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Tuesday, July 10, 2007


posted by on July 10 at 14:15 PM

Bloomberg reports today (thanks for the tip, Eric F) that Ralph Appelbaum Associations, the self-proclaimed “largest interpretive museum design firm in the world” will be adding a major building to Seattle, right across from EMP and the Space Needle. It will be 15,000 square feet and is scheduled to open in 2010.

All right! (I recently took my first tour of the Microsoft campus and was heartbroken that all that money and space resulted in zero architecture.)

But what is being interpreted in this new building, exactly? Appelbaum is best known for his Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., where visitors receive tags when they enter, either with the name of a survivor or of a victim.

At the Gates Foundation:

Appelbaum: The first stop will give people a way to open their eyes to the world. That starts with a lot of stories: film and multimedia. It’s the emotional part. After that, the plan is to present a series of analytical layers. There’s interactive information: maps, resource databases. From that intellectual zone, you go in-depth into case studies, problem-solving activities. You get an understanding of the foundation’s methodology.

Hmm. Methodology.

Appelbaum: The way to get people emotionally engaged in information is to build a series of encounters that give them the tools to go to the next level — very much like the Holocaust Museum. When visitors go through the Holocaust Museum, it’s told as a general orientation of how people get “de-citizenized,” then how they were murdered through a compressed-timed process. Much of the experience is making the case for action. [Laurence] Arnold [of Bloomberg]: Bill Gates has said his galvanizing moment was when he read about diseases eliminated in the U.S. that still kill millions of children in poor countries. Appelbaum: They (Bill and Melinda Gates) describe it as literally opening their eyes to the world. Because they were making journeys to people in the field, they realized there are solutions. Arnold: Most visitor centers are auxiliaries to an historic building or attraction. With Gates, the center is the attraction. Appelbaum: What people will encounter is how an American family really became engaged with complex and serious issues and found their own way to contribute. Arnold: Do you see this becoming a popular attraction in Seattle Appelbaum: We’re in the heart of the city, across from the Space Needle and the EMP (Experience Music Project). What we offer people is a promise to awaken them to a new knowledge base. People are fascinated by what the foundation is and how it reflects the interests of this extraordinarily generous family. Arnold: How will you make sure that visitors leave feeling inspired, but not coerced, to be more charitable? Appelbaum: There’s a natural philanthropy in American society. We admire it. We respect those who do it. But often we don’t think we have a role in it. We think the most we can do is to respond immediately through some charitable act. But in fact, there are lessons to be learned about developing a much more strategic, familial type of philanthropy, no matter what your economic group is.

A building as a rhetorical device encouraging me to start giving help and money to people who need it? I’m sort of fascinated.

But will it be architecture?

RSS icon Comments


a whole museum dedicated to the Ducks?

Posted by maxsolomon | July 10, 2007 3:00 PM

I'm sure it will be (shit) architecture. and cost a lot of money. But across from EMP is hardly the heart of the city; more like the duodenum. And this, uh, encounter is going to tank worse than EMP. What kind of philanthropy is it that throws a couple of hundred million in a hole?

Posted by Fnarf | July 10, 2007 3:31 PM

philanthropy based on feeling good, not doing good does this.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | July 10, 2007 4:38 PM

Why is there no humor in Seattle architecture?

Posted by CBurden | July 11, 2007 4:28 AM

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