Welcome sign greets visitors in dozens of languages: Display resulted from city partnering with architecture students

As featured in the Daily Evergreen, September 24, 2018

As distant and local travelers enter Pullman on Davis Way, the word “Welcome” will greet them in 60 different languages ranging from Indonesian to French.

There will also be a big “Welcome to Pullman” sign with the names of sponsors for the project by the end of the month, Mayor Glenn Johnson said. A paved drive-thru will be included in the area, as well as a bus stop.

The $200,000 sign was partially funded by donations from groups including the Pullman Chamber of Commerce, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories and Asif Chaudhry, the WSU International Programs vice president, Johnson said.

The 60 languages were chosen specifically because they were the most common languages teachers in Pullman dealt with from elementary, junior and high school levels, he said.

WSU architecture students approached Johnson in 2012 and asked if there could be a contest among architectural students to benefit the city, he said. He decided to base the competition off of a welcome sign in various languages.

“When my wife and I were visiting the Mediterranean, we got into Croatia,” he said. “I remember seeing this billboard with the word welcome in all these different languages.”

Johnson and architecture professor Gregory Kessler provided a monetary award to the winning team and their idea was used to build the welcome sign, he said.

The location for the sign used to have a different kind of marker, Johnson said.

“When we first came into town, there was an old building on the left hand side that at one time was Burgerville,” Johnson said. “People used to joke about [it and said] ‘Oh yeah, we missed Pullman because we just saw Burgerville.’ ”

The sign is also a relatively new idea for city planners, said Ruth Younce, professional engineer and project designer.

“Nobody else had a project like this at the city that I work with right now,” she said. “I was just trying to figure stuff out [that] nobody else [has] ever figured out.”

Younce also had to redesign the winning team’s idea to make sure it met building requirements and ensure the sign would stand up to local weather conditions, she said.

A lot of research was put into figuring out the languages and making sure words were accurate, Younce said, and finalizing the international words on the signs proved to be a challenge.

“We had some people arguing back and forth as to which was the right one,” she said.

Another obstacle faced during the construction was that some workers were trying to finish the Evolve on Main apartments while the sign was being built so work was slowed down, Johnson said.

“If you could’ve seen my smile yesterday when we sat back and looked at all those signs,” Johnson said, “it was radiating.”