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Photo: Aaron Leitz

The Burke Museum

Seattle, Washington

The Burke Museum

Seattle, Washington

  • Design Principal

    Tom Kundig

  • Principal

    Stephen Yamada-Heidner

The Burke Museum is the oldest public museum in Washington State with a collection of over 16 million artifacts and specimens, ranging from totem poles and gemstones to dinosaur fossils. Because the Burke’s collection is so wide-ranging and continues to grow – it is a collecting museum – the new building needed to serve as a coherent, effective container that would allow for flexibility over time. The building’s rational scheme holds the complexity of the Burke’s activities and collections, both now and into the future.

Another key design goal for the building was to create maximum transparency, making every part of the Burke exposed and part of the visitor experience. The design breaks down traditional museum barriers between public and “back-of-house” spaces, integrating collections and research labs with traditional galleries. Dual entrances help link the museum to its context, connecting to both the University of Washington campus and the surrounding community. A 24-foot-by-20-foot pivoting window wall continues the emphasis on transparency to literally open the Burke to the nature of a new outdoor courtyard. At its core, the mission of the Burke is to help everyone – curators, visitors, educators and students – make a connection with our natural world in all its complexities. The project certified LEED® Gold.

We wanted to create a simple, beautiful, rational and flexible building that will serve the Burke for hundreds of years. It is an inviting place not only for the public, but also for the scientists, researchers and curators of today and tomorrow. Tom Kundig, FAIA, RIBA




AIA Northwest and Pacific Region Design Awards, Honor Award

AIA Seattle Honor Awards for Washington Architecture, Award of Honor

AIA Washington Council Civic Design Awards, Honor Award

Architect’s Newspaper Best of Design Awards, Honorable Mention, Cultural

FX International Interior Design Awards, Winner, Museum or Exhibition Space

Gray Magazine Awards, Pacific Northwest Best of Show



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Borchert, Gavin. “Datebook.” Seattle Magazine, October 2019, 92-94. Print.

Borchert, Gavin and Kendall Upton. “Must List: Burke Museum Grand Reopening, Seattle Queer Film Festival, ‘Stabbin’ Cabin.'” Seattle Magazine, 11 Oct. 2019. Web.

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Elliott, Gwendolyn. “Close Encounters.” Seattle Magazine, September 2019, 112-113. Print.

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“For the Record.” Architectural Record, Dec. 2019, 14. Print.

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Forkner, Lorene Edwards. “The New Burke Museum landscape cultivates relationships with native people, native plants and the cultural history of the land.” Seattle Times Online, 2 Nov. 2019. Web.

Gallaher, Rachel. “Breaking Barriers.” Gray Magazine, October/November 2019, 86-91. Print.

Kiley, Brendan. “How not to run anyone over with a dinosaur: The Burke Museum moves into its new digs.” The Seattle Times, 14 Feb. 2019. Web.

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O’Toole, Cate. “On display at the Burke: a new model for museum design.” Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, 10 Oct. 2019. Web.

Pailthorp, Bellamy. “New Burke turns old museum ‘inside-out’ to make collections and staff more accessible.” KNKX-FM Online, 18 Sep. 2019. Web.

Phung, Timothy. “All the Burke needs is ‘U.'” The Daily of the University of Washington, 28 May 2019. Web.

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Sudermann, Hannelore. “The Burke, unwrapped.” University of Washington Magazine, September 2019. Web.

Tomky, Naomi. “New Museum Café Spotlights Native American Cooking in Washington State.” Food & Wine, 9 Oct. 2019. Web.


Enlow, Clair. “Burke Museum Chooses Team.” Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, July 1996. Print.