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Mystery Solved: Kieth Nissen Designed the Talisman

By March 10, 2016


For as long as I can remember it has been believed (at least by listing agents) that Space Needle architect John Graham had designed the Talisman, a mid-century condo building on First Hill. However, that changed in 2013 when filmmaker Andy Blubaugh shed doubt on that theory and posited it that it was Kieth Nissen:

According to articles in the Seattle Times from when the Talisman was completed (and when it was sold), it was designed by Keith Nissen (though I’ve also found his name spelled Kieth Nissen). Mr. Nissen also appears to have maintained an office in the building. I also requested the original land use permit from the city, and the company listed as the designer and builder is Viking Associates.

Finally with have confirmation from a former classmate of Kieth’s that it was indeed him. From an email that Grant Jones, emeritus principal of Jones & Jones Architects and affiliate professor of the department of landscape architecture at the University of Washington sent us:

Yes, Keith was the architect. He and Anna were in my architecture class at the UW, the Class of ’61. Bill Campbell was also in the same class. Bill became a contractor-developer right out of school. He may have done a schematic for the building. It was a property developed by someone in his family. However, not being a registered architect yet, he asked his classmate Keith (who passed the State Board on graduation) to finish the design and stamp the drawings. It’s an interesting building, elegant and unique due to Keith.

Sadly we also learned from Grant that Kieth passed away on February 24th:

Seattle architect Kieth Nissen passed away February 24, 2016 from unexpected heart-lung failure subsequent metastasized prostate cancer treatment closing in on remission.

Grant gave us a little more color on Kieth:

He grew up in North Dakota I believe and was one of those kids who could draw who sent in the Wheaties box top with cool drawing and got a job in Detroit at GM. Before he decided to be an architect, he had already designed those backthrusting tail lights for the ’57 chevy. He always threw in a racy car with a good looking woman in the foreground in all his design renderings for class.

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