Neighborhood Design-Build Studio

The Sunhouse - Spring 2005

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The Arboretum, Seattle

The Washington Park Arboretum is a spectacular urban green space on the shores of Lake Washington just east of downtown Seattle and south of the University of Washington. Its 230 acres comprise a dynamic, living museum with collections of oaks, conifers, camellias, Japanese maples and hollies that are known internationally as our country's largest. The University of Washington, in association with the Center for Urban Horticulture, manages the Arboretum and its plant collections. The City of Seattle's Department of Parks and Recreation holds title to the land and cooperates in its management. The Arboretum Foundation manages fund raising, membership, and volunteer services.


This years design/build program called for the construction of a lath house, (which was later named the Arboretum Sunhouse), a place for plants in transition between the greenhouse environment and their final planting into the earth. The site for the Sunhouse sits just east of the Pat Calvert Greenhouse, south of the Arboretum visitors center.


The two main design criteria were to allow as much sunlight into the space as possible and to prohibit crows from getting into the structure. After a few weeks of group design charrettes, materials research and model building, the students presented a solution to the Arboretum board. They accepted the vision for the Sunhouse; a simple cedar building with an intricate lamella roof structure, which became the focal point of the design. It was constructed primarily of cedar, wire mesh and Polygal plastic.