Weyerhaeuser Corporate Campus
Status: Most Endangered Places
Year Listed: 2017
Location: Federal Way, King County
The design of the Weyerhaeuser Corporate Campus was a joint effort between architect Charles Bassett of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, landscape architect Peter Walker, a founding partner of Sasaki Walker & Associates; and George Weyerhaeuser. The collaboration resulted in the design of the stunning 430-acre campus clearly visible from Interstate 5 in Federal Way. According to Bassett, the campus is designed such that “the landscaping and the building simply cannot be separated…they are each a creature of the other.” The interior design of the headquarters also reflected this sentiment by pioneering the open-office plan, free of any partitions, allowing the exterior landscape to be enjoyed from almost any location inside the building.
The campus was recently purchased by a developer who has expressed interest in preserving the headquarters building, but is moving forward with plans to develop portions of the surrounding acreage. Local residents are concerned that the massing and scale of proposed new construction will overwhelm the site, adversely impacting the balance of the built and natural landscapes that lend such significance to the site. Advocates are also concerned for the future of the globally important Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden and the internationally-known Pacific Bonsai Museum, two distinct and significant cultural resources also on the property.
With such an expansive campus, a certain level of development is inevitable; even the original plans indicated areas for additional construction activity. Due to its exceptional historic and architectural significance, however, particular care must be taken with any new development. New buildings must be sensitive to the original design philosophy of the campus, which emphasized integration with the landscape and environmental sensitivity.
The Washington Trust has been working with a coalition of organizations to advocate for the preservation of the former Weyerhaeuser Corporate Campus in Federal Way. The developer who purchased the campus in 2016 is moving forward with plans to build five warehouses totaling 1.5 million square feet on now-forested portions of the 400-acre campus. In response to the proposals, the organization Save Weyerhaeuser Campus (SWC) was founded, fighting for responsible development that is sensitive to the historical and environmental features of the campus. SWC has been pivotal in rallying the community in support of the campus and creating a network of partnerships, including state legislators, King County, Forterra, and the Washington Trust, to name a few.
The dedicated volunteers of SWC have been exemplary in their advocacy efforts in initiating meetings with stakeholders, engaging in the public process, holding their own events, and even raising money for legal appeals. It is often difficult to sustain long-term preservation advocacy efforts, and the Washington Trust is proud to be a partner of SWC and committed to doing all we can to preserve the essential elements of this campus.