2016 Fall Forum

November 10, 2016

Benaroya Hall, Seattle, WA

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Fall Forum 2016


The SEFW 2016 Fall Forum was a tremendous success! More than 250 people were able to enjoy the reception and lecture, “Engineers, Architects, Builders:  A Legacy of Innovation in the Pacific Northwest.”



SEFW Chair Mark D’Amato of DCI Engineers opened the Forum by recognizing the event’s 32 donors, including Platinum donor DCI Engineers. He recapped some of SEFW’s activities for the past year, including scholarship donations, STEM outreach efforts, and the assistance in creating the SEAW Outreach Committee.


SEFW Vice Chair Dick Hemmen, of DCI Engineers, then introduced the participants in the evening’s presentation:  main presenter Tyler Sprague, Assistant Professor at the University of Washington, and panelists Carla Keel, Carla Keel Group; David Miller, Miller Hull Partnership; Scott Redman, Sellen Construction; and Jon Siu, City of Seattle. Also, the organizers and audiences were very pleased to have a special guest attend:  former Washington Governor and U.S. Senator Dan Evans, a career structural engineer who was involved in the design and construction of the viaduct, among other local projects.


Engineer and Historian Tyler Sprague, PhD., opened the Forum with a brief presentation on several eras of Pacific Northwest building history. He described “Local Concrete, Local Expertise" (1910-  1940), “New Demands, New Analysis” (1940-1965), and “Modern Structure, Modern Architecture"



In “Local Concrete, Local Expertise, ” Sprague described how the Northwest first developed its own structural engineering expertise, focused around reinforced concrete.  Through new modes of production, advanced building codes, and innovative engineers, Seattle experienced a boom in reinforced concrete skyscrapers – including the 42-story Smith Tower. Additionally, engineer Homer Hadley pushed concrete in new directions, resulting in many innovative bridges and his crowning achievement, the floating bridge in Lake Washington.


In “New Demands, New Analysis,” the audience learned how the Tacoma Narrows Bridge failure ushered in a time of focused study on lateral forces at the UW.  Like those used for Boeing airplanes, a wind tunnel was built at the UW to test how structures behaved during high winds.  Also during this time the SEAW itself was established to address earthquake safety. Raymond Clough, a graduate of the UW, started his career at Boeing but then worked on dams in eastern Washington – a range of experience that led to a very significant analytical tool:  finite element analysis. The Space Needle was built during this time, utilizing this new understanding of wind and earthquake analyses, setting the stage for a new era in tall building design.


The “Modern Structure, Modern Architecture” section described how the advanced structural engineering of the region began to make its way into the modern architecture of the region. There was a newfound freedom of design where architectural thinking was supported by structural thinking. The Anderson brothers in Tacoma developed pre-stressed concrete technologies, and Jack Christiansen perfected thin-shelled concrete. Christiansen’s work culminated in the Seattle Kingdome – the largest thin-shell concrete dome in the world which he called his “symphony in concrete.” The Kingdome supported professional baseball, football, and other events, and was Seattle’s ticket to becoming a big-time city. Much changed for Seattle, as much continues to change.


Together, these scenes described the legacy of collaborative innovation that structural engineers in Seattle are now part of.  After Sprague’s remarks, the panelists, as well at Sen. Evans, joined him on stage for a discussion on the Seattle building industry, then and now. The group also took questions from the audience. One of the most enlightening parts of the conversation was when each panelist shared his or her favorite Seattle building, or perhaps the building that defines the Seattle landscape best. David Miller said Safeco Field, for its structurally expressive, “muscular,” innovative design; Carla Keel said Columbia Tower, for her memories working on the design team; Scott Redman said Olympic Sculpture Park, for the fascinating puzzle that it was to create the public space; Jon Siu said the Seattle Public Library, for its unique architectural and structural challenges; and Dan Evans said the floating bridges, for their design but also his experiences in Olympia funding them and maintaining them.


It was a real treat having Sen. Evans attend. Evans, who has both and bachelor’s and master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Washington, worked on the viaduct while with the firm Gray and Evans. He then began a political career, serving as Washington State Representative (1957-1965), Washington State Governor (1965-1977), and United States Senator (1983-1989). He brought a unique point of view to the panel, and any conversation that describes the history of building and engineering in Seattle should certainly include Dan Evans.


The event was enlightening to all who attended!

About our speakers:

Tyler Sprague, Assistant Professor and Adjunct Professor, University of Washington:  A structural engineer and a historian, Tyler teaches courses in structural design & architectural history within the departments of Architecture and Civil and Environmental Engineering.  His research investigates the intersection of architecture and structural engineering in modern architecture.


Carla Keel, Principal, Carla Keel Group:  Carla is a veteran structural engineer who started in the industry when being a woman in engineering was rare. She created her own firm in 1988 after spending  10 years learning from mentors such as John Skilling, Jack Christiansen, and Jon Magnusson.


David Miller, Founding Partner, Miller Hull Partnership:  After time in the Peace Corps and working for an architecture firm in Chicago, David started the Miller Hull Partnership with Bob Hull in Seattle in 1977. Since that time the firm has achieved extensive recognition for its design, individuals, and programs, including many awards from the local and national American Institute of Architects. David has been a full Professor in the UW Department of Architecture since 2001 and served as Chair from 2007 to 2015.


Scott Redman, President, Sellen Construction:  Scott has been involved with Sellen for most of his life, starting as a laborer on various projects. After working in local and national politics and government for several years, he joined the firm full time in 1992 and today serves as the company’s president. Over the years, he has served as principal-in-charge on many of Sellen’s notable projects.


Jon Siu, Principal Engineer, Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections:  Jon serves as the Principal Engineer/Building Official at the City of Seattle, a position he has held for the last 15 of the 32 years he has been with the City.  He also serves as the director of SDCI’s emergency response program.  Jon has served on many national code and standards development committees through ASCE, ICC, and ICBO.


About our supporters:

Thank you to the more than 30 firms sponsored the Forum, while 15 cooperating organizations provided publicity and support for the successful event.




DCI Engineers




Cary Kopczynski & Company

Coffman Engineers





CT Engineering


GLY Construction

Integrus Architecture

KPFF Consulting Engineers

Lane Powell

Lease Crutcher Lewis

Magnusson Klemencic Associates

PCS Structural Solutions

Reid Middleton

Seattle Structural

Smith & Huston

TY Lin International

Wetherholt & Associates





BTL Engineering

Contech Services

CG Engineering

DeWalt (Powers)

Douglas Engineering

Mark and Linda D'Amato

Mayes Testing Engineers

Hall & Company

MLA Engineering

PCL Construction

Quantum Consulting Engineers

Shannon and Wilson

Turner Construction

Verco Decking




ACE Mentor Program of Washington

American Council of Engineering Companies of Washington

American Institute of Architects, Seattle Chapter

American Institute of Architects, Spokane Chapter

American Society of Civil Engineers, Seattle Section

Masonry Institute of Washington

Northwest Cement Council

Northwest Concrete Masonry Association

Seattle Architecture Foundation

Seattle University Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Structural Engineers Association of Washington

University of Washington Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Urban Land Institute

Washington Aggregates & Concrete Association

Washington Association of Building Officials

Washington STEM





2016 FORUM