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Shaping Seattle Architecture

Beginning in 1990, I served as organizer, editor, and co-author of Shaping Seattle Architecture: A Historical Guide to the Architects, a book published in 1994 by the University of Washington Press with AIA Seattle as part of the 100th anniversary celebration of the AIA in Washington and Seattle.  Our idea in developing the book was to create a “biographical dictionary” or “biographical encyclopedia”–we through a collection of essays about key architects who had shaped Seattle would celebrate the AIA, the professional organization of architects, and be a lasting resource for the architecture of the city and region.  A six-person Editorial Board (Dennis Andersen, Duane Dietz, Kate Krafft, David Rash, Tom Veith and myself) led the project; twenty-five different writers produced the 45 biographical essays and three special essays (addressing Native American architecture, pattern books and periodicals, and vernacular architecture) that made up the core of the book.  Appendixes included sources for additional research, addresses of extant buildings, a gazetteer of additional architects and an essay on how to do architectural history research in the city and region.  We turned the initial manuscript over to the Press in early 1993; the Press released the book to stores in fall 1994.

The 1994 printing of Shaping Seattle Architecture was 1000 clothbound and 4000 paperbacks; four years later there was a second printing of 5000 paperbacks (with minor corrections).  By 2005 Shaping was out of print.  The Press asked the Editorial Board about a third printing; the Board agreed but wished to do corrections and updates.  When the Press staff saw the number of proposed changes, they determined that the book would need to reprinted with no changes, or a second edition would need to be produced.  The Editorial Board agreed a new version was warranted–there had been substantial new research on Seattle architecture since the early 1990s; a second edition could draw upon this research for revisions, and the appendixes could provide updated information about sources and local research.

In general, a “second edition” typically requires that about 25% of the content of a book be changed.  Initially, the Editorial Board and I thought that the manuscript for the second edition of Shaping might be produced in about 18 to 24 months.  We soon learned, however, that the project would be considerably more involved than we initially anticipated.

For one thing, returning to authors nearly twenty years after they produced their essays for the first edition proved more complicated than expected.  Some had moved on to other research, others had left the region, and a few were no longer alive. A few authors gave permission for the Editorial Board to revise their essays.  Others chose to make changes themselves, but needed to refresh their memories on work they had done over fifteen years previously.

In addition, book technology has completely changed in the last two decades.  In the early 1990s, illustrations were all provided to the Press as hard copy prints.  Now illustrations are delivered as digital scans.  In the early 1990s, each of the authors had been responsible for assembling the illustrations to accompany each essay.  As editor I had been responsible for bringing together all the illustrations and text for delivery to the Press.  Once the book was published, I had returned the hard copy prints to the individual authors.  For the second edition I have had to try to borrow the hard copy prints again to make scans.  Where the old prints are no longer available, I have spent time tracking down the missing illustrations.  Fortunately, I have been aided by Josh Polansky and Cheryl Gilge in the CBE Visual Resources Collection.  They have helped with the scanning, and in turn, we have enhanced the collection of digital images of local and regional architecture available in the VRC.

The Editorial Board agreed that a few additional designers should be profiled in the second edition.  As a result three architects and one landscape architect will receive new essays.  There will also be two new essays addressing the roles architects have played in “production housing” that forms so much of the residential fabric of the region.

Significant changes will occur in the appendixes.  In the first edition, the gazetteer of additional designers included about 85 architects, landscape architects and planners who had made notable contributions to the region.  In the second edition we now anticipate that this gazetteer will include more than 250 such individuals.  The sources and addresses sections will both be updated as will the essay on how to carry out architectural history research in the region.

Since 2007 the new edition of Shaping has moved forward step-by-step.  Revised essays were first received in 2009 and 2010; in 2011 the Editorial Board reviewed and edited the essays.  Authors began assembling illustrations about 2009 and by 2011 had supplied well over 400 hard copy photographs.  A big part of the process this summer has been producing the required scans and gathering the missing illustrations.

I am now in the process of working with the Editorial Board on the final edits to the text and collecting the last few illustrations.  We now expect to deliver the manuscript and illustrations for the second edition to the Press in early September.

The future schedule depends on funding and on the production process.  We hope, if all goes well, that the second edition of Shaping Seattle Architecture will be in stores in 2014–the twentieth anniversary of the first edition.


–Jeffrey Karl Ochsner is a Professor in the Department of Architecture;  he currently also serves as Associate Dean in the College of Built Environments. 


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