HISTORICAL & ARCHITECTURAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE BUILDING
The Richland Federal Building opened in 1965, housing eight federal agencies--the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), U.S. Post Office, Courts, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Defense Department, Civil Service Commission, General Services Administration (GSA), and Department of Labor. The building was dedicated on November 9, 1965, by Senator Warren Magnuson, during an event reportedly attended by more than 2,500 people. More than 8,000 citizens then toured the new building. The building's four passenger elevators were the only passenger elevators in Richland at the time (Tri-City Herald clippings).
The Richland Federal Building is a post-war Modern structure and a clear example of an architectural style known as New Formalism, which was from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. The building's style is exemplified by its thin-shell concrete canopies, tapered concrete columns, and perforated pre-cast wall panels on the exterior, and by decorative interior elements such as the book-matched marble cladding and stone panels, sculpted aluminum stair components, and luminous ceilings in the lobby spaces.
THE HANFORD NUCLEAR SITE & DEVELOPMENT OF RICHLAND, WASHINGTON
The city of Richland is set at the confluence of the Yakima and Columbia Rivers. For many centuries, this area was a meeting place of Native Americans, including the Yakama, Nez Perce and Umatilla tribes, who hunted, fished and gathered plants in the area until they were relocated to reservations in the late 1800s. (The exception was the Wanapum tribe, who continued to live along the Columbia River northwest of Richland, near the confluence of the Snake River, until their land was flooded by construction of the Priest Rapids Dam and Wanapum Dam in 1953.)
In 1805 the Lewis and Clark Expedition traveled on the Columbia River past the future town site, but pioneer settlement in the area remained sparse throughout the 19th century. A number of agricultural communities and orchards were established in the area, including White Bluffs, at the site of what would become the Hanford Nuclear Project. Irrigation programs were initiated by the federal government in the area during the New Deal era of the 1930s.
Sharing the same bank of the Columbia River as Richland is Kennewick, which, with Richland and Pasco, makes up the Tri-Cities area of Washington. The city of Pasco has its origins as a railroad town, and it serves as the county seat for Franklin County. Established in 1891, soon after the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad, it is located approximately 12 miles southeast of Richland. Kennewick dates from its incorporation in 1904, when it was largely an agricultural center. Located 11 miles southeast of Richland, it is the largest of the tri-cities, with an estimated 75,970 residents (2010). Kennewick serves a regional port and commercial and recreation center and contains most of the retailing in the area. Richland and Kennewick are both located in Benton County. They are linked to Pasco by two highway bridges, on State Highway 12 and 395, respectively. A regional airport is located in Pasco.
Richland is a city distinguished by its World War II origins in the early 1940s. It was laid out and constructed originally as Richland Village, a residential community for federal employees and contract workers at the Hanford Nuclear Site. This facility, located approximately 28 miles north of Richland, was established in 1943 as part of the World War II Manhattan Project focused on production of plutonium for use in atomic bombs that were detonated for the first time over Japan to end the war in the Pacific.
The Hanford site was selected in late 1942 and early 1943 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers along with the DuPont Company its prime contractor due to its isolation from major transportation routes and population centers; available water and electrical power supplies; distance from the company's existing uranium production plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and stable geological character. The site contained the small farming villages of White Bluffs, Hanford, and other nearby communities. Their estimated 1,500 residents were given 30-days notice to leave their properties for the government project. The construction crews for the Hanford Project, numbering nearly 50,000, initially lived in a construction camp, while engineers and administrators were located in the nearby new town of Richland Village.
Following the war, Richland developed as an ideal post-war community and company town under the ownership and control of the federal government and its contractors. During the Cold War period, from the end of World War II to the fall of the Eastern Bloc (generally from 1947 to 1989), the Hanford site was expanded to process additional plutonium for the country's vast nuclear arsenal and for use in nuclear reactors and plutonium processing plants. In late 1946 General Electric assumed the contractor role for managing the Hanford Nuclear Works under the supervision of the Atomic Energy Commission. During its management, the Hanford Site was developed further, and the nearby Tri-Cities area grew with an influx of residents. The cities remained under federal and corporate control and management, and residential restrictions stayed in place in Richland until 1957, with its residents limited to engineers and upper managers. (Construction workers and tradespeople continued to reside in Pasco or Kennewick.) Because of the continued presence of the Hanford Nuclear Site, Richland and the surrounding Tri-Cities communities boomed in the 1940s. The population of Richland rose from 400 in 1943 to 21,809 in 1950.
City residents voted to incorporate Richland in mid-July 1958, followed by ratification of the city charter in early December. After ownership was relinquished by the federal government and its contractors, the city grew, but it still retained many of the qualities of a highly planned development. Residents appreciated these qualities and identified with their All America City, as it was designated in 1981, and their role in the development of atomic energy (Findlay and Hevly, pp. 75-135). Richland's population grew to 23,548 in 1960; 26,290 in 1970; 33,578 in 1980; and 32,315 in 1990; before rising dramatically in the following decade to 38,708 in 2000. Along with Kennewick and Pasco, it contributed to the Tri Cities collective residential population of 193,567 in 2010. In recent decades the Richland economy has diversified somewhat, and it presently serves as a center for agricultural and transportation industries, as well as regional medical care.
Nuclear technologies for power production were developed at the Hanford Site during and after the Cold War era. While most of its reactors, including those used for weapons production, where shut down between 1964 and 1971, the last reactor continued to generate electricity for the Washington Public Power Supply System until 1987. The U.S. Department of Energy, the primary office tenant of the federal building, assumed control of Hanford in 1977. The Hanford Sites recent history has involved decommissioning and vast clean-up activities to address the remaining radioactive wastes. (The B reactor, which produced the plutonium used for the worlds first nuclear bomb detonated in 1945, was designated a National Historic Landmark in August 2008, National Register site No. 92000245).
THE BUILDING'S MODERN STYLE
The Richland Federal Building is a Modern-era structure, and its design utilized post-war construction technologies such as pre-cast concrete, along with spatial tenets of clear, flexible spaces, and strong indoor-outdoor relationships at the main lobby. The building's Modern style is exemplified by the design of the main entries on the primary facades and within the interior of the lobby and auditorium. While much of the interior layout of upper floors is an expression of efficiency and functionality, the public main lobby space is far more expressive.
Features such as the thin-shell concrete canopies, tapered concrete columns, and perforated pre-cast wall panels on the exterior; book-matched marble cladding and stone panels, sculpted aluminum stair components, and luminous ceilings in the lobby spaces; and organically-shaped ceiling elements and canted stone-clad walls in the auditorium take the design beyond the mere functional. Stylistically, the Richland Federal Building is a clear representative of New Formalism, a stylistic subset of the Modern Movement.
New Formalism as a style was popular from the late 1950s through the early 1970s, particularly in designs for banks and public institutions. Its designers adapted new construction technologies, such as pre-cast concrete panels and concrete folded plates and shells, and the flowing spatial principles of Modernism while heeding Classical compositional precedents. Typical of Modernism, an emphasis on the structural grid remains, along with the use of axial symmetry and a raised base or plinth to give the building a sense of monumentality. Exterior materials in New Formalism are typically cast stone, brick and marble. Many buildings of this style also have an exotic Near Eastern sensibility (Houser, DAHP website).
In Washington state there are many commercial buildings that embody New Formalism, including the Pacific Science Center at the Seattle Century 21 Worlds Fair and the Suzzallo Library Addition to the University of Washington Library (both by architect Minoru Yamasaki, and both from 1962); Skagit Valley Bank in Mount Vernon and South Center Mall in Tukwila (both ca. 1965); the National Bank of Washington in Yakima (1969); and the Parkade (1967) in downtown Spokane (DocomomoWeWa website). Other public buildings of this period that share the styles characteristics include the Vancouver City Hall (1966).
National leaders of New Formalism included architects Minoru Yamasaki and Edward Durrell Stone. Both of these men held that beauty, in the face of more pure minimal design, was important in their buildings. They were inspired by the early and contemporary work by Frank Lloyd Wright, who used decorative surfaces and unusual geometries in many of his 20th-century projects. In the mid-century their work was cited as Modern Baroque by some, and defended as daring for ornamental qualities that extended Modern architects beyond self-conscious technicians of function (Von Eckardt, 1961, p. 26). Examples of New Formalist design include Stone's Stuart Building in Pasadena, California (1958), and U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India (1959), both of which were awarded National Honor Awards from the AIA; and Yamasaki's Community Center and educational buildings on the Wayne State University campus in Detroit (ca 1958 - 1961), as well as his Reynolds Metal Company Sales Office Building in Southfield, Illinois (1959).
ORIGINAL DESIGNERS OF THE FEDERAL BUILDING COMPLEX
Original architectural drawings bear a title block citing the Spokane firms of Culler, Gale, Martell, Norrie & Davis, and Funk, Murray & Johnson as the architects. These drawings, dating from 1963 to 1965, were not stamped by any of the firms' partners, making it unclear which one was responsible for the specific design or construction oversight.
The original building complex was large, and its production would have warranted a sizable team of architects and engineers. From a formal perspective, the appearance of the post office, which has a symmetrical primary facade more typical of an earlier Moderne design than a Modern one, suggests it may have been the work of a different designer than the office tower and courthouse. The highly decorative lobby and auditorium interiors may have been the work of another architect or unidentified interior designer.
The Richland Federal Building is cited within the historic AIA directories in lists of principal works by each of the partners in Funk, Murray & Johnson. It is not mentioned in the principal works list by any of the partners of Culler, Gale & Martell. (Norrie and Davis were engineers without individual citations in the AIA directories.)
The firm of Culler, Gale, Martell, Norrie & Davis was composed of both architects and engineers, with offices in Spokane and Coeur d'Alene. John R. Culler, Fulton G. Gale, Jr., and Carroll L. Martell were architects; Kenneth P. Norrie and Walter Z. Davis were engineers. Culler & Gale established a partnership in 1950, which became Culler, Gale & Martell in 1954. Within a few years, Norrie had become a partner. In the 1962 AIA directory, the firm was cited as Culler, Gale & Martell, Norrie & Davis. The firm became Culler, Gale, Martell & Ericson by 1967, and in the 1970 AIA directory it was listed as Culler, Gale, Martell, Ericson, Architects, Kenneth P. Norrie, Engineer.
John R. Culler (February 23, 1911-January 9, 2001) was born in Lucas, Ohio, and received a Bachelors degree from Wittenberg College in 1932. He continued on to the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University), graduating in 1938 with B.S. degrees in both Architecture and Mathematics. Culler worked as a draftsman for various architects in Pittsburgh from 1936-40, serving as chief draftsman for Hunting, David & Dunnels from 1940-43. In 1945 he moved to Spokane, where he worked for G.A. Pehrson and Associates, and for Whitehouse & Price from 1945-50.
Culler was a founding partner of Culler & Gale in 1950. The firm evolved to become Culler, Gale, Martell & Ericson, from which Culler retired in 1983. Principal works, as cited in the 1970 AIA directory, included Kellogg High School (1957, with Perkins & Will), the Education & Psychology Building (1965) and Hertz Music Building (1967) at Central Washington University, and Greenacres Jr. High School in Spokane (1968). Culler was also president of the Spokane Chapter of the AIA from 1958-59, trustee of the Spokane Chamber of Commerce from 1963-66, a past chairman of the Spokane Planning Commission, and a past president of the Spokane Central Lions Club. He died in 2001 in Spokane, at the age of 89.
Fulton G. Gale, Jr. (June 23, 1918-May 17, 1996) was born in Walla Walla, Washington. He served in the Army in WWII, earning a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. After the war he graduated from the University of Idaho with a B.S. degree in Architecture in 1947. He worked as a draftsman for Whitehouse & Price from 1947-50, and was a founding partner of Culler & Gale in 1950. Gale moved to Hayden, Idaho, in 1960, where he lived until 1990. Principal works, as cited in the 1970 AIA directory, included Pendleton High School in Pendleton, Oregon (1960); Kootenai Memorial Hospital in Coeur dAlene (1966, with Robert Cerny & Associates); East Shoshone Memorial Hospital in Wallace, Idaho (1967); and the University Classroom Center (1967) and Women's Health Education Building (1969) at the University of Idaho. Gale was also an instructor and lecturer at the University of Idaho from 1947-69, as well as president of the Spokane Chapter of the AIA from 1961-62 and the Idaho Chapter from 1968-69. He served as commandant of the Spokane Army Reserve School from 1966-70 and was a member of the Coeur d'Alene Rotary Club, Exchange Club, and Coeur d'Alene Chamber of Commerce. Gale died in 1996 in Wilsonville, Oregon, at the age of 77.
Carroll L. Martell (June 8, 1912-August 14, 2004) was born in Stanton, North Dakota. He received a B.S. degree in Architecture from the University of Kansas in 1935, and pursued some additional coursework at George Washington University in 1941. Martell worked as an architect for the U.S. Department of the Interior from 1935-45, followed by a stint as a draftsman in the New York office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in 1945-46. He moved to Spokane in 1946, where he worked as a draftsman for George M. Rasque from 1946-48. He had a brief partnership with Martell & Brooks in 1948, going on to establish a sole proprietorship from 1948-51. In 1953 or 1954, Martell joined the partnership of Culler & Gale to form Culler, Gale & Martell. Principal works, cited in the 1962 and 1970 AIA directories, included Shadle Park High School in Spokane (1958), Sloan Engineering Building at Washington State University (1965), Dryden Hall (1967) and Dressler Hall (1968) at Eastern Washington University, and Sacred Heart Church in Spokane (1969). Martell served as president of the Spokane Chapter of the AIA from 1954-55 and was a member of the AIA northwest region judiciary committee from 1963-66. He died in 2004 in Spokane, at the age of 92.
Kenneth P. Norrie (1913-1983) graduated from Washington State College (now Washington State University) and moved to Spokane from Seattle after serving in WWII. He established Kenneth P. Norrie & Associates and later joined Culler, Gale & Martell. By 1958 the firm was Culler, Gale, Martell & Norrie. Norrie was a member of the State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors, and the second president of the Structural Engineers Association of Washington. He died in 1983.
Walter Z. Davis (July 1, 1920-September 2, 2009) was born in Spokane. He studied Mechanical Engineering at Cal Tech, receiving a Bachelors degree in 1941 and a Masters degree in 1942. Davis then returned to Spokane, where he became chief engineer at ALCOA, taught Engineering at Gonzaga University, and was plant manager at Brown Trailers. Davis became a partner in Culler, Gale, Martell, Norrie & Davis by 1960. He also served as a longtime member of the City of Spokane Planning Commission.
Funk, Murray & Johnson was a Spokane architectural firm established in 1957, as a successor firm to Funk, Molander & Johnson, which dated from 1945. Its principals were architects Albert H. Funk, Donald H. Murray, and Carl H. Johnson.
Albert H. Funk (October 28, 1903-September 24, 1986) was born in Spokane and received a Bachelor of Architecture degree in 1925 from Washington State College (now Washington State University). He worked as a draftsman for Whitehouse & Price in Spokane from 1926-29 and went on to a role as an assistant architect for the U.S. Treasury in 1929. (This work relationship may well have facilitated the later selection of his firm for the Richland project.) Funk was working as a draftsman for Morrell Smith in New York when the stock market crashed, prompting his return to Spokane. During the Depression, he worked for the Washington State Highway Department. Funk was a founding partner of Funk, Molander, and Johnson in 1945, which became Funk, Murray and Johnson in 1957. Principal works, cited in the 1956 and 1962 AIA directories, included Garland Theater (1946, Spokane), St. Augustines Convent (1954, Spokane), Immaculate Heart Retreat House (1958, Spokane), Control Tower at Geiger Field (1959), St. Charles Church (1959 & 1960, Spokane), Richland Federal Office Building (cited as a joint venture with Culler, Gale, Martell, Norrie & Davis), and the Food Service Center at Eastern Washington State College (1961).
Funk was vice president of the Washington State Board of Registration for Architects in 1958 and served on the board for eight years. He was also a trustee for the Washington State Council of Architects in 1960-61, a member of the Zoning Board of Adjustment for the City of Spokane from 1958-70, and president of the AIA Spokane Chapter in 1948 and a trustee from 1949-52. Funk died in Spokane in 1986, at age 82.
Donald H. Murray (March 2, 1920-March 2, 2004) was born in Walla Walla and grew up in Spokane. He attended Spokane Junior College and received a B.S. degree in Architecture from Washington State College (now Washington State University) in 1943. He served in WWII in the South Pacific, and then returned to Spokane. There he joined Funk, Murray & Johnson as a partner in 1957. Principal works, cited in the 1962 and 1970 AIA directories, included the Darigold Processing Plant (1958, Spokane), Immaculate Heart Retreat House (1959, Spokane), St. Charles Church (1961, Spokane), Richland Federal Office Building (cited as associate architect with Culler, Gale, Martell), Richland Lutheran Church (1964), and Spokane Rivertrout Development (1970). Murray was the AIA representative to the Association for Better Community, Spokane, from 1966-68; a Spokane City representative on the State Highway Commission in 1969; and the AIA Spokane Chapter president in 1968. He died in 2004 at age 84.
Carl H. Johnson (January 24, 1913-May 18, 2002) was born in Sheridan, Wyoming, and received a B.S. degree in Architecture from the University of Minnesota in 1935. He worked as a draftsman for J. van Teylingen from 1935-40 and as a designer for Angus Vaughn McIver in 1940-41, both in Great Falls, Montana. By 1944 he had moved to Spokane and worked in the office of Whitehouse, Price & Perrin in 1944. He was a founding partner of Funk, Molander & Johnson in 1945, which became Funk, Murray & Johnson in 1957.
Principal works by Johnson, cited in the AIA directories from 1956, 1962, and 1970, included the Senile Ward Building at Eastern State Hospital (1948), Trinity Lutheran Church (1950, Endicott), St. Gertrudes Academy (1954, Cottonwood, Idaho), Pullman High School (1955), Immaculate Heart Retreat House (1959, Spokane), Darigold Plant (1959, Spokane), St. Charles Church (1960, Spokane), Richland Federal Office Building (cited as associate architect with Culler, Gale & Martell and Norrie & Davis), five dormitory buildings for Gonzaga University (1967), Richland Lutheran Church (1968), and Hollister-Stier Lab in Spokane (1969). Johnson was active in the Spokane Chapter of the AIA, serving as secretary from 1952-54, vice president from 1955-56, and president from 1957-58. He died in La Conner, Washington, in 2002 at age 89.
PUBLIC ART & ARTIST HAROLD BALAZS
The main lobby of the building was fitted with a two-part wood screen, created by Northwest artist Harold Balazs and installed in 1966. Balazs has had a career of more than 50 years, creating distinctive works of public and private art throughout the U.S., and he remains well-known for projects inspired by the inland Pacific Northwest.
Harold Balazs was born on September 15, 1928, in the farming community of Westlake, Ohio. When he was eleven years old, his mother enrolled him in weekend art classes at the Cleveland Art Museum. These classes, and his particular interest in a pair of enamel panels there by artist Edward Winter, spurred his desire to become an artist. As a teenager in 1941, Balazs created his first murals, intended to show support for the country's efforts in World War II. After graduation from high school in 1946, he studied painting and drawing at the Art Institute of Chicago. The same year, his family moved to Spokane, Washington. Balazs followed later and registered at Washington State College (now Washington State University) in Pullman, Washington. It was there that Balazs met the Czech-born painter and instructor George Laisner, who introduced him to the disciplined geometric work of Bauhaus artists Gyorgy Kepes and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. Balazs remembers Laisner encouraging him to return to his initial passion by exposing [me] to a minimum of enameling. In 1950 Balazs married Rosemary Schneider and also sold his first artwork at a university student auction.
In 1951, Harold Balazs graduated from Washington State College with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. He began creating copper and enamel jewelry and competed in juried art exhibits. Also in 1951, he undertook his first collaboration on a commissioned work, producing a mural at Spokanes Ridpath Hotel with Patrick Flammia. From 1957 to 1971, he produced numerous liturgical sculptures and painted, stained glass, and relief pieces for churches and synagogues throughout the Northwest. In 1964, he began collaborating with regional architects to create doors, walls, spandrel panels, gates, windows, arches, sculptures, murals, furniture, light fixtures, signs, and sundials for both private and public buildings.
Balazs received an AIA Gold Medal for Architectural Craft in 1966. In 1970, he started working at Pioneer Enamel in Seattle, and in 1974, he created an untitled "Lantern" sculpture near the opera house in the Riverfront Park area of Spokane. The following year, he made the large enamel mural "Rhododendrons" for display in Seattles Kingdome. This mural was moved to the King County Administration Building when the Kingdome was demolished in 2000. In 1976, Balazs developed a large copper sculptural piece for the Jackson Federal Building in Seattle, and in 1978 he installed "Centennial Sculpture" in Spokane. This stainless steel sculpture, located in the Spokane River, was commissioned to commemorate the city's 1981 centennial.
In the late 1990s Balazs started showing his work at Art Spirit Gallery in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. In 2004, Balazs installed "Circle of Friends," a 16'-diameter stainless steel sculpture dedicated to the class of '46 in Westlake, Ohio. A year later he created the Rotary Fountain in Riverfront Park in Spokane. In 2009 and 2010, Balazs was honored by the Seattle Metal Guild with their Lifetime Achievement Award, while his diverse natural and figural works were exhibited in a retrospective organized by the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture in Spokane.
The U.S. government has an extensive tradition of establishing arts programs for its facilities and commissioning sculptures, prints, and murals for national buildings from artists throughout the country. In 1962, Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan, as part of a report written for President Kennedy, developed what has come to be recognized as the Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture. Moynihan's recommendations of how the government should acknowledge and support the aspirations and interests of the American people in its buildings were the impetus for the installation of numerous artworks in the early and mid 1960s. The recommendations also formed the basis for GSA's current Design Excellence Program. This set of design directives, in conjunction with the agency's Art in Architecture Program, continues to allow for the incorporation of diverse artworks into visible public spaces. The primary goal of the collaboration between the government and visual artists around the country is to exhibit and maintain a vital cultural legacy that is accessible to all individuals and generations.