The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center exhibition explains how and why the foundation was founded, and describes its work around the globe. Perhaps most importantly, it creates a personal relationship with the visitor, inviting them into a conversation about global issues, prompting questions and providing activities for them to explore how every individual can make a positive difference.
Created through a collaboration between Olson Kundig Architects and Studio Matthews, the experience begins on the sidewalk outside the center, with informational exhibits that double as seating, stretching along the glazed street façade. Views inside reveal a ramp that parallels the sidewalk, opening into gallery spaces beyond. Together, sidewalk and ramp blur the line between exterior and interior space.
Inside is a series of five connected spaces: the Voices Gallery (featuring hundreds of faces from the foundation and its grantees), the Family & Foundation Gallery (including a 30-foot-long interactive timeline), the Partnerships Gallery (describing initiatives with partners all over the world), a theater (featuring a wall that raises to reveal the interior to the ramp and street outside), and the Innovation & Inspiration Gallery, where a series of mechanical and digital interactives invite in-depth visitor participation.
Interactives empower visitors to contribute their personal voices and ideas. Sustainable materials and processes were an important part of the exhibit development process. Galleries and exhibits are organized through a system of large, freestanding steel armatures; exhibits plug into the armature framework, facilitating the potential for future change. The prevalence of wood throughout—for everything from graphic image panels to interactive rollers—provides a warm, inviting, and tactile experience. With an emphasis on ideas, the design seeks to create a personal connection between the visitor and the mission and work of the foundation and those it supports.
Alan Maskin (lead designer); Stephen Yamada-Heidner (managing principal); Marlene Chen (project manager); Michael Picard, Blair Payson (project architects); Phil Turner (kinetic engineer); Charlie Fairchild (interiors); Kristine Matthews, Cassie Klingler (graphic designers); Hans-Erik Blomgren (structural engineer); Jason Edling (lighting consultant)
Olson Kundig Architects, Studio Matthews
11,000 sq ft
Sandra Owen Design (artworking), ARUP Seattle (structural/mechanical/electrical engineer), ARUP Seattle (lighting design), Olson Kundig Interiors Studio (interior design), The Friday Group (specifications), Studio Pacifica (accessibility), Sellen Sustainability (sustainability), Turner Exhibits (kinetic engineering), BRC Acoustics (acoustical engineer), BBI Engineering (audio visual integrator), Possible (multimedia Interactive design)
Sellen Construction (general contractor), Pacific Studio (exhibit fabricator)