The Juneau Federal Building is significantly associated with the development of Juneau in the early to mid-1960s after Alaska achieved statehood 1959. It represents the federal presence in the country's 49th state, at a time when the building was fully occupied by federal agencies and departments. In the context of the city's projected growth and economy at that time, the Juneau Federal Building served as a highly visible federal symbol.
The site area, the building's scale, and the sheer size of the nine-story structure dominate the residential neighborhood in which it is located, and symbolize the role of the federal government in the local and regional political and economic heritage at the time of its conception and construction, 1962-1966. The Federal Building contains approximately 351,391 gross square feet and provides offices and laboratories for a variety of federal agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service; the Departments of Commerce, Agriculture, and Transportation; the Department of the Interior, which includes the U.S. Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service; the National Marine Fisheries Service; the Bureau of Indian Affairs; the General Services Administration; the U.S. Coast Guard; and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The building possesses typical visible characteristics of its mid-century Modern era, and some elements of a subset style, New Formalism. Buildings of this style and scale are not common in Alaska, and while the building and site design may not be exceptional representations of the style in other parts of the country, in Alaska it embodies important elements of the style in terms of massing, proportion and exterior material treatment. Its major construction materials - modular granite facing, textured pre-cast concrete wall panels, and aluminum-framed windows - are a good use of modern technology and the building is a model of construction cost efficiency. The building is a good example of functional utility and is architecturally intact.
DEVELOPMENT OF JUNEAU, ALASKA
The city of Juneau is located in the southeast portion of Alaska, approximately 400 miles from the state's southernmost boundary with British Columbia, and 850 miles from the state's largest city, Anchorage. Seattle, in Washington State, is approximately 900 miles by air to the southeast. Juneau is organized as a City and Borough, with a total land mass of 2,717 square miles and a population of 32,660. It is situated on the eastern side of Gastineau Channel, where it is linked to Douglas Island by a bridge.
Juneau's early development was similar to other towns in Southeast Alaska, with its economy initially based on resource extraction and fishing. The town was established on the waterfront, near a native settlement, the Auke Village, after gold was discovered. Renamed for Joe Juneau, a gold prospector, in 1881, the city incorporated in 1900 with a population of 1,864. (Census data cites the borough, not the city.) There was little growth in the following decade, but by 1920 it had 3,058 residents. The federal presence in the early 20th century was in large part based on defense, and with management of fisheries, mining and lumber resources in the territory. Early placer mining of stream beds for precious minerals led to lode gold mining operations, which resulted in the establishment of seven active mines in the Juneau-Douglas area by 1903.
Congress identified Juneau as the temporary seat of government in 1906, when it was moved there from Sitka. The city gained official recognition after Alaska received its territorial status in 1912, drawing territorial and federal agencies to the city. While Congress authorized funds to construct a Territorial Capitol building at that time, difficulty purchasing land and World War I delayed the project; the Federal and Territorial Building (now the Alaska State Capitol Building) was begun in 1929 and completed in 1931.
Population growth in Juneau appears to have been relatively stable up through World War II despite the presence of a military sub port of embarkation, which was constructed in 1942. The City and Borough of Juneau was the state's largest city between WWI and WWII. The post-war statehood movement was aided generally by the role that Alaska played and the attention that it received during World War II, the Korean Conflict, and the Cold War due to its strategic location in the Pacific. Some residents opposed statehood due to fears of federal taxation and its impact on business. However, a 1946 ballot referendum passed by a margin of three to two. This was followed by activity within the state that resulted in the Alaska Constitution Convention and its approval of the Alaska Constitution in 1955. Members of the U.S. Congress addressed the issue of land grants and allocation of federal properties to the state in 1953 and approved statehood legislation in 1958. The Alaska Statehood Act was signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on July 7th that year, and Alaska was made the nation's 49th state on January 3, 1959.
In 1950 the population reached nearly 6,000. In 1959 Alaska gained its statehood, and by 1960, the city had almost 10,000 residents. This number grew to 13,556 in 1970; 19,528 in 1980; 26,751 in 1990; and over 30,700 in 2000. The populations of Juneau and Alaska as a whole have continued to increase according to 2013 Census Bureau estimates, which cited Juneau's population as 32,626.
The mining industry and government have largely served as the basis of the city's economic culture up to the present day. Recent employment data confirms that the economy is laid upon a foundation of government employment, with nearly 40% of the workforce in federal, state, local and tribal governments. Public employers include a number of State of Alaska agencies, which have department headquarters in the city, as well as State Superior and District Courts, the City and Borough of Juneau School District, Bartlett Regional Hospital, and the City and Borough of Juneau.
Tourism, comprised primarily of non-Alaskan visitors, is currently the second largest employment sector in the city, particularly between May and October when many cruise ships visit. (In 2013 an estimated 937,000 passengers arrived on such ships, along with an additional 78,130 arriving on state ferries, and nearly 353,000 by air. In addition, approximately 26% of the city's workforce consists of seasonal employees in seafood processing and tourist industries, or those in state's part-time legislature sessions.) The local economy included nearly 1,800 people employed in healthcare and social services, while commercial fishing and fish processing employed 707 people in 2013, and natural resources/mining employed approximately 840. The mining industry is represented largely by the Kennecott Greens Mine, which is located on Admiralty Island.
THE BUILDING'S MODERN-STYLE DESIGN FEATURES
The building's Modern-style design utilized materials made popular in a stylistic subset known as New Formalism, which relied on post-war concrete construction technologies such as pre-cast, pre-stressed and post-tensioning of concrete to create rich forms and decorative elements. The materials of the building's facades were seen often in the designs of banks and public institutions dating from the late-1950s to the early-1970s. The building designers adapted the clarity, economy, and the spatial principles of Modernism, which called for asymmetry, and combined these with Classical proportions and scale, and the use of columns and colonnades. Similar to other Modern buildings, the style utilized concrete materials to create abstract patterns and rhythms, such as ribbing and waffle textures, and incorporated perforated metal screens and large glass panels.
The highly organized spatial hierarchy and an emphasis on the structural grid are qualities of New Formalism seen in the Juneau building. (These qualities are consistent with principles throughout the Modern Movement.) The design of the tower section in particular is a precise representation of the machine aesthetic consistent with mid-century Modernism adapted for commercial structures. Given the simplicity required of a federal building construction program in Alaska, the building's design also avoided purely decorative materials and elements such as concrete folded plates. It shared with other New Formalist style buildings its exterior light-colored pre-cast concrete and dark granite materials, and its original bronze clad doors and windows frames. The Juneau Federal Building has consistent, repetitive facades on its upper floors, a clear separation of parts, and an asymmetrical, non-axial base. Its original design was likely driven by its prime architect, John Graham & Company, which was known for its corporate work.
The resulting building provides a clear massing of separate parts, embellished by a dark, polished stone at base, along with lozenge-shaped fenestration in the tower above rendered in light-colored pre-cast concrete panels to provide a rich, textural aspect to the facades. The building's functional layout of efficient, flexible interior spaces reinforces its Modern sensibility.
Modern style and New Formalist style buildings often feature a raised base or plinth at grade, which is intended to separate a building, as a single structure, from nature or the specifics of its site. This was the effect of the original Juneau Federal Building design, similar to the James A. McClure Federal Building in Boise, Idaho (1967) and the James Forrestal Federal Building in Washington, D.C. (1969). While it originally incorporated a small water feature near the front entry, it did not integrate significant site and landscape features into a greater design scheme. The building's asymmetrical base pushes out uncomfortably to the west and north edges of the property. As a result, it appears out of scale with the surrounding low-scale neighborhood.
Modernism was a popular style in the state of Alaska as embodied by a number of large-scale public and commercial buildings dating from the post-war decades. Its popularity may be due to the era of construction that followed statehood, and the durability of concrete as its primary material. Early examples of the use of architectural concrete in Alaska include the 1938 Federal Building in Ketchikan, the 1941 Old Federal Building and Courthouse in Anchorage, and the 1958 Federal Building and Courthouse in Fairbanks. Notable among later Alaska concrete buildings are the Alaska State Museum in Juneau (1967-1968, Linn A. Forrest Architects, demolished 2014); Atwood Center at Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage (1966, Ed Durell Stone, architect, in association with Manley and Mayer) and the Unocal Building in Anchorage (1969). New Formalist style buildings are often located in urban settings, and their materials tend to be highly refined. This subset of Modernism was rarely used in smaller scale or for residential structures, and according to the Alaska Office of History and Archeology, it is relatively rare in Alaska.
THE BUILDING NAME
The property was known originally as the Juneau Federal Building, and is often identified as such. In 1998, 32 years after its original construction, it received an honorific name: Hurff Ackerman Saunders Federal Building. In early 2014 the courthouse within it was also renamed and is known as the Robert Boochever U.S. Courthouse.
Hurff Ackerman Saunders was a resident of Alaska who was instrumental in the state's development. He moved to Alaska from South Dakota prior to World War II, and served as a civilian engineer with the United States Coast Guard. During World War II, Saunders played a critical role in the ability of the US Navy and Coast Guard to navigate the North Pacific waters. He correctly determined the latitude and longitude of various key navigation aids that had been misidentified on official charts of that time. Following the war, Mr. Saunders returned to a civil engineering position with the Federal Government, supervising several public works projects throughout what was at that time the Alaska Territory and later the State of Alaska. In 1966, just prior to his retirement, Mr. Saunders successfully completed his final federal construction project, the Juneau Federal Building, U. S. Post Office and United States Courthouse, which was renamed by federal legislation in 1998 (Report of the 105th Congress, Senate Bill S. 2032).
More recently the courthouse on the building's ninth floor was dedicated on March 3, 2014, in the name of former Judge Robert Boochever. Following service in World War II, Boochever was an assistant US Attorney in 1946-47 in Juneau, where he then worked in private practice until 1972. He served on the Alaska Supreme Court from 1972 to 1980, and as Chief Justice from 1975 to 1978. From 1980 until his death in 2011, Boochever sat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Original architectural drawings have a title block indicating three design architects - the firms of Olsen & Sands, Linn A. Forrest, Sr. and John Graham & Company. The building design was a collaboration of these three.
John Graham's offices were located in Seattle, while the offices of the other two firms were in Juneau. According to an interview with architect Bjarne Olsen, the associated architects were composed politically by a Senatorial appointment (Nielsen interview, 2004). This suggestion appears consistent with the manner by which architects and engineers were selected for federal projects before passage of the Brooks Act in 1972. (Interestingly an article in the January 1969 Progressive Architecture noted that all GSA work in Alaska up through the 1960s had been awarded through a politically-driven selection process to one firm - that of Bjarne Olsen - with strong government contacts due to his membership on several state boards and commissions.)
Olsen & Sands, Juneau
This company has its roots in the H.B. Foss Company, which was established around 1935 by Harold B. Foss, evolving as new partners joined and others moved on. The partnership of Foss Malcolm was created in 1945, and when Mackay Malcolm passed away in 1951, Foss and Olsen was created. It was renamed again in 1956 when the firm was joined by Ed Sands. This firm was small, but produced projects for the state, hospitals, schools, and residences, and designed the strictly Modern style dormitories at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.
Principal of the firm, Harold ("Hal") Byron Foss (1910 - 1988) graduated from the University of Washington's School of Architecture in 1935 and soon after moved to Juneau and opened an architectural practice, the H.B. Foss Company. One of the earliest professional designers in the territory, he quickly established a reputation with the 1936 design and development of a 30-unit $100,000 multi-family residence, the Fosbee Apartments in Juneau. His practice grew with work across the state, with project locations from Snag Point (Dillingham) to Ketchikan. In 1945 Foss took on a partner, Mackay Malcolm (1885 - 1951) who designed the Juneau Public Library (the present Juneau-Douglas City Museum).
In 1949, Foss and Malcolm were joined in partnership by Hal's former classmate Bjarne Olsen, a prior employee of Foss's firm from 1939-1941. Bjarne Carl Olsen (1913 - 2012) attended the University of Washington and received his Bachelors degree in Architecture in 1937. He was a classmate of well-known Seattle modernists, Paul Hayden Kirk and John A. Rorher, and worked initially as a draftsman for other Seattle architects - B. Dudley Stuart in 1938-1939 and NBBJ in 1941-1942 - before relocating to Alaska.
Olsen was known for his design skills and graphic talents, watercolor and pencil presentation sketches, and wood block carving. Olsen's Modern style "White Dot" design served as the firm logo. In 1951, with the death of Malcom, Foss and Olsen established a new partnership, which undertook the design of the Alaska Office Building, and the Bethel Hospital in Whittier. In 1958 Hal Foss retired leaving the company to Bjarne Olsen and Edward Sands. The two went on to design the Juneau Municipal Airport Terminal Addition (1972) and Dillingham High School (1959), and University of Alaska Bio-Sciences Building in Fairbanks, the Nome Federal Building (1955), and other projects throughout Alaska. During the 1950s and 1960s, Olsen served on the Alaska State Planning Commission, the State Board of Engineers and Architects, the 1st Alaska State Council on the Arts, and the Juneau Platting Board.
Edward Elmer Sands (1910 - 1996) was born in Seligman, Arizona, and educated at the San Bernardino Junior College and University of Washington, where he received a Bachelor's degree in Architecture in 1938. He worked as a draftsman for Seattle architect Floyd Naramore from 1935 to 1940, and as the chief designer for Siems Drake Puget Sound, a Sitka-based civilian contractor, in 1940-1943. During World War II he was a supervising engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle, in 1943-1945, before becoming the office manager for Waldo B. Christenson and Decker & Christenson, another Seattle architectural firm. Sands relocated to Alaska and joined Olsen as a partner in 1956. His principal projects, as cited in the 1972 AIA Directory included the Juneau Airport Terminal Building and a 100-unit men's dormitory for the University of Alaska (both 1958), Dillingham High School (1959), the 1st Bank of Sitka (1960), an Armory in Nome, and the Kotzebue Hospital (both 1961). From 1957 to 1962, he served on the City of Juneau Planning Commission.
In 1968, Architect Douglas Ackley joined the firm, and soon became a partner. A year later, upon the departure of Bjarne Olsen, the firm was renamed Sands & Ackley. This company was responsible for the designs of Sitka Court & Office Building, and Petersburg U. S. Post Office and Federal Building among others. In 1974 Ed Sands, the last of the company's partners with responsibility for the Juneau Federal Building, retired. The firm, under direction of Douglas Ackley, was reestablished as Ackley and Associates. Its notable buildings in the mid to late-1970s included the Sealaska Plaza in Juneau, and Ketchikan Community College. In 1979 the company became Ackely/Jensen with the addition of partner Wayne Jensen. This firm was responsible for the design of Juneau Centennial Hall, a joint-venture project with the John Graham Company of Seattle. In 1985 the firm became known as Jensen Douglas Architects with new partner Jonathan Douglas. Douglas departed in 1996 and Wayne was joined by Tony Yarba and Joann Lott. Together they are the principals of the present Juneau architectural firm, Jensen Yorba Lott (JYL). The firm's recent work in includes a renovation of the Juneau Airport and the Juneau Port Customs and Visitors Center, and the Dimond Park Aquatic Center.
Linn A. Forrest, Juneau
Linn Argyle Forrest, Sr. (1905 - 1987) was born in Ohio, attended high school in Portland, Oregon, and studied architecture at the University of Oregon. He went on attend architectural and structural design classes at MIT in 1928. After being awarded a travelling fellowship in 1931, he returned to Portland and worked for the City of Portland compiling underground utilities data and documenting buildings along the City's waterfront. He worked briefly on the Bonneville Dam project as a draftsman in 1934, and left that position to work for the U.S. Forest Service. It was there that Forrest worked with two others on the design and details for the Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. In 1946, he moved to Alaska and designed a number of small rustic shelters and cabins during his time with the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Forrest opened his own small office, Linn A. Forrest Architects, in Juneau in 1952 and became a well-known local architect. With his son, Linn Jr., he is credited with the plans for the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center near Juneau, the Alaska State Centennial Museum in Juneau, an Alaskan "regional" design with exterior cast concrete panels featuring totemic patterns (demolished 2014), and is recognized for the restoration design of over 100 Native totem poles and clan houses. Forrest served as the supervising architect for the Juneau Federal Building project.
Forrest also worked with John Graham & Company on the design of the 11-story Alaska State Office Building, at 4th and Calhoun Street, Juneau, in 1974. This project was given a Design Merit Award by the Seattle branch of the AIA in 1976 (Seattle AIA website). Other projects in Alaska that Forrest designed include Chapel by the Lake (1954-56), near Juneau, with Harold Foss; and Patty Gymnasium (1979), at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.
The 1962 AIA Directory listed the firm's employees, which included his two sons, Linn Forrest, Jr., and Vern Richards (Dick) Forrest. In 1979, he was elected to the College of Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.
John Graham & Company Architects & Engineers, Seattle
John Graham, Jr. (1908 - 1991) was born the son of a very well-known and established Seattle-based architect, John Graham, Sr. (1873 - 1955). He was raised in Seattle and started his architectural education at the University of Washington in 1926. Transferring to Yale University, he graduated in 1931, at the height of the Depression, with a Bachelors degree in Architecture. His career began in New York, where he focused on retail store design before joining his father's firm in 1937 as a partner. At that time he opened a New York branch in partnership with a structural engineer, Wilfred Painter. He returned to Seattle to work on his company's booming practice during World War II. The company's work was national, and included housing projects for the Federal Housing Authority, with Suburban Heights (1944) and Sunny Brook (1942) near Washington, D.C., and Edgewater Park (1939) in Seattle.
John Graham, Sr., retired in 1946 and his son took over the multi-disciplinary architectural and structural engineering firm, changing its name to John Graham & Company. The company gained a new reputation as the designer of shopping malls, beginning with Seattle's Northgate Shopping Center in 1950. By this date the firm employed 32 drafters, designers and engineers. Its projects in the late 1950s included the Capitol Court shopping mall in Milwaukee (1957); Northshore Mall in Massachusetts (1958); Wellington Square in London, Ontario (1960); and later Clackamas Town Center, Portland, Oregon (1981).
University and institutional facilities, schools, factories, and churches were other building types designed by the Graham firm. The company's projects grew in size, with focus on developer and corporate clients. In the later 1950s and early 1960s John Graham, Jr., was instrumental in the development of the Seattle World's Fair, Century 21. He and his firm's notable design for the fair was the Space Needle, developed with architect Victor Steinbrueck and structural engineer John K. Minasian.
John Graham, Jr., developed a well-recognized reputation as a businessman's architect because of his keen insights into design and constructability, budgets and costs, and project development. His projects numbered over 1,000 and included the Modern-style Washington Natural Gas Headquarters (1963-1964), 42-story Bank of California Building (1974), Westin Hotel and Towers (1969 and 1979-1982), and the 25-story Sheraton Hotel and Towers (1978-1982), all in Seattle, and the 44-story Wells Fargo Building in San Francisco (1966).
At the time of the Juneau Federal Building's construction in 1966, Graham's firm reportedly numbered over 100 employees (Olsen in Nielsen interview, 2004). His firm went on to design the Henry M. Jackson Federal Office Building in Seattle, a 37-story, concrete-framed office skyscraper clad with light-colored pre-cast concrete panels, with Seattle architect Fred Bassetti in 1971-1974.
Other projects by the Graham firm in Alaska include the 11-story, Brutalist-style concrete Alaska State Office Building in Juneau, designed with architect Linn A. Forrest; the large, $64-million steel-framed Federal Building/U.S. Courthouse in Anchorage in (1976-1978, in partnership with a local Anchorage design firm, CCC or Associated Architects of Alaska, and HOK of San Francisco); and its full-block, $7.5-million annex (1979-1980 with HOK). Later projects by the firm included the Naval Regional Medical Center in Bremerton, Washington (1978-1981 with architects Sherlock, Smith and Adams); and the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington (1984-1986). The Graham firm later transitioned in its ownership and name to a larger national multi-disciplinary design firm, DLR. John Graham, Jr. died in 1991 at the age of 82.
THE ORIGINAL CONTRACTOR
The general contractor was listed on record documents as Baker & Ford Company of Bellingham, Washington. The company, which bid on military construction projects throughout the state, was operated by its owners, Sam E. Baker and Frank W. Ford. Their construction work consisted mainly of radar and early warning installations, and included several structures at the Clear Air Force Station in Denali Borough, Alaska, and the 1st National Bank in Anchorage. Little has been discovered through research specifically about Sam Baker. Frank W. Ford, one of the company founders, continued with the firm's business in another entity (Mick Olsen Corporation) with a new partner beginning in 1960. Ford's grandson, Leroy E. "Mick" Olsen, Jr., is the current owner of the company now located in Freeland, on Whidbey Island in Washington State.
THE PUBLIC ARTIST
Two pieces of public art were created for the Juneau Federal Building at the time of its construction. Thomas A. Hardy, of Portland, Oregon, created the sculpture on the exterior and a bas-relief in the lobby, both of which are fabricated of bronze. Hardy was born in Redmond, Oregon, in 1921 and raised on a farm. He became well-known as an artist in the post-war period in the Northwest, and created works in a variety of media: initially in ceramics, and then in carved wood, welded steel, cast and fabricated bronze and copper, along with etchings and watercolors.
Hardy's public art has been integrated with a number of buildings in Portland, including a bronze, screen-like piece, "Oregon Country," on Neuberger Hall on the campus of Portland State University (1962). His work has been exhibited by the Portland Art Museum, Seattle Art Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and the Nueberger Museum of Art on the campus of the State University of New York Purchase College.