Pavilion Architecture

The ceiling of the structure in November 2021.

The Mountlake Terrace Recreation Pavilion certainly stands out.

But what brought about its unique shape? 

In 2022, Tyler Sprague, an associate professor of architecture at the University of Washington, generously provided us with an expert analysis.

He writes:

The 1968 Pavilion has a centralized, hexagonal plan, framed by heavy timbers vaulting the space. The timber beams gently rise to a central point, giving the appearance of a giant tent. 

This radial structure aligns with the need to cover the unusual, X-shaped pool below. Shallow and deeper swimming spaces are placed off to the side of the main pool. This shape is distinct from most pools at the time, which were typically rectangular. (The timing of the Pavilion fits right between Seattle’s Green Lake pool in 1955 and its Meadowbrook Pool in 1975).

The architect, Gordon Trapp, was interesting in re-thinking how public pool facilities could be organized, and had the engineering expertise to execute that vision. 

Trapp worked for the Portland-based firm of Stevens, Thompson and Runyan, which was led by civil engineers Marvin Runyan and J.C. Stevens. They brought expertise in designing water and wastewater treatment facilities. Trapp, who led the architecture side of the business, was designing in the Northwest tradition of using heavy timber to shape architectural spaces. 

Around that time, many architects were using structure to create distinct forms – just a few years earlier the Washington State Coliseum (now Climate Pledge Arena, designed by Paul Thiry) had been the signature building of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. So when leaders from the City of Mountlake Terrace said they wanted the community center to be a “self-advertising landmark,” Trapp looked to an expressive structural form to distinguish the building from others and the surrounding landscape.

Trapp designed churches as well as public facilities – often using dramatic, exposed structure to bring people together.

The Pavilion through the years (slideshow)

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