Fort Worden Building 305 Art and Education Center
Port Townsend, WA
Make Art not War
In 1905, Building 305 was the first building constructed at Fort Worden, serving as the Quartermasters’ Warehouse that oversaw the construction of over 600 additional buildings on the WWI military fort. The Fort became one-third of what was colloquially known as the “Triangle of Fire”, positioned at the northern opening of Puget Sound to protect the area from an enemy naval incursion.
Over its 120-year lifetime, the building passed from federal to state to community ownership. Building 305, most recently, was a maintenance and storage building for Washington State Parks, which suspended it in a mono-functional state composed of dusty workshops and a depository of historic relics and building materials.
The architectural investigation and conversion of the warehouse into an art and education center sought to preserve the discontinuous and worn materials to tell the story of 305’s long life. The architecture simultaneously meets the strict standards of the US Department of the Interior and creates a dialogue with history. The past lives are not concealed; they are celebrated and stitched into the new, to honestly tell the story of this place while continuing to allow it to evolve.
Material, Time, and Use Repository
During investigation and design, the spaces, materiality, and structure of 305 were extensively documented. Existing finishes were masked-off and preserved, floor finishes and paint was left in-place, and new insertions were carefully considered to complement the existing materiality without becoming a parody. Research and discovery drove design, mapping remnants, former wall locations, removed cabinetry, abandoned stairwells, and the imprint of past uses of 305. What was not done to the building became as important as what was changed.
Where possible, existing materials were rehabilitated and reused within the building, minimizing the environmental impact of the renovation. Flooring removed from the attic–in the double-height gallery spaces–was reused on level one, while bead-board salvaged from the ceiling is patched into wall and ceiling surfaces. The 200-year-old Douglas fir attic floor joists that were removed in the art studio and gallery spaces were carefully salvaged, catalogued, and milled into new stair treads and risers. Through patching and grafting of old and new materials, a rigorous preservation methodology builds upon traces and the patina of time to engage the new uses in a dialogue with the past.
The programmatic adaptations are reverent to the existing structure of the building, in some places even replacing structure that was removed. On the first floor, art galleries and art studio spaces anchor the South and North ends of the building respectively, occupying bright airy spaces where attic flooring has been removed to highlight the sectional volume. A long gallery hallway connects these two spaces along the West side of the building, spilling out to the social stair and deck.
Classroom and support functions occupy the core of the building within single-height spaces, conducive to focused work. The cloistered spaces of the basement, surrounded by stone and masonry, host the local independent radio station, providing sound-controlled spaces for recording, broadcasting, offices, and archival materials. The wide basement corridor, defined by flagstone foundation walls and masonry piers, runs end-to-end to accentuate the length and structural bays of 305. The attic nestles two large writers’ workshops overlooking the double-height spaces.
True to the ideology of a warehouse, the spaces created are large and flexible. 305 is now seismically retrofitted and raceways are oversized and readily accessible so that future retrofits and technological integration is easily accomplished, enabling the next 100 years of flexible use.
- Builder: Clark Construction
- Structural Engineering: Lund Opsahl
- Mechanical and Plumbing: Greenbusch Group
- Electrical: TFWB
- Lighting: Blanca Lighting
- Civil Engineering : MIG / SvR
- Landscape Architecture: ELM Environments
- LEED Documentation: O'Brien360
- Historic Preservation Consulting: Artifacts Consulting
Year of Completion: 2021
Artists per year: 30,000
Partner Organizations: 14+
Rodger Schmitt, Washington State Parks Commissioner
This is really exciting, how we could develop this in a way that is flexible and sustainable. It’s great that the consultants recognized input from the community, rather than coming in with a preconceived idea.