Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center

Location Seattle, Washington
Design Principal Alan Maskin
Principal Stephen Yamada-Heidner

The vision behind the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center is to educate, inspire, and motivate people through storytelling—sharing the work of others who are focused on improving the lives of people around the globe. Through interactive exhibits, visitors can investigate some of the challenges facing the world, learn how people are tackling those problems, and explore their own ideas and solutions to challenges that matter to them.

The experience begins outside the building on the sidewalk with provocations and informational exhibits stretching along the glazed street façade of the building. Views into the building reveal exhibits situated along a ramp that parallels the sidewalk, which in turn, opens to the galleries beyond.

Alan Maskin Design Principal

Inside, a series of five galleries lead the visitor through an exploration of the foundation’s history and interactive investigations (mechanical and digital) designed to inspire action: the galleries include the Voices Gallery, Family & Foundation Gallery, Partnerships Gallery, a theater, and the Innovation & Inspiration Gallery.

The galleries and exhibits are organized through a system of large, free-standing steel armatures; exhibits plug into the armature framework unifying the aesthetic throughout the exhibit and facilitating the potential for future change.

Each gallery tells a chapter of the foundation’s story through hands-on experiences. In the Family & Foundation gallery an interactive time line describes efforts to date, with a portion left blank for future endeavors. Visitors can also spin a wooden globe to see the foundation’s geographical reach appear on a digital world map. They can even design their own foundations: they type in ideas, which are then displayed on a digital wall as permanent part of the exhibition.

The design was inspired by the Foundation’s belief that “Today’s problems are solvable.” As a result, natural light, recycled materials and both high tech digital and low tech mechanical interactives act as methods to engage visitors.

Alan Maskin Design Principal

By integrating a hierarchy of scale, space and material into the exhibits, the design brings dimensionality and attention to the many people and partners touched by the foundation in discrete, easily understood segments. With an emphasis on ideas—the design seeks to create a personal relationship between the visitor and the mission and work of the foundation and those it supports.



Design Principal

Alan Maskin

Project Manager

Marlene Chen

Project Architect (TI)

Michael Picard

Project Architect (Exhibit Design)

Blair Payson

Interior Designer

Charlie Hellstern



AAM Awards, Excellence in Exhibition Label Writing

AIGA (re)design awards, AIGA (re)design Award

Communication Arts Interactive Design, Winner, Environmental

INSIDE Awards, Display Finalist

Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, Project of the Month: September

SEGD Global Design Awards, Merit Award

World Architecture Festival, Display Finalist

World Interiors News Annual Awards, Finalist, Museum & Exhibit Design

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