Carolyn Geise, Architect and
Community-Builder

Carolyn in a recent photo

A Queen Anne resident since 1980, architect Carolyn Geise has designed homes and housing in Seattle neighborhoods including Queen Anne. A professional activist since her UW architecture student days, when she staffed the American Institute of Architects (AIA Seattle) booth at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, she has taken an active role in neighborhood planning and community development, in and beyond Seattle’s Belltown community.

Born in Olympia as Carolyn Lee Deuter, by age 27 she had climbed Mount Rainier three times, and had worked as a popular cook at Snoqualmie Lodge and as a ski instructor with climbing legend Jim Whittaker. She married and later divorced Jonn Geise, father of their son Matt Geise.

She earned a BA in clothing and textiles from UW, and worked for two years in Seattle’s garment industry, designing clothing. In a news story appearing in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Carolyn recalled that Victor Steinbrueck helped convince her to become an architecture major: “’I was interested in architecture when I first entered the university,’ she explained. “But I decided then architecture was for men and home ec for women.’ She changed her mind after a friend introduced her to Victor Steinbrueck, then a professor of architecture and urban planning.”

After graduating with her UW Architecture degree in 1963, Carolyn worked for architect Ralph Anderson, and then in partnership with Jane Hastings in one of Seattle’s pioneer women-owned design firms.

She established her practice, Geise Architects, located in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood, in 1978. She married Bill Jobe, a Boeing engineer and one of her first clients.

As her practice expanded, she acted as both developer and architect in the reclamation of a 1914 factory building in the area then known as the Denny Regrade. She worked as a volunteer alongside other community members including her son Matt Geise on the much-admired Growing Vine Street project. This development garnered considerable critical and public attention at the time, becoming a keystone for Carolyn’s activism. Of special note, she devoted more than a decade (c. 1995-2005) to the design and re-creation of a unique human and natural community environment in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood, and the 81 Vine Building. The Seattle City Council proclaimed May 2005 as “Carolyn Geise Neighborhood Month,” and designated the plaza at the top of the Cistern Steps in Belltown as CAROLYN GEISE PLAZA. Carolyn’s major contributions as a citizen, architect, and property owner have had a unique influence on the growth explosion in Seattle’s premiere downtown residential neighborhood.

Front of 81 Vine

In another adventure, Carolyn created a retreat center and alpaca farm on Whidbey Island, Maxwelton Aerie.

Geise Architects has maintained a select practice operating at 81 Vine. In addition to several homes on Queen Anne, her projects have encompassed a wide variety of work including notable residential design and facilities for special user groups such as homeless women and emotionally disturbed children. Her community-focused work includes creative and pioneering work with neighborhood planning. Carolyn dedicated 20 years in various capacities to helping establish the University Ave location for the Third Church of Christ, Scientist, for which her design repurposed a commercial building that houses both the church and its welcoming Reading Room, completed in 2015.

Professional Recognition:
Her advancement to the College of Fellows of The American Institute of Architects in 1989 – as the only woman architect among 44 architects in the nation to achieve this honor that year – recognized her public service, her service to the profession, and the inspiration her professional achievement continues to provide to the ever-increasing number of women aspiring to success in the design professions. In recognition of the effectiveness of her contributions to the profession, her colleagues presented her with AIA Seattle’s highest honor, the AIA Seattle Medal, in 2001.

The Geise Home in Queen Anne

References:
*”Designing Women: Female Architects Have Worked Hard to Build Their Careers” (The Seattle Times 1990)
*”Architect Solves Design Puzzles – A Conversation with Carolyn Geise” (The Seattle Times 1993)
*”Natural Home Earth Mover: Carolyn Geise” (Mother Earth Living, 2003)