Mithun was joined by Gold Medal winner Carol Ross Barney in the awards announcement, which mentioned their ability to bring about positive change through a “holistic, interdisciplinary pursuit of architecture.”
First founded in 1949, the multigenerational firm has grown into a three-office operation and one of the West Coast’s leading names, offering design services that incorporate former University of Washington professor Omer Mithun’s vision for sustainable practice and lasting social impact that smartly engages with emerging technologies and creates a strong mentorship culture in accord with its “one studio, three doors” mantra.
“With a deep belief in design’s ability to change people’s lives and connect them deeply to place, the firm embraces its 70-year history of excellence but remains committed to addressing today’s critical challenges,” the award’s citation reads. “In doing so, Mithun carefully balances three crucial outcomes of a successful modern architecture practice: beautiful design, an eager embrace of sustainability leadership, and commitment to the social contract.”
Notable projects over the years have included early Mid-Century Modern residential designs, several university buildings, the Louisiana Children’s Museum, REI flagship stores in Denver and Seattle, and a 125-foot-tall Sustainability Treehouse for the Boy Scouts of America in West Virginia. The AIA mentioned its early participation in the 2030 Commitment challenge, as well as the development of the coLAB concept and buildcarbonneutral.org design tool. Over the years, the firm has won several AIA COTE Top Ten Awards, and now boasts 11 total net-zero energy buildings in its portfolio, including the 2060 Folsom affordable housing development in San Francisco, which the AIA says has further “distinguished the firm as a leader in the profession.”
“To address today’s most pressing challenges, Mithun realized the need for a new model of a silo-smashing architectural practice,” the citation reads finally. “That thinking is embedded in every facet of the firm’s operations; for example, it resisted forming internal design studios so that ideas can be shared more broadly across its practice. With all design disciplines working closely together, Mithun has produced an authentic body of work that is steeped in place and community rather than the vision of a single designer. This, too, has shaped a new breed of architect: an inspirational collaborator and listener rather than an all-knowing designer.”
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