On Friday, March 1st, the Paul G. Allen School will open the doors of the new Bill & Melinda Gates Center for Computer Science & Engineering to the community. Friends, alumni, and campus and regional partners are invited to join us for an afternoon of building tours, demos, and interactive media that will showcase how the Bill & Melinda Gates Center will enable us to educate more of Washington’s students for high-impact careers, advance scientific discovery and innovation, and make meaningful contributions to society — here at home, and around the globe.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Center Open House will take place from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm. During that time, the Allen School is opening up access to the entire building and inviting visitors to explore the variety of community spaces, instructional facilities, research labs, and people-centric features of this exciting new facility. Both organized tours and self-guided tours will be available. Among the highlights:
Atrium & Tribute Wall
The expansive three-story Gates Center atrium provides an inviting welcome for students and visitors and functions as the building’s “living room.” One of the main features of interest to visitors is our Tribute Wall, an interactive media display developed by the firm Belle & Wissell and situated outside of the new Silverberg Family Student Services Center that enables visitors to explore the history of the Allen School, the growth of technology in the Puget Sound region, the many contributions of Paul G. Allen and of Bill and Melinda Gates, and the importance of broadening participation in the field.
Just off the main entrance, visitors can enjoy the view of Stevens Way and the Allen Center from the Microsoft Cafe, or climb the open-air Sujal & Meera Patel Innovation Stairway that connects the atrium with the second and third floors.
As the signature education space in the Gates Center, the 240-seat Amazon Auditorium on the ground floor will host large classes, special lectures, and other events open to the campus community. The adjoining Amazon Gallery is a gathering space for students that also connects the auditorium with nearby instructional spaces such as the 100-seat Brad & Kathy Smith and David & Cathy Habib Classrooms.
The ground floor can be reached via the Anita Borg Grand Stairway, which features views of a revitalized Snohomish Lane and is named for computer engineer Anita Borg, a former UW student and tireless advocate for diversity in computing (including co-founding the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing). Seminar rooms and capstone project rooms are located throughout the building.
The Gates Center is designed to foster a sense of belonging and community, and to support the serendipitous meetings and collaborations that are at the heart of Allen School innovation.
Areas of the building that epitomize these values include the Charles & Lisa Simonyi Undergraduate Commons, a space occupying the east end of the first floor that is set aside especially for Allen School majors and features seating areas, meeting rooms, computer support, and a kitchen; and the Research Commons, a bright, two-story space for faculty, staff, graduate students and guests to congregate and share ideas. Smaller breakout spaces, meeting rooms, and collaboration spaces are to be found throughout the building.
Occupying the entire fourth floor of the building, the event center comprises three distinctive spaces offering sweeping views of the UW campus, Lake Washington, and Mount Rainier.
The signature event space is the Zillow Commons, a flexible venue for workshops, conferences and community-focused events. From the Zillow Commons, visitors can take in the view from the Wilma Bradley Terrace, featuring an outdoor seating area, or admire an installation by sculptor and UW alumnus George Rodriguez (MFA, ‘09) in the Steve & Heather Singh Event Gallery.
In addition to its many student-focused and community spaces, the Bill & Melinda Gates Center is home to a number of laboratory spaces that support Allen School research, including the Center for Neurotechnology, which develops innovative devices for individuals with debilitating neurological conditions; the Center for Game Science, pioneering games for scientific discovery and for education; the UW Reality Lab, a leading center for advancing the state of the art in virtual and augmented reality; the Molecular Information Systems Lab, which explores the intersection of information technology and biology; the Taskar Center for Accessible Technology, which develops, translates and deploys open source universally accessible technologies with a focus on benefiting populations with motor limitations or speech impairment; and a 3,000-square-foot Robotics Laboratory complete with a functioning kitchen to support the development of robots that assist humans with everyday tasks.
Hundreds of Allen School alumni and friends, the local technology community, the University, and the State of Washington came together to support the Bill & Melinda Gates Center, in a campaign led by Microsoft President Brad Smith. And, while Bill and Melinda Gates supported the project generously, the building was named in their honor as a gesture of admiration and gratitude by Microsoft and 13 couples who are long-time friends of the Gateses – exemplifying the wonderful community in which we live.
Join us in celebrating this incredible milestone and what it means for our program, our campus, our region, and the world!
Photo credits: Raphael Gaultier/University of Washington