Groundbreaking slated for William H. Gates Hall

By Steven Goldsmith
News & Information

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates will join other leaders in business, education, government and law on Friday to break ground for the construction of a new home for the century-old UW Law School.

Groundbreaking slated for William H. Gates Hall
The official groundbreaking for the new home of the UW Law School, William H. Gates Hall, is Friday and will include such dignitaries as Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, Gov. Gary Locke, Ambassador Tom Foley and incoming Law Dean W.H. “Joe” Knight Jr. Illustration courtesy of Mahlum Architects

The Law School’s Centennial Celebration will include the 9:30 a.m. groundbreaking ceremony at its new site, followed by a 10:30 a.m. speech by Gates at Meany Hall.

The new building will rise atop what is now a parking lot south of the Burke Museum. Bringing the Law School to the main UW campus is intended to enhance the collaboration with other disciplines essential in today’s legal education and practice.

The 196,000-square-foot building - one-third larger than the present one - also will bring all the school’s programs under one roof for the first time in 30 years. In addition, the state’s only public law school will gain room to grow, increasing state residents’ access to a legal education. The school currently receives at least 1,500 applications each year for its 165 entering slots.

The glass-and-brick building will be named after one of the Law School’s most distinguished alumni, Regent William H. Gates, a Seattle attorney and father of the Microsoft chairman.

Also joining Friday’s festivities will be Gov. Gary Locke, Ambassador Tom Foley and newly appointed UW Law Dean W.H. “Joe” Knight Jr., who assumes the post in July. Presiding will be UW President Richard L. McCormick and outgoing Law Dean Roland Hjorth.

“Helping guide the creation of this wonderful new building has been one of the most satisfying accomplishments of my six years as dean,” Hjorth said. “This public-private partnership involving the state, the University and our alumni and friends has created what will be one of the finest settings for legal education in the world.”

Mahlum Architects of Seattle and Portland are the prime architects responsible for project management, with Kohn Pederson Fox Associates of New York as the design architects. The general contractor-construction manager is Lease Crutcher Lewis of Seattle.

Of the $80 million total project cost (including furniture and fiber optics), $34 million is from private donations - an exceptionally large share for a public building.

When it opens in the fall of 2003, William H. Gates Hall will especially benefit users of the UW law library, the largest west of Minneapolis and north of Berkeley and a vital resource for the Northwest legal community. The current library is overcrowded and divided inefficiently among seven floors, inconveniencing users and creating security problems. A quarter of the collection is in the basement, not easily accessed by users. The new library will be far more accessible and efficient.

The rest of the current Law School building also has been overcrowded virtually from the moment it opened in 1974. That is because Condon Hall was intended to be Phase I of a two-phase plan, but Phase II never got built.

Over the years, changes in legal education made the building’s inadequacies even more pronounced. There is less use of large lecture halls today and more emphasis on small classes and seminars. Condon Hall lacks space for the eight law clinics that enable students to gain experience by helping members of the public with legal problems ranging from immigration to taxes.

Condon Hall’s thick-walled concrete construction restricts the ability to install wiring and infrastructure for today’s technologies. The computer lab fits only 35 students. Electrical outlets are scarce in classrooms and offices.

The Legislature authorized a new building in 1995 and approved the funds in 1999. Bonds for the $46 million state share will be repaid, not from the usual tax-supported general-obligation bonds, but from the University’s own Metropolitan Tract revenues (income from 10 acres of UW-owned property on its original downtown site).

Bill and Melinda Gates contributed $12 million as a way of honoring Gates’ father, a 1950 law graduate. Other friends and alumni of the school provided the rest of the $34 million in donations.

“This new building for the Law School will fulfill a vision that began many years ago,” McCormick said. “As legal education has changed, it has brought the need for new facilities integrated more fully with the other disciplines on campus. This building caught the imagination of many friends and donors and our community whose generosity made it possible. It will help immeasurably in preparing students for the law profession in this new century.”

The 30-minute groundbreak-ing ceremony will be followed - after a half-hour break - with Microsoft’s Gates delivering the school’s Centennial Lecture at Meany Hall. Gates will discuss his vision for philanthropy and improving the lives of the world’s poorest people.

University Week
The faculty and staff publication of the University of Washington
May 3, 2001