A renovated Odegaard reopens its doors


Odegaard -

The new staircase in Odegaard opened 6,000 square feet of floor space on the first floor allowing for a more open feel to the library.


Photo by Joshua Bessex

Since opening in 1972, the Odegaard Undergraduate Library has served UW students as an academic resource. After a $16 million renovation, the library is now equipped to serve students like never before.

In late June, at the start of summer quarter, the UW opened a newly renovated Odegaard after the library was closed for a year during construction.

Collaborating with The Miller Hull Partnership, a Seattle-based architecture firm known for its work on the Bullitt Center, referred to by many as the “world’s greenest office building,” and Mortenson Construction, the UW began planning the renovation nearly two years ago.

“We worked very closely with the contract team right from the start, which isn’t always the case,” said Wendy Abeel, the director of communications at Miller Hull. “[The project] really had a tight time constraint.”

Funded by the state of Washington as part of the 2011-13 State Capital Budget, a large portion of the renovation focused on creating active-learning classrooms, which are interactive, interdisciplinary spaces that bring together information and technology, and upgrading the building’s lighting efficiency and design to use less energy.

“Every square inch of this building needed to be used 24 hours a day,” said Ruth Baleiko, Miller Hull’s lead project architect. “We knew that we couldn’t let a single square inch go to waste. When a student comes into the library now, they should be able do everything they need to do as part of their academic experience.”

Odegaard now has an integrated writing and research center, two new active learning classrooms, seven new group study rooms on the first floor, and an abundance of new technologies.

One of the biggest changes in the renovation was the removal of the main stairwell that was part of the library’s original 1972 design. A new central atrium was added in the center of Odegaard as a replacement.

“We love the visibility of this,” said Jill McKinstry, director of Odegaard. “During the day you’re able to see the work that’s going on. You can see other students meet with other students and that’s inspiring.”

Abeel said Miller Hull focused on improving the social sustainability of the library and making it more environmentally friendly. By incorporating the skylight and other new lights, the UW is now able to make better use of daylight and reduce lighting costs.

The firm also reused the original structure of Odegaard to make the project more sustainable. Miller Hull was able to recycle oak wood from the old building by scaling, restaining, and repurposing it.

McKinstry said after five years of cutbacks, reductions, and increased tuition, the renovation should be exciting for students.

“There is more of a sense that they are investing on spaces for students here on campus,” McKinstry said. “We want to make sure that we are giving the services [the students] need.”

While most of the major changes are complete, finishing touches are still being made in many parts of the library, including some of the restrooms. Additionally, furniture is still being put in, and carpeting is being finished on the third floor. McKinstry said they’re hoping to secure more funds to finish the renovation.

“We have more dreams to come,” McKinstry said. “This is just the beginning.”

Reach contributing writer Chloe Choe at development@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @ChloeSChoe

Please read our Comment policy.