Law School to return to heart of campus in new William H. Gates Hall

Construction will start in August for the $75 million William H. Gates Hall, the new home of the UW School of Law, to be built on the site of a parking lot south of the Burke Museum.

The glass-and-brick building is named after one of the law school’s most distinguished alumni, Regent William H. Gates, ’49, ’50, a Seattle attorney and father of the Microsoft chairman, Bill Gates. Both father and son, as well as Governor Gary Locke; Ambassador Tom Foley, ’51, ’57; and UW President Richard L. McCormick attended the groundbreaking ceremony May 4.

Bringing the law school to the heart of the UW campus will enhance collaboration with other disciplines on campus. The 196,000-square-foot building—one-third larger than Condon Hall, the present law facility—also will bring all the school’s programs under one roof for the first time in 30 years.

Mahlum Architects of Seattle and Portland are the prime architects. Private donations total $34 million—including contributions for additional furnishings and technology. Bill and Melinda Gates contributed $12 million as a way of honoring Gates’ father. Other friends and alumni of the school provided the rest of the $34 million in donations. Bonds for the $46 million state share will be repaid, not from the usual tax-supported bonds, but from the University’s own Metropolitan Tract revenues.

When it opens in fall 2003, William H. Gates Hall will especially benefit users of the UW law library, the largest west of Minneapolis and north of Berkeley and a resource for the Northwest legal community. The current library is overcrowded and divided inefficiently among seven floors, inconveniencing users and creating security problems. A quarter of the collection is in the basement, not easily accessed by users. The new library will be far more accessible and efficient.

The rest of the current law school building also has been overcrowded virtually from the moment it opened in 1974. That is because Condon Hall was intended to be Phase I of a two-phase plan, but Phase II never got built. Over the years, changes in legal education compounded the building’s inadequacies. There is less use of large lecture halls today and more emphasis on small classes and seminars. Condon Hall’s thick-walled concrete construction restricts the ability to install wiring and infrastructure for today’s technologies. The computer lab fits only 35 students. Electrical outlets are scarce in classrooms and offices.

“This new building for the law school will fulfill a vision that began many years ago,” UW President Richard L. McCormick said. “As legal education has changed, it has brought the need for new facilities integrated more fully with the other disciplines on campus. This building caught the imagination of many friends and donors and our community whose generosity made it possible. It will help immeasurably in preparing students for the law profession in this new century.”