Today, one of the most important aspects of this now-abandoned building is its style of construction. The building was designed with open-glass walls so that students could look upon the important work being done inside. The building's use of a relatively obscure architectural style known as brutalism helped to place the structure on the National Register of Historical Places.
Brutalism involved the use of poured concrete within wooden frames, a technique that was only used in a handful of campus buildings during this era. The building's open structure was meant to make the science more available to the public. In a time of great skepticism regarding the loyalty of universities, their students, and professors, the University of Washington hoped that the open design of the building and the nuclear science programs held withing would demonstrate their commitment to winning the Cold War.
The building held classrooms, reactors, and spectroscopy elements. Given its location in the midst of an urban campus, the reactor operated at very low levels and temperatures in order to prevent accidents. Only one accident ever occurred at the building and it was not fatal.
By 1980s, fewer students pursued programs related to nuclear engineering as the Cold War came to an end and nuclear energy plants faced skepticism and tougher regulations. In 1988, the reactor closed and the department was discontinued. In 2008, university officials planned the demolition of the building, which many considered an eyesore, until a group of students worked to place the structure on the National Register of Historical Places.