This consolidated headquarters for the Paul G. Allen Institute for Brain Science is a $130 Million world-class non-profit research laboratory and office complex placed above two reconstructed, historic landmark structures, with four levels of below-grade parking garage.

A six-story, sunlit atrium, with open stairs and cantilevered meeting pods, draws together the various spaces and was an organizing principle of the project. It was introduced early in the design process to promote collaboration and innovation between the previously isolated scientific and administrative disciplines.

The Allen Institute for Brain Science, and its sister organization, the Allen Institute for Cell Science, was established with a $600 Million endowment from the late philanthropist Paul G. Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, Inc. The institutes are currently mapping the human brain and its associated function-centers.

Sam was primary responsible for project coordination of engineering consultants and infrastructure design, and served as the Construction Administration Architect and LEED Manager. Sam was instrumental in designing an innovative split parking garage and loading dock scheme, which saved Vulcan Real Estate $10 Million in excavation costs.

The Allen Institute for Brain Science was awarded LEED Gold building certification by the US Green Building Council, and uses forty-seven percent less energy than comparable research facilities.

At the time of opening in 2015, the historic portion incorporated the Pivot Art+Culture Gallery, a curation of works by the Paul G. Allen Foundation.  This retail portion is now the second location of a local, indoor hipster miniature golf course microbrewery.

  • Project Location

    Seattle, Washington
  • Project Client

    Developed by Vulcan Real Estate
    Paul G. Allen Institute for Brain Science
    Paul G. Allen Institute for Cell Science
  • Project Size

    272,000 Square Feet
    6-Story Building with
    4 Parking Levels Below
  • Project Dates

    Design Start Date: August 2013
    Completion Date: September 2015
  • Sustainability

    LEED Gold, USGBC

Sam participated in design and oversaw construction of this project while Project Architect at Perkins & Will.

Sam participated in design and oversaw construction of this project while Project Architect at Perkins & Will.



During the Allen Institute’s rapid but quick expansion, unplanned growth across multiple leased spaces led scientists and technicians to be seated farther and farther from their fellow administration, outreach and development professionals.  From the early days of concept design, our primary goal was to create a one-of-a-kind building which would bring everyone together in a new, transformational way.  We avoided typical divisions of departments by floor level and instead placed glass-enclosed research labs equally with open workstations across all levels.  A sky-facing building atrium works as a central spine to the interior environment, with cantilevered meeting pods facilitating impromptu collaboration.  As a short hand, we called it “The Petal Diagram.”



McKay Ford-Lincoln Buildings

In the 1920s, the South Lake Union Neighborhood was a burgeoning scene of automotive showrooms and breweries, including the William O McKay Company at our project site.  An innovative dealership for its time, it was the first to offer maintenance service in-house after the initial sale.  The second floor garage warehouse brought the “You Buy We Serve” promise to every customer. In 2010, the city embarked on a corridor improvement project to double the width of an adjacent arterial; as such, ownership was transferred for portions of the property containing the historic structures.  The buildings were subsequently documented, disassembled piece-by-piece and stored.  Our design restored the historic facades behind newly established lot lines, with the entirety of the Lincoln showroom reconstructed within a modern structural shell.



Building Orientation Solar Studies

Extreme northern locations experience prolonged winters with few daylight hours.  Unlike most regions, the Pacific Northwest has very low sun angles during these winter workdays, which creates blinding glare at work surfaces.  Sam combined Building Information Modeling (BIM) with industry-leading solar analysis tools to determine those elevations which could benefit from additional detailing such as shades, fins and integrated solar mesh layers at insulated glazing units.  Sam concluded the western building elevation, in particular, would receive unacceptable levels of glare.  Better performance was achieved by applying an array of vertical fins, situated at 90-degree to the building, with a 50-percent open perforation pattern for diffusion.

Atrium Solar Studies

By gathering together research scientists, data analysts, technicians and administrators into a single, unified urban building, we hoped to provide meaningful collaborations through inspired shared spaces.  A central, light-filled atrium became the organizing principle around which a series of visually-transparent research labs were assembled, and dramatic, cantilevered meeting pods for spontaneous informal collaboration. To confirm these pods would not overshadow the first two occupied floors of the atrium, Sam again combined Building Information Modeling (BIM) with industry-leading solar analysis tools to determine the optimal placement of each cantilevered box within the larger floor openings.  

Parking Garage / Loading Dock Ramp Combination

Due to spatial constraints and hierarchical program stacking, the building loading dock for refuse, laundry and general delivery management, which would typically be located at street level, was required to be below-ground.  The city also had strict limits on the number of curb-cuts allowed along our pedestrian-oriented block-faces. Sam determined the design needed a single entry ramp with combined access for bicycle and vehicle parking spaces and the service truck loading dock.  To realize even more spatial efficiencies, the service truck ramp was designed as a single lane with two-directional flow, and automated control signals at each end for increased safety.  Sam created a three-dimensional model which was then exported to the contractor for precise fabrication of concrete formwork.

Tracking Site Settlement by a Lake

During schematic design, Sam developed floor and ramp elevations to meet anticipated right-of-way grades, which were being reconstructed under a citywide corridor improvement project. After reconstruction of these nearby roadways and sidewalks by SDOT, Sam confirmed as-built conditions were lower than designed. From the beginning of sitework adjacent a lake, a large amount of groundwater had been continuously pumped from the resulting excavation to provide dry conditions for construction.  This caused further lowering of the sidewalks and points of entry.  Overall, grades lowered up to 9-inches from original planning documents.  Sam quickly redesigned approach grades at affected entry points while maintaining overall project aesthetics and detailing.