By Ellis E. Conklin
Back in 1961, when the Cold War was at full throttle and the Hanford Site was home to nine live nuclear reactors spread along the Columbia River, a concrete box with unusually large windows was erected on the UW campus.
It was called the Nuclear Reactor Building, and it was a quintessential example of Brutalist architecture that flourished from the 1950s to the mid-1970s. Often employed in shopping centers and high-rise government housing projects, Brutalist design conveyed strength and functionality.
Deep inside UW’s fortress-like structure, a small, working nuclear reactor was entombed and used to train budding atomic engineers. A silent 1960s video of the building shows young, short-haired students working at various control panels in white laboratory coats.