John V. Christiansen

Honorary Member 2012

John V. "Jack" Christiansen (1927-2017) (BS Architectural Engineering University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana 1949, MCE Northwestern University 1950), worked in Seattle beginning in the early 1950s at W. H. Witt Company, Engineers.  He became a Senior Partner and later President of the firm. During his time at the firm which became known as Skilling, Helle, Christiansen & Robertson, he took part in the design of many significant structures around the Pacific Northwest and beyond.


Among notable projects:  the United States Science Pavilion (shown below, later known as Pacific Science Center) for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, Seattle First National Bank Building, Rainier Bank Tower, Safeco Office Tower, the King County Jail, the Museum of Flight, the Nalley Valley Viaduct, the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, and the Kingdome (demolished 2004).  Beyond Washington, the firm also designed the structure of New York City’s World Trade Center, its twin towers the world's tallest buildings at the time of their construction (destroyed by terrorist attack 9/11/2001).

Jack’s work with thin-shell concrete brought him credit as one of the world’s top thin-shell concrete designers, and numerous scholarly publications document his engineering achievements.  Projects manifesting notable innovations include Seattle's Green Lake Pool, the largest intermediate thin-shell cylindrical barrel in the world at the time of its construction; the Yakima Valley Jr. High School Gymnasium, with the first thin-shell pre-stressed edge beams in the US; the King County Airport Hangar at Boeing Field; the Rivergate Exhibit Facility in New Orleans, recognized for its design; the Federal Building for Expo ’74 in Spokane; the Kingdome, at 661 ft the largest clear span concrete dome in the world and site of the first Structural Engineers' World Congress (SEWC '98); the SunDome Arena in Yakima; and Bainbridge Island High School Grandstand. 

Jack retired from Skilling Helle & Christiansen in 1983, and then taught at the University of Washington as an affiliate professor from 1984 to 1987. From 1988 to 2002, he worked as a consultant and the principal of his own firm located on Bainbridge Island.

Recognition of his career achievements includes his election to the National Academy of Engineers and appointment as a Fellow of the American Concrete Institute and the American Society of Civil Engineers.  In 2012, the Puget Sound Engineering Council named him WSPE Professional Engineer of the Year, citing him as "a leader in pioneering the effective use of thin shell concrete elements in construction."

As part of the 2012 observance of the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World's Fair, SEFW recorded Jack's observations among those of other engineers.
Posted May 2012, updated August 2017