By Tara Spicer
While some Seattleites may not be familiar with the name “Mithūn,” odds are they have walked, wined, dined, shopped and convened in a number of Mithūn’s architectural spaces. As one of the leading local names in sustainable design and urban planning, Mithūn has left its footprint…er, blueprint…just about everywhere.
Along my daily trek through Downtown, I pass by one of their signature buildings on Yale Avenue. Those of you who prefer mountain tops to cubicle farms will know what I’m talking about. Named as one of the Top Ten Green Buildings in the United States in 1999 by the American Institute of Architects, REI’s flagship store here in Seattle–a leading retailer in outdoor supplies—features several perks that (almost) make me reconsider my weekends in front of the television. Along with its energy efficient design and use of salvaged materials, the space also showcases hiking and biking trails, a climbing pinnacle (visible to anyone passing) outdoor seating areas and a waterfall. Natural lighting and wooden framework interiors reflect Mithūn’s ultimate goal of creating a store that is both functional and aesthetic in its purpose.
On a larger scale, the 150 + architects, designers and planners at Mithūn are currently raking in national, international, and regional awards for High Point Community, the newest model in mixed-income housing. In collaboration with Seattle Housing Authority, Mithūn re-vamped a West Seattle public housing project, making it the first and only Built Green neighborhood in the city. (For those like myself who may not be well versed in eco-tecture, this building standard included energy-efficient materials, a natural drainage system that filters and cleans rainwater en route to Longfellow Creek, the first porous pavement street in Washington, and eco-friendly appliances). The 120 acre site (roughly the size of Downtown Seattle) calls itself a “friendly porch-front community” and in a little over a year since its launch, more than 200 buyers have chosen High Point as their home with sellout expected this month. Simply put, Mithūn has secured its name in urban planning history.
And now…a look to Mithūn’s visionary future with a little creative exercise for you, the reader.
Picture this. A towering skyscraper with windows overlooking a busy street corner. People passing through the front doors and grabbing a quick bite at the building’s ground level restaurant that boasts only the freshest farm-harvested ingredients. Employees exchanging conversation amidst the building’s resident chickens.
(Huh?) Am I talking about a janitorial problem here or some Orwellian office space? Not quite. In one of Mithūn’s latest visions, life on the farm is taken to a higher level, quite literally. Winning the award for “Best of Show” in the Cascadia Region Green Building Council’s Living Building Challenge, Mithūn’s latest revolutionary design is a self-sufficient skyscraper complete with chicken coops, greenhouses, and rooftop gardens. Supplying its own water through rainwater accumulation and purification, this might indeed be “the coolest building not yet built.” And while the masterminds at Mithūn may never get around to building it, don’t expect much less from them in the future. Then again…you needn’t take my word for it. If seeing is believing, take a visit down to Pier 56 where the raw beauty and understated elegance of Mithūn’s office speaks for itself.
1201 Alaskan Way, Suite 200