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AIA Seattle Medalist 1988: Fred Bassetti FAIA

Fred Bassetti, born 1/31/17 in Seattle of Norwegian and Italian immigrant parents, earned the BArch at University of Washington (1942) and the MArch at Harvard University (1946).

Following a brief apprenticeship with Paul Thiry, Fred's Seattle practice began in October 1946, when Perry Johanson hired him to work at NBBJ. Within a few months, he and his then-wife Mary had won first prize in a house design competition sponsored by The Seattle Times, AIA Seattle, and the Seattle Master Builders. On the strength of two clients who asked him to design houses for them based on the resulting publicity, Fred rented a drafting board in the office of Jack Morse (AIA Seattle Medallist 1996), in downtown Seattle. By 1950, the firm of Bassetti & Morse had had its first successes, including Lakeview Elementary School on Mercer Island, recipient of national awards and publications. Employees over the years included Wendell Lovett (AIA Seattle Medallist 1993), Donald Frothingham, and AIA Seattle Honorary Member Astra Zarina. Fred Bassetti recalls that Paul Kirk FAIA (AIA Seattle Medallist 1984) and Bob Durham FAIA (AIA Seattle Medallist 1985) worked down the hall, so that he could hear Paul singing at his drafting table. In 1962, Bassetti and Morse divided into two firms, and Fred Bassetti & Company (later Bassetti Architects) came into existence. Among many notable colleagues of Fred Bassetti & Company: Lee Copeland (AIA Seattle Medallist 2000), Fred Kotter, Folke Nyberg, Al Williams (later WA State Senator), Paul Dermanis, Laurie Olin, Jim Hamilton, Skip Norton, Richard Metler, and Karlis Rekevics.

Notable projects of the firm, to the time of Fred's retirement in the mid-1990s, include the Children's Zoo at Woodland Park, dormitories and libraries at Central and Western Washington State Colleges, buildings at the University of Washington and Washington State University, the 37-story Seattle Federal Building, several buildings at Lakeside School, the US Embassy building in Lisbon (Portugal), the PACCAR Technical Facility at Mount Vernon, the Franklin High School addition-renovation, and the 62-story AT+T Gateway Tower (later Key Tower) – to name projects most recognized by publication and awards.

Throughout the length of his career in architecture, Fred Bassetti has worked with colleagues to advance urban themes for the profession and the community. In one significance instance, his creation and leadership of Action: Better City in the late 1960s, with its enlivening consequences, continues into the present as new generations carry on the civic spirit of the original program.

Among many professional leadership activities, he served as AIA Seattle President in 1967. Other community service includes Allied Arts of Seattle (President), the Seattle Landmarks Commission, and the Seattle Design Commission.

Seattle architects Ralph Anderson, Al Bumgardner FAIA, Ibsen Nelsen FAIA, Fred Bassetti FAIA & Victor Steinbrueck FAIA. Photo by Mary Randlett, 1984.

A world traveler (often by bicycle and in the company of his wife Gwen), Fred has written and lectured extensively throughout the US, including stints at MIT, Columbia, Rice, and the Universities of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia.  In the 1950s, he was asked by the State Department to manage a $4 million Marshall Plan investment in housing projects in Italy, and spent a year in Rome as a housing officer.

In addition to the AIA Fellowship (1968) and the AIA Seattle Medal, Fred has received recognition as an Academician of the National Institute of Design, and nomination (in 1989) for the Pritzker Prize. In 1988, the Seattle Weekly readers voted him "Best Local Architect."

In one of her many notable photographs (above), AIA Seattle Honorary Member Mary Randlett captured five of Seattle's most notable architects – Ralph Anderson, Fred Bassetti, Al Bumgardner (AIA Seattle Medallist 1987), Ibsen Nelsen (AIA Seattle Medallist 1989), Victor Steinbrueck (AIA Seattle Medallist 1985) – in a typical moment of collegial friendship and remarkable combined influence.

In concert with others and as his own man, Fred Bassetti has made a distinct mark as an architect on the shape of Seattle and the Northwest, and on the profession of architecture.


Fred Bassetti FAIA

* Bassetti, "AIA Memories" 10/93
* Oral History: Fred Bassetti 2003


Good design makes a difference

American Institute of Architects

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