Seattle, situated on a strip of land between Puget Sound and Lake Washington, is a port city borne of its rich topography and connections with the sea, rivers, lakes and forests. Historically a lumbering town, Seattle is today a wealthy center of manufacturing, software development and leading technology industries. The pioneering architecture that has sprung forth from Seattle in recent years is particularly residential in focus, with firms producing outstanding work for single and multi-family homes on sites enveloped by forests, mountains and waterways. As a generational body of work, Seattle’s recent architecture is notable for its integration with the landscape, for the expression of natural materials in harmony with the surroundings, for experiments with tectonics, and for elevating finely-detailed construction to a precise and eloquent art form. Selected here are 25 of the most notable architecture firms operating out of Seattle today:
1. Olson Kundig
Olson Kundig’s wide-ranging work includes residences, museums and exhibition designs, hospitality projects, commercial projects, academic buildings, interior design, landscape design and places of worship. The firm is led by 14 owners and a staff of over 300. The firm’s projects are widely recognized for their attention to detail and explorations with natural materials. Its portfolio includes the Delta Shelter, a 1,000 ft² steel-clad cabin on stilts, located in the forests of Washington State.
LMN Architects specializes in the planning and design of significant public and private facilities, including convention centers, cultural arts venues, education facilities, office, multi-family residential, hospitality mixed-use developments and other urban environments that celebrate and enrich communities. Founded in 1979, LMN has earned an international reputation for design excellence, sustainable solutions, practice innovation and the successful delivery of complex projects. The firm is the recipient of the 2016 AIA National Firm Award. Its portfolio includes Founders Hall at the University of Washington, which features a mass timber structure.
Shed is a full-service architecture firm working on projects ranging from custom homes, remodels and commercial interiors, to landscape, furniture and conceptual designs. Shed seeks thoughtful solutions that embody the qualities of economy, beauty and craft, and believes in architecture that solves problems. In partnership with its clients, consultants and contractors, the design team strives to realize work that is resource efficient, pragmatic and original. The office has completed projects such as Capitol Hill House, a metal- and timber-clad residence in central Seattle with expansive windows topped by protective metal ‘visors’ that protrude from the home’s box-like volumes.
ZGF Architects is a firm with a focus on architecture, interior design, and urban design. Founded in Portland, Oregon, the firm has grown to include offices in Seattle, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, New York, and Vancouver. ZGF’s design philosophy is centered on the premise that design excellence should be reflected in each and every aspect of a building – its fit with the community, its function and relationship to its users, its building systems, and its cost. The firm’s design portfolio ranges from transportation terminals, commercial office and mixed-use developments to corporate campuses, healthcare and research buildings, academic facilities, libraries and museums.
Graham Baba Architects is a Seattle-based architecture firm recognized for commercial spaces, residences and cultural venues, with an emphasis on urban interventions and adaptive reuse projects. Though based in the Pacific Northwest, the firm works on projects across the United States. Among the studio’s notable projects is Chophouse Row, a cultural center created from a collection of contiguous properties within a single block in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.
Founded in 1999, Heliotrope has gained acclaim for a portfolio of residential and commercial commissions. Named after the heliotrope flower of myth, which orients itself towards the sun, the studio turns towards the idea that there is always an intangible ‘something’ that makes an exceptional place. It has completed outstanding residential projects such as Suncrest Residence, a home located in a rocky clearing on a pristine, forested site in Seattle with views to the sea.
Founded in 1977 by David Miller and Robert Hull, partners with a defining background in the Peace Corps, The Miller Hull Partnership is strongly influenced by site and environmental conditions. The heart of its work is understanding the power of natural surroundings. Its legacy of environmentally responsible buildings is inspired by the efficiency and elegance of passive systems and regional materials. The studio leverages the openness and flexibility of modernist form to celebrate connections inside and out. Its portfolio includes the Pike Place MarketFront, a new community space that complements the culture and spirit of a famed market destroyed in the 1970s by a fire. The new design consists of an open-air structural steel framed pavilion, expressing an industrial language in a series of spaces framed by lightness and transparency.
goCstudio is an innovative architecture and design studio founded by Jon Gentry and Aimée O’Carroll in 2012. The studio strives for design excellence and brings an internationally diverse background of experiences to each endeavor. Its work is driven by a collaborative process that responds to the specifics of each unique project rather than imposing a uniform design style. With over a decade of combined experience on unique residential and commercial projects, construction, and product design, goCstudio’s work purposefully engages various scales with the same attitude and process. It has completed projects such as the Wa Sauna, a floating sauna designed for Seattle’s lakes.
Lead by partners Ian Butcher, Kailin Gregga and Kip Katich, Best Practice is a team of eight architects and designers that has actively been pursuing challenging and creative work in and around the Pacific Northwest since 2011. Its roster of projects is 60% commercial and 40% residential. The studio’s portfolio includes Shed-O-Vation, the conversion of an existing backyard storage shed into a home office and multi-functional exercise studio, to provide a family with a work-from-home space during the pandemic.
mwworks is a Seattle-based design studio offering architectural and interior design services to residential and commercial clients. Formed in 2007, the office remains small, focused on compelling, collaborative projects of all scales. Its work is guided by a commitment to the strength of the idea and a passion for the tangibles of material and detail. The studio brings an honest, straightforward approach to its projects, uniquely informed by circumstance, process, and ultimately the act of building itself. Its portfolio includes Little House – a small, secondary residence situated on a north-facing bluff overlooking a bay, and clad in taut oxidized black cedar and blackened cement infill panels.
Founded in 1943, NBBJ has locations in Boston, Columbus, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, New York, Portland, Pune, San Francisco, Seattle, Shanghai and Washington, D.C. Its global network includes more than 800 researchers, strategists, nurses, architects, planners and interior designers who generate ideas that have a profound and lasting impact. Named among the most innovative architecture firms by Fast Company three times in the past five years, NBBJ has partnered with like-minded companies including Google, Amazon, Samsung and Microsoft, and institutional clients such as University of Cambridge, Cleveland Clinic, Massachusetts General Hospital and Stanford University.
SOM is one of the leading architecture, interior design, engineering, and urban planning firms in the world. Since its founding more than 80 years ago, SOM has earned a reputation for design excellence with a portfolio that includes some of the most important architectural accomplishments of the 20th and 21st centuries, and has been a leader in the research and development of specialized technologies, new processes and innovative ideas, many of which have had a palpable and lasting impact on the design profession and the physical environment. SOM maintains an office in Seattle and has completed regional projects such as the International Arrival Facility at Seattle’s Sea–Tac airport, which features the world’s largest aerial walkway.
Stuart Silk Architects is an architecture and interiors firm known for the design of bespoke site-specific residences and commercial buildings that stand the test of time. Serving clients throughout the Puget Sound region and across the country, it believes in the power of design to positively impact lives and enhance our built environment. For over thirty years the studio has pursued an approach that adheres to the foundational principles of functionality, proportion and craft. Its projects include Hidden Cove Residence, a home that merges interior with exterior on a forested site with sweeping views to Lake Washington and the Cascade Mountains.
Mithun’s team of architects, interior designers, landscape architects, urban designers and planners are working to inspire a sustainable world through leadership, innovation and integrated design. A national leader in sustainable design and urbanism since 1949, Mithun looks for and finds connections – the universal in the specific, and ways to balance the human and natural worlds. Its work is an innovative blend of design, technology and nature, and it strives to create places that excel in beauty, spirit and performance. Mithun’s portfolio includes the Sustainability Treehouse, an interactive scouting facility of stepped indoor and outdoor platforms, situated on a forested site on a reserve in West Virginia, and which serves as an icon of high-performance building design.
Since its founding in 1998, Runberg Architecture Group has earned a name for thoughtful architectural design that balances the unique social, economic and environmental interests of each project. Runberg designs sustainable mixed-use urban environments where people want to be – vibrant, engaging places that create high and enduring value for its clients and communities. Its portfolio includes Sitka, a new multifamily project located in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood.
Prentiss Balance Wickline Architects pursues balance: between natural and built environments, between a client’s vision and real world parameters, between beauty and utility. While the office’s epicenter remains in the Pacific Northwest, its work can be found throughout the US, identified by a pattern of practices and perspectives that represent the studio’s approach and quality. Natural light is wisely engaged to define, illuminate and enhance space. Challenging terrain is gauged and expressed to its fullest potential.
17. SkB Architects
SkB Architects is a studio that creates meaningful, sensory-rich environments for individuals, corporate clients, retailers, developers and culturally-connected communities. Based in Seattle and with projects found the world over, the diversity of the firm’s practice allows ideas from different project types to cross-pollinate and influence one another, ultimately leading to more comprehensive and informed design solutions. The firm is driven by the idea that thoughtful, insightful and creative design has the power to enrich people’s lives.
18. Wittman Estes
Wittman Estes is a Seattle-based collaboration between architect Matt Wittman and landscape designer Jody Estes, founded on the idea that buildings and landscapes could be combined into one interconnected whole. The office is known for innovative designs for custom residential spaces, energy positive prefabricated housing, multifamily housing and the design of sensitive ecological sites. Its projects include Whispering Firs, a new residence in Washington carefully placed within a mature fir tree grove and between wetland boundaries.
Fivedot is a collaborative architecture and design firm based in Seattle. It believes that architecture is the backdrop to life, and sees each project as an opportunity for collaboration. Fivedot works closely with its clients throughout the design and construction process to provide effective and thoughtful design solutions to today’s complicated challenges. Sustainability is woven throughout its approach and is considered from the beginning to the end of each project, which range in type from homes and cabins to institutional work such as educational facilities, libraries and community health clinics.
Robert Hutchison Architecture is an architecture studio based in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle. Its portfolio includes work at all scales, from small residences to large institutional projects. It believes that architecture should be beautiful, practical and economical, and that this can only occur through a collaboration between client, builder and architect. The firm balances architectural commissions with research and installation projects.
Vandeventer + Carlander Architects, founded in 1998, is a design-oriented practice that provides a full range of architectural services. It has striven to produce architecturally innovative projects that both exceed client expectations and prove the value of good design. The firm’s approach to design is founded in appropriateness and as such does not promote an identifiable style. Its projects include Floating Home, an outboard slip constructed on concrete floats on Lake Union in Seattle.
22. Mutuus Studio
Founded in 2016 by Kristen Becker, Jim Friesz and Saul Becker, Mutuus Studio is a Seattle-based studio known for its refined architecture, interiors and objects that blend into one immersive environment. The firm takes on a broad range of design projects from residential and commercial projects to hospitality and artist collaboration projects. Its namesake Mutuus is a latin word for ‘mutual / exchange’ and reinforces the studio philosophy that design is inherently collaborative and mutually beneficial. Mutuus sees its clients and builders as true collaborators.
Chadbourne + Doss Architects was established in 2001 by Lisa Chadbourne and Daren Doss. With differing backgrounds, experiences and design perspectives, the pair works together in genuine collaboration that is enlightened, investigative and thoughtful. The office takes a holistic approach to creating unique environments that are relevant to their place and deeply responsive to clients’ needs and desires. Its portfolio includes Wood Block Residence, the reconstruction of a home on Mercer Island designed by the iconic Seattle architect, Fred Bassetti.
The work of Johnston Architects is inspired by context and infused with an authentic sense of place derived from the surrounding landscape, cultural ecosystem, urban fabric and the broader needs of each community. The studio has completed projects ranging in type from single and multi-family housing to civic, education, hospitality and urban planning. Its portfolio includes New Caelifera, a private home set in a rural valley in Washington, designed as a steel shell sheltering a pavilion of glass and cedar.
Suyama Peterson Deguchi was established in 1971 and today is led by George Suyama, Ric Peterson, Jay Deguchi and Chris Haddad. The firm specializes in northwest contemporary design and offers a comprehensive range of services from architecture to interiors and furniture design. It has completed projects such as River House, a home of expressed planes and volumes set on an elongated concrete wall and topped by a cantilevered shed roof.
The selection curated by the Archello editorial team is based on a combination of the amount of featured projects and the views they generated.