Seattle Children's Research Institute

Honor Award 2014

At Seattle Children’s Research Institute (SCRI), hundreds of world-class scientists and researchers are investigating new treatments and seeking cures for childhood diseases. Yet the public is mostly unaware of their presence in downtown Seattle. For years, SCRI has tried to increase the visibility of their building's storefront, which spans more than half a block. SCRI has employed traditional solutions such as posters and window graphics, but despite these attempts, the streetscape remained dark and lifeless. A different approach was needed.

While the client, Seattle Children's Research Institute, wanted visibility for its facility, NBBJ’s Studio 07 design team saw a bigger opportunity: the potential to invigorate a city block for the surrounding community and passersby. Taking inspiration from a history of unique neon signs throughout the city, the NBBJ team designed a series of traditional, artisan-crafted neon signs featuring slogans that reflect the institute’s advanced investigations and the breakthroughs taking place there.

Installed in the storefront windows, the signs not only heighten the public’s awareness of Seattle Children's Research Institute, but also inject the formerly lackluster stretch of urban landscape with a luminous, artistic intervention. Each window features a single neon sign, dramatically presented with an aspirational or inspirational phrase to reflect the SCRI mission. The display becomes engaging street art, experienced by everyone in the neighborhood, while fostering organizational pride for the institute’s employees and stakeholders.

NBBJ also designed neon signs for other SCRI downtown locations to make a visual connection among the facilities and add levity and energy to otherwise quiet corporate environments. NBBJ and the client also planned for the future of the signs. Designed as UL-listed, plug-in light fixtures, once they live out their useful lives at the SCRI offices, they can be auctioned to raise funds for the institute.

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Jury Comments: 

“The lack of street animation and active ground-floor uses around urban hospitals and medical research institutions is a chronic problem for many American cities. These institutions need to keep expanding, often at the expense of the public realm that surrounds them. The solution presented for the SCRI storefront succeeds in solving this problem on so many levels. The neon signs cleverly borrow the bright visual language of the retail and restaurant culture that is so absent in this location. In contrast to the often antiseptic image of biomedical establishments, the messages displayed here are warm, funny, and hopeful. The contrast between the campiness of the graphic style and the sincerity of the content creates a nice form of tension that allows these pieces to stand on their own. And there are enough of them to fully occupy both the physical and social space of the street. The real appeal here is that this project has broad applications in any North American city, and is not just a one-off solution to a unique condition.”

“A fresh use of neon with clever dialogue that draws your eye to the first-floor storefront. It makes external conversations. A light-hearted look at a heavy subject. Wages a crusade about the human condition.”

Design Firm: 

NBBJ Studio 07

Client: 

Seattle Children’s Research Institute

Location City: 

Seattle

Project Area: 

150 lineal feet

Open Date: 

July 2013

Project Budget: 

$100,000

Photo Credits: 

Robert Murray, Sean Airhart/NBBJ

Design Team: 

Eric LeVine (principal in charge); Robert Murray (lead designer); Elliott Rupe, Amanda Seever (designers) 

Consultants: 

Copacino + Fujikado (advertising agency)

Fabricators: 

Tube Art Group

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