“Retail work has been the history of this firm,” says Mitchell Smith, president of MulvannyG2 Architecture, Bellevue, Wash. “Retail business focuses on return and it is aggressive. Our firm has an aligned philosophy. We enjoy the quick-hitting nature of retail, as well as the challenge of it.”

Smith joined MulvannyG2 in 1991 with 14 years of architecture experience under his belt. After coming to MulvannyG2 he worked as a project manager for two years, became a partner in the firm in 1993 and then president in 1998.

This year, Smith will preside over the firm as it celebrates its 30th anniversary — and there is much to celebrate. In April MulvannyG2 moved to new corporate headquarters on a 480,000-sq.-ft. campus consisting of three six-story buildings, which the company designed. Coinciding with the move was an official name change, from Mulvanny Architects to MulvannyG2 Architecture. The change was made in an effort to reflect the firm's increased size and professional focus due to its 1999 merger with G2 Architecture, a Seattle-based firm known for its office design. Financially, the firm is in its prime. Gross revenues increased from $27.8 million in 1999 to $40 million in 2000. For the 2001 fiscal year, the company conservatively anticipates a 10% to 15% increase above that mark. At 30 years, it appears MulvannyG2 is still growing.

The early years

Founded in Seattle in 1971 by Doug Mulvanny, it didn't take long before the firm experienced its first growth spurt. In 1982 it moved to Bellevue, and two years later opened its first branch offices in Portland, Ore., and Boston. The ensuing years saw a line of mergers and acquisitions for the still-young company. Ing & Associates and Alfred Croonquist Architects joined Mulvanny in 1995.

The following year Bittman Vammen Taylor — the oldest architecture firm in Seattle — also joined the ranks, which by then had grown to 80 employees. By 1999, the firm opened offices in Washington, D.C., and Taipei, Taiwan. Today, MulvannyG2 employs 320 people, including 90 licensed architects, qualifying it as the 25th largest architectural firm in the United States.

“We focus internally on who we are as people,” says Smith. “A lot of companies focus on their image. But our business culture is really about people and relationships, and that philosophy extends externally.”

“What differentiates us from big commercial firms is we are still in the process of being formed,” adds David Kofahl, design principal with the firm. “A lot of companies fall into the institutional trap whereas we remain entrepreneurial in spirit. It's exciting to go into the office in the morning because you never know what you're going to face.”

A diverse approach

That excitement could be due to MulvannyG2's diversification — in terms of both projects and internal synergy. Firm offerings include architecture, master planning, site analysis and design, feasibility studies, due diligence, cost estimating, design, interior design and contract administration.

Those services are divided among several sectors, with retail claiming about 70% of MulvannyG2's business. Twenty percent of projects involve office work, with the remaining 10% split between industrial and miscellaneous projects such as land planning.

Then there's the nearly unheard-of statistic that more than 55% of the company's employees are minorities. Such comprehensive services and global representation ensure dull moments at MulvannyG2 are rare.

Possessing international qualifications both internally and externally, MulvannyG2 has completed projects ranging from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean to China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan and the South Pacific. “Our diverse culture within the firm helps us create design solutions for clients worldwide,” says Smith. “Bringing the right team to the table translates internationally.”

But MulvannyG2 isn't proposing to expand into any new markets for the time being. The goal for now is to expand its depth in the markets it currently serves.

“We're pretty proud of what we've accomplished in the past five years,” concludes Smith. “We used to joke we were a stealth architecture firm in that nobody knew who we were. But we've achieved a 40% growth rate per year. Our goal now is to increase our identification and awareness in the marketplace.”

“Our motto is ‘Design at work,’” adds Kofahl, summing up the firm's business philosophy. “It's the notion of a marketplace, of where people gather and where life is. That's the way we work.”

Stephanie Flack is a Louisville, Colo.-based writer.

Mulvanny factoids

Factoria Town Square

  • What: A 42-acre, mixed-use and enclosed-mall project
  • Where: Bellevue, Wash.
  • When: The master plan, recently approved after 18 months of work and negotiation, will take 10 years to complete and is slated for completion in 2011.
  • Why: “I'd describe this project as new urbanism,” says MulvannyG2's David Kofahl, design principal. “It is neighborhood development that is desperately needed.”
  • Price tag: $100 million
  • New features to the existing 560,000-sq.-ft. facility include: 850 residential units, Structured parking, 100,000 sq. ft. of office space, 75,000 sq. ft. of additional retail space, 35,000-sq.-ft. community center

MulvannyG2 client list
(not inclusive)

  • Boeing Company
  • Borders Books & Music
  • CarrAmerica
  • Costco Wholesale
  • Family Fun Center
  • Graybar Electric
  • Hines
  • Intracorp USA
  • Lowe's Hardware
  • Muckelshoot Indian Tribe
  • Nike
  • Puyallup Indian Tribe
  • Safeway
  • Salvation Army
  • Unigard Insurance Corp.
  • United Parcel Service
  • Worldco Corp./Factoria Mall