The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

500 5th Ave N Seattle

Seattle Architecture/The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
VAMONDE Seattle
Written By VAMONDE Seattle

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the world’s largest charitable organization, founded in the 1990s by Bill Gates, who had become the world’s wealthiest individual as the founder of Microsoft, and his wife Melinda. With over $50 billion in assets, it funds a massive portfolio of charitable programs around the world, with a focus on infectious diseases, family planning, and agricultural research. Originally run from several different buildings, the foundation tapped US-based global architecture firm NBBJ, along with Seattle-based landscape architecture firm Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, to create a new campus which would be completed in 2011 and reflect the organization’s united mission and global visibility.

The campus, made up of three curved buildings, occupies a prominent site near Seattle City Center and the Space Needle. Once used for the 1962 World Fair, it began a rebirth with the completion of MoPOP in 2001. Here’s how NBBJ’s website describes the project:

“The foundation’s campus interiors are designed around the notion of simple craft, giving employees a humble, calm atmosphere in which to work and collaborate. Utilizing the skill of individuals who benefit from the foundation’s work, the design supports sustainable small craft industries in the Pacific Northwest and abroad, connecting the design to the Foundation’s ‘local roots and global mission’ philosophy. It’s a destination where mission and design converge.”

And here’s how GGN’s website describes the grounds:

“To integrate the campus into the dense surrounding neighborhoods, landscape features – including pathways and water edges – are aligned to the street grid and adjacent buildings. An internal courtyard ‘floats’ on rainwater gardens planted with native reeds, and the campus is planted with native and edible plants, including blueberries and Big Leaf Maples.”

Instead of directing rainwater into the ocean, the grounds are designed to capture it in an enormous cistern, from which it could potentially be reused. GGN hoped this would set a new precedent for water conservation by big buildings. The parking garage also features a planted “green roof.”

While the campus is not entirely open to the public, visitors are welcome at the “Discovery Center,” a museum featuring exhibits on global problems and the Foundation’s approach to solving them. Admission and guided tours are free.

Explore the world's largest charity.
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Cover photo: adbar, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Seattle Architecture

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

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