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Unlike other more traditional bell towers, the carillon on Kane Hall has a simple structure to complement the brutalist architecture of the building. Thank to the efforts of a UW alumnus, the carillon now houses bells hanging on steel beams. The bells will be exposed to the elements, visible to anyone who walks by.

Red Square is home to some of the UW’s most iconic views: the gothic architecture of Suzzallo Library, the Broken Obelisk, the vista of Mount Rainier, and a peek at the world-famous cherry blossoms. 

Upon returning to campus in the fall, students may have noticed a new addition to the area. Perched on top of a Kane Hall ventilation shaft, the structure for a new set of bells is taking shape. 

These new Kane Hall bells are the second bell donation by Gordon Peek, a 92-year-old UW alumnus who graduated with both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, taught history at the UW, and still lives in the Seattle area. 

“His personal passion in life is bells, all kinds of bells,” said Connie Kravas, vice president of university advancement and the main liaison between Peek and the UW. “He has been dedicated to getting these bells onto campus — one of the most beautiful campuses in the country — because he believes that the addition of this music will enhance it all the more.”

Although Peek studied history while at the UW, he is a musician himself and can play carillon bells as well as the organ. Bells have been a lifelong passion for him, and at 92 years old, his dream of installing carillon bells is finally being realized. 

Peek was unavailable for comment on this story.

In the early summer of 2008, Peek’s first donation of bells went to Gerberding Hall on Red Square. This set of eight bells is located inside a traditional bell tower and are rung by “change ringing,” in which a trained team of ringers ring the bells in a controlled manner to produce variations in their striking sequences. 

Throughout the year, they are rung to celebrate university, state, and national events by the University of Washington Change Ringing Society, which meets weekly to practice.

The bells going on top of Kane are called carillons, which are sets of bells installed in a tower and played by use of a keyboard or some other automatic mechanism. 

Peek approached the university several years ago with the dream that the UW could install a carillon somewhere on campus. Visibility was key, and he wanted the bells located in the central campus where the most students would be able to see and enjoy the bells. 

After several locations were considered, the ventilation tower at the east end of Kane was deemed appropriate by both Peek and the university. Safety, accessibility, and the aesthetic of the carillon with respect to the rest of the architecture in Red Square were all key concerns when developing and implementing the design of the structure, according to university architect Rebecca Barnes.

The Seattle architecture firm of SHKS and its principal, David Strauss, were invited by the UW to work with Barnes to produce a design that would meet the above challenges. 

“Time, history, and the perspectives of many observers will ultimately decide the degree of success achieved by this design’s response to the many challenges it had to contend with: visual, aural, architectural, regulatory, financial, and others,” Barnes said. 

The bells themselves were cast by the Royal Eijsbouts Bell Foundry in the Netherlands, a foundry established in 1872 that is world renowned for its creations, particularly clock towers. 

The bells arrived on campus Nov. 3 and installation began Nov. 4, according to Josh McGaffey, the manager of the project from BNBuilders. In total, the project is estimated to cost a little over $1 million, all paid for by Peek’s foundation, the Gordon Stuart Peek Foundation. 

The bells are now installed in the tower and have been rung a few times over the past few weeks.

“This is a wonderful story of a person with passion,” Kravas said of Peek and the bells. “His dedication gave [the university] something that can really enhance the physical and aesthetic quality of the campus.”

Reach News Editor Molly Quinton at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @molly_quinton 

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