Burke Interior Compr 2015.10
Stephanie Bower Illustration/Olson Kundig

Burke Museum of Natural History & Culture

  • New Museum Predesign Planning & Design Program Development
  • Seattle, WA
  • 2012- Current


Predesign planning determined a new building would be the most effective course to  improve the Burke’s capacity to ‘foster understanding and wonder about our place in the world’.  Informing the design is the concept that places ‘collections, study and research of objects is at the forefront of everyone’s experience’ – breaking down the traditional boundaries between the public and ‘back of house’.

Now in design, WCA is working with the Burke and Olson Kundig Architects providing expertise in the layout of the building and functional detail to ensure the building works equally well for visitors and staff.  WCA’s contribution has ensured visitors and staff are fully integrated into a new model of experiencing natural history to stitch the lobby and exhibits directly to collections and research areas with a zone of new interactive experiences.


In Predesign, WCA engaged 8 internal stakeholder groups in 5 workshops: Visioning, Data Collection, Data Synthesis, Building Organization Concepts and Consensus followed by a detailed program definition process.  Each workshop balanced vision and goals for new models of visitor engagement with quantitative analysis, circulation and workflow diagrams.  To ensure success,  the process balanced collections access and risk, goals for long term flexibility, cross functional use of space and earned revenue enhancement opportunities.

In Design, each working group continues to work with WCA to inform the design team of specific needs of each space with an emphasis on flexibility to meet current and future needs.  WCA produces sketch solutions and continues to coordinate with the entire consultant team.


In Predesign, the very detailed discussion of program goals and options, coupled with collections assessment, space program, workflow and adjacency diagrams developed confidence among  museum leadership, university administration and staff that vision, needs and budgets were aligned.

In Design,  the continued engagement of WCA with museum leadership and staff has allowed the project design team to move forward with the confidence that the program is completely defined and the needs of each program function are integrated into the final design solution.

“Walt is extraordinary in building confidence among our team and enhancing communication with the architects at both the University and the private sector. We have high expectations for his supporting Olson Kundig Architects during design to create a beautiful museum for our visitors that supports our staff, protects our collections, and enables us to succeed with our vision for the future.” – Dr. Julie Stein, Director