Texas design firm and University of Washington collaborate on KUOW


The University of Washington has recently christened the school’s new radio station facility KUOW. Now located off campus, KUOW looked to the Russ Berger Design Group for guidance in putting together the new facility.

An agreement with the city of Seattle regarding off-campus development limited the University of Washington’s choice of real estate, explains Richard Schrag, project manager for RBDG. “The University picked a building that is actually three separate structures with shared core spaces. KUOW occupies parts of the second and third floors in two of the structures. There are several other tenants, including a popular game center generating a lot of noise, which was a concern.”

The new station includes four on-air and production control rooms, a talk studio, three edit booths, two voice-over rooms and a performance studio. The big studio was envisioned to provide space for musical performances or “town hall” type meetings, while the adjacent isolation booth was constructed to do double duty as a green room. All acoustic spaces in the KUOW facility are connected to a technical operations hub that contains the station’s shared audio and broadcast equipment.

KUOW places a significant emphasis on local news, and also provides regional coverage of stories for NPR. This focus on active newsgathering necessitated a space to accommodate 21 staffers and the resource materials they needed to share. Not wanting the station workers to feel confined, RBDG added skylights to open office areas and conference rooms that were not against exterior walls. A large amount of glass block was incorporated into the design as well.

The KUOW building’s natural character comes shining through after the extensive design, and RBDG made a conscious effort to display the building’s built-in personality. The original brick walls of the building were sandblasted, and the overhead structure inside the building was exposed whenever possible. The lighting scheme employs a combination of incandescent and special fluorescent lights, which highlight the building’s architectural features.