Breathe runs from August 4 through December 11, 2021 at the Center for Architecture and Design, 1010 Western Ave, Seattle, WA.

Looking to engage with the exhibit virtually? Join us on 10/27 for a Breathe Panel Discussion. Learn more: Events.


As we collectively emerge from a year of isolation and anxiety, and flow out onto streets once again filled with people, it often feels like the world has stopped to take a deep breath. The 2020 pandemic has forced us to reconsider how we relate to the world, how we interact in our working and social lives, and to give more thought to the unconscious act of breathing in. This renewed consciousness of the atmosphere that surrounds us may lead us to consider anew how we move through spaces and how architecture mediates and conditions our experience of the world.

While the threat of viral infection abates, lessons we learned from this intense global experience can better prepare us for an era of climate crisis. Predictions of intense drought and the threat of a record-breaking wildfire season tell us that clean, cool air is not something we can take for granted. The air around us is a constant reminder to pause and reflect on the value of our shared breath and collective experience as we enter a new and uncertain future.


Think of a time when you passed through a constricted threshold that opens up into a vast room. Visualize the sudden spatial release of entering a movie theater or the gallery room at the aquarium - it’s almost as if your senses have to take a moment to catch up.

As we move through space and time the air in our lungs flows, undergoing a precious exchange propelling our bodies from one moment to the next. The movement of air - now more important than ever - has become the standard by which we decide whether or not we can inhabit a space. It determines if we can go back to our offices for work and if children can return to school. As you review this exhibit, consider how flow can describe something intangible, spatial, or physical. How do these experiences affect how we move through the world, and how the world moves through and around us?


Have you ever walked into a space or situation and felt a predominant tone or mood? This response is often brought about by an intangible awareness. This atmosphere, in both the literal and nebulous sense, can be shaped by physical space. How does architectural form influence the predominant mood of a place? How does the atmosphere affect your perception of the architecture?

For a moment, consider how the seamless integration of air and light through both the built and natural environments might feel and look. Open-air environs that shift throughout the day and over the seasons can create immersive experiences by eliciting emotional responses to physical surroundings. What impacts do these atmospheres have on both our physical and mental wellbeing?


How have you responded to the disruptions of the past year? We all have our own rhythms, patterns, and habits which become as automatic as breathing - things we do almost without thought. Even after major changes to the status quo, the new normal inevitably becomes routine. When professionals don’t question their assumptions, or simply rely on uninspiring design, then repetitive office plans, monotonous McMansions, and formulaic facades can proliferate.

The pandemic created a rift in our lives, disrupted rhythms and forced us to think and move differently in a world that was familiar, yet changed. Streets became playgrounds, homes became schools and offices, and parks became vaccination sites. Spaces were transformed to serve new needs.

During quarantine we developed a new normal, exchanging one set of patterns for another, often under great stress. As we emerge from quarantine into yet another new normal, now is the time to stop and reflect on our experiences; both prior to quarantine and during. What parts do we want to leave behind? What do we want to take with us?

Thank you to our sponsors who make exhibits like this possible!

Platinum Sponsors

Gold Sponsor: AHT Insurance


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