Ibsen Nelsen, FAIA (1915-2001)
From Nebraska's Dust Bowl to Seattle's Museum Of Flight
Born in Ruskin, Nebraska in 1919 to a Danish immigrant father who worked as a cabinet maker, Nelsen brought his family west to escape the dust bowl. Like many of his generation, he served in WWII (1941-46) in the Pacific, earning a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. After the War, he attended the University of Oregon where he earned his degree in architecture in 1951 before moving to Seattle where he worked briefly for NBBJ Architects.
In 1953, at age 34, Nelsen opened his own practice in the University District. Soon he took on Russell Sabin as a partner, forming Nelsen & Sabin, which operated in 1954-1960. It was Nelsen & Sabin who was responsible for Bali Modern House. The firm later became Nelsen, Sabin & Varey (1961-67).
Nelsen worked with the belief that young veterans returning from service in WWII deserved a well-designed family home. As a contributor to the Home Plan Bureau, he contributed residential designs of good quality accessible to those less than affluent. Homes that he designed appeared frequently in the early decades of the AIA Home of the Month program which began publication in The Seattle Times in 1954. His best known projects include Seattle’s Museum of Flight (1975-87), the Inn at the Market in the Pike Place Market (1975-82), and the Merrill Court townhouses (1981-86). Nelsen’s own home (1986-90) on Vashon Island, which he called "Island Farm", recalls the Danish farmhouses of his forebears. Nelsen's civic involvement was extensive and centered upon historic preservation and urban renewal in Seattle. He became a Fellow of The American Institute of Architects in 1981 and received the AIA Seattle Gold Medal in In 1989.
Source: Docomomo WEWA
IBSEN NELSEN PROJECTS