Paul Hayden Kirk: Architect of Puget Sound style – Curbed

Like many of his modern modernists working within the Pacific Northwest, architect Paul Hayden Kirk had a selected affinity for the panorama, and the way in which the area’s thick forests and rugged coasts left nooks and crannies very best for architectural expression.

He tended to take this ardour very severely; one house owner mentioned that in building, he helped dig the basement by hand, in order to not disturb any of the close by bushes.

Kirk’s designs for the Puget Sound, exuding a style he referred to as “sculptural, muscular, and flamboyant,” helped outline and promote the Northwest Regional model of modernism. Kirk continuously appeared in structure magazines of the period and he could have been one of its largest modern proponents.

Like many of the opposite designers of his period, he noticed the worth of modernism, however provided that it was imbued with a way of place. The Worldwide Style, he declared, was “an structure imposed on the land by man.” His works, delicate designs in stone, wooden, and glass, have been meant to intensify, not ameliorate, what was already there.

The entrance entrance to the house of the Putnam residence in Bellevue, Washington. Slabs of clean concrete, pebble-textured mixture, and two rectangular swimming pools type a geometrical sample. The home’s entrance is on the far finish of the coated stroll, which is partially enclosed with opaque glass panels. Massive Pacific Madrone bushes lining the walkway.
Dearborn-Massar/Conde Nast through Getty Pictures


Kirk was born in Salt Lake Metropolis, Utah, and got here to Seattle along with his household in 1922. Throughout his childhood, he contracted polio, which can have knowledgeable his later deal with medical buildings. He grew up with an eye fixed in direction of design; each of his dad and mom labored as inside designers. Kirk selected to review on the College of Washington, the place he would be taught from the influential Lionel Pries, an inspiration to many of the area’s mid-century designers. By 1939, Kirk had established his personal apply.

Kirk would cycle via a quantity of partnerships within the ’40s, together with designing houses for his brother Blair, a contractor, earlier than going solo once more within the ’50s. Early in his profession, starting in 1941, he helped design the Columbia Ridge Housing Growth. On account of a restricted finances, Kirk was pressured to work merely and modestly, a situation that writer David Rash suggests could have helped push him in direction of a extra fashionable method.

Within the ’50s, as Kirk once more labored by himself, he would refine his personal pared-down style, with tons of uncovered structural components, native supplies, and regional cultural influences, together with inspiration from Native American longhouses and components of Japanese structure, corresponding to shoji screens. The aesthetic turns into clear in buildings like his 1955 College Unitarian Church, which featured dramatic uncovered-wooden trusses and native supplies like cedar shingles.

This was a time when the architectural world was centered on the Pacific Northwest; the 1953 AIA nationwide conference in Seattle; and Architectural File’s April 1953 challenge centered on the area, together with an article entitled “Have We an Indigenous Northwest Structure?” improved the visibility of Kirk and his contemporaries.

Kirk’s apply was rising, centered on each award-successful houses, such because the Dowell House— which was named one of town’s finest fashionable designs, and later renovated by Tom Kundig—and industrial initiatives, particularly medical workplaces. Kirk would even write a e-book on the topic, and his 1948 Crown Hill Medical Clinic acquired quite a few accolades. From 1960 till his retirement in 1978, he was a accomplice in Kirk, Wallace, McKinley and Associates, the place he labored on bigger commissions for church buildings, universities, and even an IBM workplace in Spokane.

A home designed by Paul Hayden Kirk.
Nat Farbman/The LIFE Image Assortment/Getty Pictures

Buildings to know

The Magnolia Department of the Seattle Public Library, which opened in 1963, showcases Kirk’s gentle contact and affinity for Japanese strategies. There, a grid of uncovered wooden and timber framing helps a sequence of glass panels and clerestories that bathe the inside in gentle. Initially, Kirk’s thematic concepts have been additional strengthened with unique furnishings by mid-century craftsman George Nakashima. It was lately renovated by SHKS Architects.

One other Kirk gem, accomplished in collaboration with Victor Steinbrueck, is the College of Washington College Membership. Suspended above the hillside on metal beams, the luxury assembly corridor exuded a assured, modern air, changing a former log construction from the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition with clear, modern traces and flooring-to-ceiling glass partitions. Regardless of Kirk’s penchant for utilizing native supplies—the inside is lined with domestically sourced wooden—he confirmed he might additionally excel at designing a extra simple, streamlined Worldwide Style construction.

Legacy and status immediately

Kirk has lengthy been an inspiration to architects in Seattle and past, and his is a reputation dropped continuously by native homebuyers looking for midcentury design. When town’s AIA chapter started awarding an annual Medal of Honor in 1984, Kirk was one of the primary in line to receive the award. His houses are nonetheless wanted by native midcentury design connoisseurs, with a cliffside residence in Magnolia, Washington, going for $three.5 million final 12 months.

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Paul Hayden Kirk: Architect of Puget Sound style - Curbed