If you’ve picked up the latest issue of Poets & Writers, you might have seen the familiar sight of our ramshackle old home resurrected on its glossy pages.
For the May/June issue, Lora Shinn spoke with Executive Director Tree Swenson and Ryan Mullenix from architectural firm NBBJ on the plans for our new home.
“The imagination is summoned the minute you come in,” [Tree] Swenson says. “NBBJ, a major international architectural firm, really listened and came up with a design that reflects the quirkiness of the writerly soul.” (The firm boasts clients such as Google, Microsoft, Cambridge University, and Stanford University, along with hospitals, courthouses, and libraries across the United States and abroad.) A team of designers from the firm met with Hugo House staff to form a planning committee, whose goal was to visualize a functional interior, tailored to enhance creativity. “We focused on how you create these environments that are eccentric and eclectic,” says NBBJ architect and partner Ryan Mullenix.
Although the work isn’t over to secure our new home, our story is a counter-narrative to the ways in which arts and cultural organizations are often squeezed out of our rapidly developing city. Hugo House will be moving to the heart of Capitol Hill thanks in part to the generosity and vision of the property ownership team, made up of early supporters and co-founders of our organization: they’ve offered us space in the new development at far-below market value.
“Cultural spaces are being pushed out,” Swenson says. “As in any rapidly gentrifying city, we wonder, ‘What if other developers had this idea, to integrate an arts or cultural spot in new buildings, to keep the soul of a city alive?’”
The other part of this successful equation is our community of committed donors, members, teachers, and volunteers who know that Seattle needs writers—and writers need Hugo House. Our new home will reflect our commitment to inspiring writers.
“Every city needs to have a place open to all writers, wherever they are in their journey,” Swenson says. “If you love books, reading, writing, and words, the literary community is so welcoming, and people will guide you. Writers helping writers.”