April 28, 2017

Construction History Society of America to meet on UW Campus July 20-22

Leading construction historians and independent scholars will address the theme of Construction History on the Frontier – exploring the innovative construction history of the American west coast, with particular focus on Seattle and the Pacific Northwest –  during the Construction History Society’s Members’ Meeting taking place on the campus of the University of Washington, Seattle from July 20-22, 2017.

Registration info

With the region shaped first by pioneering families and resource extraction economies and later transportation networks and local urban growth, presentations of this conference reflect this evolution. With topics interesting to architects, engineers, construction historians as well as subcontractors and suppliers, this multi-track program begins Thursday afternoon and runs to noon on July 22.

The keynote speakers will anchor the conference, with presentations on central historical themes.  Jeffrey Ochsner, professor in the Department of Architecture at the UW, will discuss the architectural history of the region, through the lens of construction history.  In the Northwest, changing styles often accompanied a change in building material, charting the progression of architecture from the 19th century to today.  Knute Berger, journalist and historian, will speak on the history of the Seattle Space Needle – the iconic, sky-line defining monument of the city.  Berger will discuss how the Space Needle enabled Seattle to be perceived as being on the cutting edge of technology, a high-tech branding that continues today.  Jon Magnusson, former CEO of Magnusson Klemencic Associates, comes from a long family history of construction in the Northwest.  Magnusson went from walking around construction sites as a boy to leading a world-renown structural engineering firm responsible for iconic works in the Northwest and around the world.  Projects include the Seattle Public Library, Safeco Field, Century Link Field and others.  Mike Lombardi, historian at Boeing, will present the history of the most important company in the early northwest.  Boeing’s innovation has driven the Northwest economy for decades, providing a highly-trained work force, and continuing to innovate with new materials and processes in creating airplanes.


Our plenary session presentations will address a broader scope of construction history in the west.  Presentations will discuss the massive infrastructure that made life in the west possible, like hydroelectric dams (Grand Coulee Dam), bridges over waterways of the Puget Sound (Tacoma Narrows Bridge), and military encampments (Fort Casey) – important markers of development.  The region is also famous for its use of timber – first as logging old growth woods, then innovating engineered wood products.  Presentations will show this history while indicating how this process continues today.  Other presentations will dive into the personalities of builders on the frontier, older methods of construction that have been forgotten, and periods of innovation in specific materials, such as reinforced concrete.

A highlight of the Members Meeting is the ‘We Built Seattle’ panel discussion on Thursday evening, July 20th, celebrating the specific firms who have contributed to the history of construction in the Northwest.  Sponsored by AGC Washington and moderated by Len Holm, this panel will be composed of representatives from significant legacy firms, including Rick Redmond (Sellen Construction), Jim Crutcher (Lease Crutcher Lewis), Bill Bain (NBBJ), Terry Deeny (Deeny Construction) and John Holmes (Manson Construction).  These builders and their firms have shaped the Seattle landscape through their innovative projects for over 60 years.  This panel discussion will be an opportunity to share knowledge forward and engage a new generation in rich history of construction in Seattle.  This event is free and open to the public.

In addition to eight academic sessions, CHSA will present four guided tours led by local expert historians on Friday, July 21 in Seattle and the surrounding region.

Tour #1: Boeing Assembly Plant, Everett WA
Tour #2: Fairground for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair – This tour will include the US Science Pavilion (Minoru Yamasaki), the Washington State Coliseum (Paul Thiry), and the Seattle Space Needle (John Graham Company)
Tour #3: Pioneer Square – This tour will look at Seattle’s historic downtown, constructed after the fire of 1889.  The primarily stone and brick facades were built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, with rounded arches and heavy timber interiors.  As time advanced, the buildings transitioned to steel giving birth Seattle’s first skyscrapers in the 1910s.  This tour will include the six-story Pioneer Building (1892), and the 38-story Smith Tower (1914) – the tallest building outside of New York City when it was completed.
Tour #4: Downtown Seattle landmarks – This tour will look a Seattle’s contemporary downtown core including the Pike Place Market and renovation (Miller Hull), the Seattle Public Library (OMA/LMN), and the Amazon Spheres (NBBJ, under construction).


The Members’ Meeting of the Construction History Society of America: July 20 – 22, 2017 at the University of Washington, Seattle and supported by the Departments of Construction Management and Architecture within the College of Built Environments.

Registration opens March 1, 2017 at: https://chsamembership.wildapricot.org/event-2472561