Abby Martin, the University of Washington graduate student who is trying to save the fascinating old Nuclear Reactor Building (now More Hall Annex) on campus, sends us this photo showing a new addition: a sign announcing the university's intention to demolish the structure. Martin has submitted an application nominating it for a National Historic Register listing. The modern architecture group Docomomo WeWa has added it to their list of endangered historic properties.
Martin is urging people to ask Seattle's Department of Planning and Development to delay demolition, slated for this summer. She is also urging the public to write to university president Mark Emmert asking the UW to consider preserving the historic structure instead of tearing it down. While the university has long discussed the fate of the building, no formal review of its historic significance was undertaken because it is less than 50 years old and city landmark regulations do not apply to UW property. The National Register, however, will consider listing younger structures in exceptional cases.
The building, which housed a small working nuclear reactor between 1964 and 1988, was the remarkable product of a collaboration between three of Seattle's most noted modern architects, Wendell Lovett, Gene Zema, and Daniel Streissguth. It was designed to train future nuclear engineers and open the arcane alchemy of nuclear science to public view. The Nuclear Reactor Building, Martin has written, was "intended to dispel the mystery of nuclear power and to showcase the progressive technology." It was conceived and constructed during the during the boom in science and technology instruction inspired by the launch of Sputnik and John F. Kennedy's New Frontier.
A side note: The UW building is not the only endangered reactor building in the state. The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation also lists B Reactor at Hanford on its "Watch list" of historic structures at risk. The B reactor, built for the Manhattan Project, was the first full-scale plutonium reactor ever built. According to a group that hopes to turn the reactor building into museum, the B Reactor Museum Association, the Department of Energy has agreed not to demolish it until studies of its historic significance are complete. It is currently being considered for possible listing as a National Historic Landmark. Let's hope it gets a "glowing" report.
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