archival vault, and uniting disparate departments under one roof, this project creates transparency, broadens perspectives, and enables all who pass the freedom to choose their narrative and embrace their history.
Client Office of the Secretary of State
Size 118,000 SF
Completion 2026

Archival buildings, by functional necessity, do not engage with the public. They are often windowless, relying on seclusion and solitude to properly preserve their contents, and frequently do not interact with the site and place in which they reside.

Reimagining the archival vault as a vessel – its solidity representing a storied and respected past – this project converts the surrounding spaces into accessible places for employees and visitors alike to work, learn, and socialize. Balancing the privacy with the public, the solid with the open, this concept continues to address dualing notions, creating an exciting tension in the effort to serve as both an archival building and a modern workplace. This duality is both conceptually and physically represented in two parts: the “box” and the “bar” – a welcome opportunity to facilitate in-person connections with the newly collocated departments.

Inspired by the geology of the state, the “box” houses the secure collections and contains the multiple narratives of Washington State’s rich and enduring legacy. From the original copy of the State Constitution to important legal records, documents are safely protected here while remaining accessible to the public. Although the need for secure storage demands a black-box, climate-controlled environment, it is imperative that this large volume is both welcoming and symbolically accessible.

The “bar,” conversely focuses on the government’s employees. It contains the divisions of the Office of the Secretary of State, including the State Library, the State Archives, Elections, and other publicly-accessible programs, breaking down the barriers that inhibit diversity, equity, and inclusion in more traditional governmental buildings. Of particular note is the Elections office. During a time when the election process is questionable and the security of government workers cannot be guaranteed, the State’s commitment to ensuring a transparent voting process is illustrated in the decision to locate Elections in the “bar.”

All visitors are welcomed and connected to the rich history and inclusive future of Washington State so that the heritage of our past can be appropriately honored, and the future of our state can be responsibly guided through a symbolically and functionally resilient facility.

But what began as a consolidation project grew into an endeavor to create unprecedented transparency among both the Collections and administrative offices, enlightening the world to a vital workforce and the archival documents it supports.

Aiming to counteract several aspects of traditional civic structures, we asked ourselves: how can the function of the interior come through to the exterior despite there being no windows? How can a storage container become an exciting and dynamic place? And perhaps most importantly, how can this single site — this single address and parcel of land — represent the entire state, its history, people, geography, and values?

Responding to this need, the “box” expresses protection and solidity while composing a texturally diverse backdrop for the active civic entry plaza. By lifting the corner of the exterior skin and inscribing the stone below with passages from key documents held within, multiple narratives are revealed to everyone visiting the building, transforming the contents from a sense of mystery to one of accessible beauty and poetry.

A different kind of transparency at the perimeter of the “bar” visually strengthens the connection of civic agencies to the public they serve. Open volumes inspired by the hydrologic events that formed the geography of Central Washington are perceived as light-filled and organic “erosions.” These erosions reside within (and spill out of to form gathering spaces) the rectilinear form recalling the natural forces that shaped the state and providing experiential eddies that mark key gathering spaces that convey a sense of civic importance while evoking qualities of the Pacific Northwest environment. They also spill out to form gathering areas outside of the rectilinear form. Such qualities include authentic natural materials, the warmth of wood, the rhythm of vertical forms, and serendipitous moments of delight and awe.

As diversity of thought and an increased awareness of storyteller bias becomes more prevalent, this project gives all individuals in the State of Washington access to historical documents so they can interpret the processes, events, and outcomes through their own unique perspectives.

Project Team

Project Manager: State of Washington, Department of Enterprise Services (DES)
Architect: The Miller Hull Partnership, LLP
Archive Specialist: ECI
Landscape Architect: Murase Associates
Civil Engineer: AHBL
Structural Engineer: Lund Opsahl
MEP / Security / Technology / Fire Protection Engineer: Introba
Signage and Wayfinding: Mayer Reed
Lighting Designer: Dark | Light
Transportation Consultant: Heffron Transportation
Vertical Transportation Consultant: The Greenbusch Group
Acoustical Consultant: BRC Acoustics
Envelope Consultant: 4EA Building Science
Cost Consultant: JMB Consulting
Hardware Consultant: Assa Abloy Opening Solutions