Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects has received the American Institute of Architects’ 2009 AIA Architecture Firm Award. The distinction is based on the Seattle firm’s thirty-five years of consistently excellent work, including its seamless blending of architecture, art, and craft; community involvement; attention to sustainable design; and nurturing of in-house talent.
The annual AIA Architecture Firm Award – often referred to as the “Firm of the Year” award – is the highest honor the AIA bestows on an architecture firm and recognizes a practice that consistently has produced distinguished architecture for at least ten years.
Principals Jim Olson, FAIA; Rick Sundberg, FAIA; Tom Kundig, FAIA; Scott Allen, AIA; Kirsten Murray, AIA and Alan Maskin are known for their hands-on project involvement; deliberate efforts to share their knowledge with firm members, students, interns, and clients; and intense collaboration with artists and craftspeople.
The firm’s commitment to sustainable design finds its roots in the firm Olson founded in Seattle in 1971, which he based on two principles: buildings can serve as a bridge between nature and culture, and inspiring surroundings have a positive effect on people’s lives. Carrying that concept into the firm, the principals remain committed to a democratic and populist office culture.
Known primarily for their integration of Modern forms that blend artfully into remote, natural settings of the Pacific Northwest, the firm’s work is also adept at creating dynamic urban environments.
“Their residential work in particular reveals a fascination with craft and the material properties of architecture,” wrote Mark Robbins, dean of the Syracuse University School of Architecture in a recommendation letter. “Levers, racks, gears, out-sized hinges, and wall-size shutters improbably glide into place to frame sublime natural vistas. The dual American obsession of industry and nature are summed up immaculately in the smallest folly.”
Among more than sixty-five regional and national awards winners are:
• The Delta Shelter, Washington State, 2008 AIA National Honor Award
• The Brain, Seattle, 2004 AIA National Honor Award
• Chicken Point Cabin, Northern Idaho, 2003 AIA Northwest Region Honor Award
• Frye Art Museum, Seattle, 1997 AIA Seattle Honor Award
• Pike & Virginia Building, Seattle, 1979 AIA Seattle Honor Award.
Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects will be presented with the Firm Award during the American Architectural Foundation’s Accent on Architecture Gala in February. Previous recipients include Leers Weinzapfel, Moore Ruble Yudell, Muphy/Jahn, and KieranTimberlake. In recognition of Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects legacy to architecture, their name will be chiseled into the granite Wall of Honor in the lobby of the AIA headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Jim Olson: “We feel honored to have been given this award. It is for all of us who work together in our office, and it makes us want to try even harder in our commitment to the art and craft of architecture…. We feel encouraged, and are excited about the future of our firm and our work.”
Rick Sundberg: “This is an amazing honor for the firm. We will be even more dedicated to our work and to all who support it within and outside of the firm.”
Scott Allen: “The great thing about the National firm of the year award is that it goes to the whole firm, not just one individual. That recognizes the true nature of how architects work—as collaborators—honors the great people we have right here, and celebrates the culture we’ve built over the last thirty-five years.”
Tom Kundig: “One of the strengths of the firm is our resourcefulness and clarity of purpose; understanding where we are and where we’re going, and not resting on any sort of past successes. There has always been a culture here of looking forward to different realms and different risks.”
Kirsten Murray: “The thing I enjoy about the firm’s culture is that, in spite of an industry trend toward specialization, we’ve maintained a value system that celebrates generalism. Nurturing that is what allows us to maintain and grow the quality of work.”
Alan Maskin: “If everyone who made it possible for us to win this award could be with us the day we receive it, the stage would be a crowded one. It would include the eighty-seven people that currently work in the studio, as well as the approximately 300 additional people that worked here over the past thirty-five years, the artists, craftspeople, and builders that work alongside us, the many clients that trusted and supported us, and the interns that traveled from all over the world to work with us in Seattle.”