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photo of Frye Art Museum
Photo: Tim Bies / Olson Kundig

Frye Art Museum

Seattle, Washington

Frye Art Museum

Seattle, Washington

  • Design Collaborator

    Alan Maskin

The design of this comprehensive remodel and significant expansion brought the Frye Art Museum into the present. The architecture prepares the visitor for the museum experience by reinforcing a cadence that is conducive to viewing art. A new entry arcade knits together additions and existing architecture with public spaces, which include a new café, curatorial wing and sculpture garden, and brings the life of the building to the street edge. Natural light slips into the building in strategic places to intuitively guide the visitor. The result is a jewel-box that celebrates the museum experience as well as the art.

The primary gathering space, a new entry lobby, is positioned for maximum dramatic effect beneath a domed rotunda where the stairs and a ramp converge, creating a powerful landmark in the neighborhood and establishing a memorable symbol that conveys the museum’s cultural mission.

The Frye’s new lighting program is highly innovative, as carefully manipulated light levels actually change the way the art is seen. Daylight entering through windows, light monitors and the oculus embedded in the dome of the rotunda provide visitors with an intuitive sense of the building’s organization as they tour through the galleries and public spaces. The rotunda serves as an intermediary passage, allowing visitors’ eyes to adjust to the lower light levels required for art conservation in the galleries. In the galleries, the walls have been scaled to frame the art and revised in relation to the skylights to improve the quality of natural light. Enhanced public amenities, such as the cafe and garden courtyard, gift shop, auditorium and education wing enable the Frye to better fulfill its mission to the community.

Light levels are designed to diminish at five distinct intervals as the visitor moves from outside to inside through the entry sequence. Alan Maskin




Arcade Magazine, Plan-Section-Sentence Award


AIA Northwest and Pacific Region Honor Awards,  Honor Award

AIA Portland/Architecture + Energy Awards, Honor Award


AIA Seattle Honor Awards, Honor Award



Gallaher, Rachel. “Seattle.” Surface, Mar./April 2018, 84-93. Print.