Celebrating the Seattle World’s Fair


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By Eugenia Woo

As a project of “The Next Fifty” Docomomo US/WEWA and Historic Seattle presented a three-part lecture series at Seattle Center in June 2012 that focused on the architecture and design heritage of the Seattle World’s Fair and its influence and impact beyond the Fair’s original campus. As part of the larger six-month long (April – October 2012) 50th anniversary celebration organized by the Seattle Center Foundation (“The Next Fifty”), Docomomo US/WEWA was thrilled to present talks by locally and nationally prominent speakers including Docomomo US President Theodore Prudon. The lecture series and project, titled “Welcome to the Future: Century 21 and Living Modern,” presented a great opportunity for Docomomo US/WEWA to develop partnerships and sponsorships with Historic Seattle, The Next Fifty and Pacific Science Center, with grant funding provided by 4Culture and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. We also produced a project website/blog at century21mod.com.

WewaDocomomo US/WEWA hosted Theodore Prudon during his visit to the Pacific Northwest. As the third and final speaker of the lecture series, Theo’s June 19 presentation on “Modern Building Technology” was well received by local modernist enthusiasts and people seeking to learn more about preserving the modern. The lecture series was a big success overall with the first two lectures focusing on the social and cultural context of the Seattle World’s Fair—presented by Seattle writer and journalist Knute Berger, and northwest architects of the Century 21 Exposition—presented by Docomomo US/WEWA Board member, chapter co-founder and architect Susan Boyle.

We began the evening of the event in fine fashion with a reception in the sun-drenched (yes, it finally stopped raining!) courtyard of the Minoru Yamasaki-designed Pacific Science Center, originally built for the Fair in 1962 as the US Science Pavilion. Theo presented his lecture in the newly renovated PACCAR Theater, a historic space in which Charles and Ray Eames are credited with designing. With Theo’s current research on the work of Seattle-born Yamasaki , the designated Seattle landmark Pacific Science Center was the ideal venue for his lecture.

Photo (right, l-r): Eugenia Woo, Theodore Prudon, Kathleen Brooker, Historic Seattle Executive Director

WewaDuring his whirlwind trip, Docomomo US/WEWA Board members toured Theo around some modern sites in Seattle. In addition to a behind-the-scenes private tour of Pacific Science Center, we strolled through the former fairgrounds (now Seattle Center); the Eastlake neighborhood (contains several fine examples of regional modern commercial architecture); and the University of Washington campus. Although known for its Olmsted Bros-designed plan and Gothic Revival style architecture, the UW has an interesting collection of modern buildings on campus including the Nuclear Reactor Building, an ongoing preservation advocacy issue for Docomomo US/WEWA. We ended our day of touring with cocktails in the lounge of Canlis Restaurant, a Seattle institution and modernist gem built in 1950 prominently situated overlooking Lake Union.

Photo (left): Theodore Prudon with Docomomo WEWA Board members Alan Michelson (center) and Andy Phillips (right) at the Nuclear Reactor Building, University of Washington.

Docomomo US/WEWA Board members Susan Boyle, Kathleen McNeely, Alan Michelson, Andy Phillips, Kate Smith, Greg Walton and Eugenia Woo enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with Theo to discuss local issues and view regional modern architecture. We look forward to collaborating more in the future.