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Unveiled> Foss Waterway Seaport
Olson Kundig Architects reveal massive timber trusses in an old dock in Tacoma.
Courtesy Olson Kundig Architects

Foss Waterway Seaport
Architect: Olson Kundig Architects
Client: Foss Waterway Development Authority
Location: Tacoma, Washington
Completion: 2014

Rehabilitation of the Foss Waterway Seaport, a 45,000-square-foot maritime center in Tacoma, Washington, is underway. The building was originally part of the mile-long Balfour Dock that served as a cargo ship hub and wheat storage facility along the Thea Foss Waterway, located off the Puget Sound. Olson Kundig Architects is leading the renovation of the original timber-frame warehouse, one of the last remaining pieces of the city’s 19th-century waterfront. When completed, the seaport will be the largest maritime heritage and education center on the West Coast.

Previous improvements have included permanent pilings and replacements of the building’s roof and wharf. The current phase, which began in March, removes the aging brick exterior, replacing its frontage with a pewter anodized aluminum curtain-wall system using high-performance glass. The interior will be organized via a series of boxes that will include an exhibition hall for a heritage museum, classrooms for marine ecology and maritime history programs, a children’s learning center, and a boat shop.

The exhibit hall will feature exposed 150-foot-long timber trusses, a nod to the building’s original scale, to its working past, and to the region’s ancient trees. “The structure of the building is like a heroic sculpture. The building is a real community treasure,” said Jim Olson, design principal and project leader. The exhibit hall will reopen in spring 2013, with total renovation completed by 2014.

Ariel Rosenstock