Intellectual House Art Plan
University of Washington
This longhouse-inspired building creates a sense of home with site-specific artworks of the Northwest Coast.
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The Intellectual House expresses the architectural style of a longhouse, reminiscent of traditional dwelling and ceremonial structures of the Northwest Coast tribes. Its official name, wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ, pronounced “wah-sheb-altuh,” is a Lushootseed word, bestowed by Upper Skagit elder Vi Hilbert to honor the Native people of the region.
The art plan for the Intellectual House envisioned a multivalent arts experience that would offer a diversity of ideas and create a sense of home. It focused on artwork of the Northwest Coast, with an emphasis on Coast Salish art—particularly commissions for professional artists to create new, site-specific work across disciplines. The plan recommended that UW consider three distinct zones of engagement on the site: a gathering circle as a work of art itself, a welcome feature to inspire interest and provide context, and a building interior where architectural surfaces and building parts would become canvases for art or the artworks themselves would serve as functional components. Prioritizing opportunities for the first phase of development, the plan suggested guidelines for implementation, including timelines, budgets, and methods for artist selection.
The first phase of the Intellectual House opened in 2015. Its purpose is to increase Native American students' success at UW, preparing them for leadership roles in their tribal communities and in the region.