The new Wagner Education Center at South Lake Union. Photo courtesy of Emil Anderson.

After more than four decades of operating from its tiny boathouse on the shores of South Lake Union, The Center for Wooden Boats (CWB) is preparing to launch their new 9,200 square foot Wagner Education Center. Named after founders Dick and Colleen Wagner, the facility recently completed construction and the programs and exhibits have settled into their new home. They are inviting the public to help them celebrate with a grand opening weekend-long celebration, Saturday March 23 and Sunday March 24, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday.

The new facility is located between the old facility adjacent to MOHAI on the Lake Union waterfront and Valley Street, and will allow CWB to offer more programs and classes, preserve more boats and host larger events. The existing floating boathouse and boatshop will continue to offer waterfront programs and exhibits.

Photo courtesy of Emil Anderson.

“The Wagner Education Center is a stunning new building that connects the region’s maritime heritage with the fast-moving present,” said Brandt Faatz, executive director, CWB. “We’re a hands-on maritime museum. We encourage people to come down and touch the artifacts, to learn about history and to learn skills by becoming part of the place. We look forward to welcoming the Seattle community to our new facility.”

In addition to the opportunity to tour and experience the Olson Kundig-designed facility and view boat restoration projects, complimentary activities will include:

  • Free boat rides: volunteer skippers will take passengers out on Lake Union on sprit boats, steamboats, electric boats, schooners, ketches, yawls, and other historic yachts
  • Sign a Sail: guests can help make history by signing a commemorative sail which will then be kept on display at CWB
  • Classic Yacht Exposition: a collection of classic wooden yachts – many built on Lake Union – will be on display and open to tour
  • Canoe Carving Demonstration: Saaduuts Robert Peele, canoe carver and member of the Haida tribe, will be carving a traditional canoe all weekend long
  • Try a Tool: visitors can try their hand at using traditional hand tools to experience cutting a dovetail, carving a mortise, planing, or even pounding some nails, and learning about the skills involved in wooden boat restoration
  • Toy Boat Building and Model Boat Building for kids ages 3-9
  • Paddle Decorating for kids ages 3-9
  • Scavenger Hunt: everyone in the family can explore CWB, collect stamps and be eligible for a prize

About the Wagner Education Center

Designed by award-winning Seattle architects Olson Kundig, CWB’s new Wagner Education Center houses an upstairs classroom, sail loft and event space with views of Lake Union, new gallery and exhibit spaces downstairs. It boasts a boat shop designed to house the restoration of the museum’s largest boats, as well as the construction of new boats from historic designs. The design features a material palette of wood, glass and steel, and just like on a boat, every inch of space and every feature is designed to provide the highest function.

Designed for passive cooling, the building has no air conditioning. The occupants interact with it as they would a boat. A movable exterior shade system is designed to minimize solar heat gain in the summer and maximize it in the winter. The building’s large operable doors, windows and skylights are designed to naturally ventilate the building, which is done by hand. This mirrors the central tenet of sailing: that one must work with natural forces to make adjustments to optimize performance. The building is also solar powered by 135 roof-mounted photovoltaic panels. CWB teaches by example how to harness the natural forces of the wind and the sun, and CWB will benefit from lower electrical energy operating costs enabling it to direct more resources to programs for youth and adults.

“The Center for Wooden Boats has played a critical role in educating the public not just about boats, but about the value of craft and the forces of nature that surround us. At their core, the boats represent the harnessing of natural forces using only the power of human hands. The new building seeks to reinvigorate this mission and reintroduce the public to the beautifully complex craft of wooden boats.” –Tom Kundig, Olson Kundig, FAIA, RIBA