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University of Washington Opens New Computer Science Building to Accommodate Growing Enrollment and Foster Collaboration

New University of Washington Computer Science Building

After 16 years, the University of Washington’s nationally ranked computer science program has outgrown its existing facility. The school is opening a new building to accommodate its growing enrollment.

The $110 million CSE2 project includes undergraduate commons, sophisticated maker spaces, a 3,000-square-foot robotics lab and interview rooms for students to meet with industry representatives. Donations from local tech leaders like Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Zillow helped fund construction.

The Building’s Design

The 135,000-square-foot building doubles the space available to the university’s nationally ranked computer science program. Designed by Seattle’s LMN Architects, the building provides research and collaborative spaces and accommodates the school’s recent and future growth.

The building features classrooms, undergraduate commons, graduate workrooms, a robotics lab, faculty/staff offices, and a 240-seat lecture hall. It also has communal and event spaces, a cafe, a rooftop event center, and street-level seating.

A large central atrium and walkways connect the upper floors of the building, providing visual and physical connections. Research and support spaces are deliberately intermingled across the upper three floors to encourage serendipitous interaction.

The Allen Center is funded by more than $70 million from donors, including Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Zillow, and Madrona Venture Group, as well as $9 million from the university. Lazowska notes that the university is incredibly grateful to these tech leaders for their support and their legacy of helping turn Seattle into a global technology hub.

The Building’s Functions

The 135,000 square-foot building contains “instructional, research and collaborative spaces,” according to UW. Located on the university’s Seattle campus, it was designed by Seattle’s LMN Architects and features a central atrium that serves as the center of activity.

Lazowska noted that the new CSE building will help to increase capacity for computer science classes and expand the school’s impact on Washington students and innovative employers. It will also enable the school to double its annual degree production.

She added that the school’s relationship with nearby tech companies is a “very symbiotic” one, with professors working at the likes of Amazon, Google and Facebook. The new space will have classrooms, undergraduate commons, and capstone labs that are meant to foster collaboration. In addition, the building will have research labs and a center for high-performance computing. It will also feature lactation and wellness rooms for students who need them. Additionally, the building will have solar panels and rainwater collection systems.

The Building’s Spaces

The 135,000-square-foot building houses teaching, research and collaborative spaces, and includes specialized labs for parallel processing, software engineering, programming languages and systems, telecommunications, motion capture, artificial intelligence and more. It was designed by Seattle’s LMN Architects, which also created the Allen Center and a number of other extraordinary projects that have garnered global acclaim for the UW.

A significant portion of the funding for CSE2 came from local tech giants, including Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Zillow. Classrooms and other areas are named for those donors, including the “Amazon Auditorium,” Microsoft Cafe and “Google Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.”

The new computer science building is ideally located to serve students from all over Washington state. It is accessible via the Link Light Rail, which connects the university with Roosevelt, Capitol Hill, Downtown and South Seattle, as well as other neighborhoods farther away from campus. It is also easy to reach from many other parts of the region by car, bike and bus.

The Building’s Community

The 130,000-square-foot building is home to 16 labs; two 100-person classrooms; a 250-person auditorium; seminar rooms; communal and study spaces, as well as offices and support spaces. It will enable CSE to double its annual degree production, bringing more Washington students into the field and addressing the state’s critical need for skilled technical workers.

The first floor is devoted to undergraduates, with their own laboratories, community spaces and a student services center that provides one-stop academic advising. Throughout the space are displays that celebrate the school’s history and a 20-foot interactive wall that showcases the contributions of Allen, Gates and other local tech titans.

Lazowska notes that the relationships between nearby tech companies and the UW are “incredibly symbiotic.” This is reflected in the fact that many of the faculty have also worked in industry, with leaders at Amazon, Google, Facebook, and AI2 being among those represented. It’s the kind of relationship that explains why, when you enter the new computer science building on campus, you find yourself directly across from the Paul G. Allen Center.

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