March 31, 2003 - Puget Sound Business Journal: Brazil RPCV Dave Miller and Afghanistan RPCV Bob Hull's Firm win awards for socially responsible and humane public architecture

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Brazil RPCV Dave Miller and Afghanistan RPCV Bob Hull's Firm win awards for socially responsible and humane public architecture





Read and comment on this story from the Puget Sound Business Journal on the Miller/Hull Architecture Firm tht was formed by two RPCVs 25 years ago and whose most recent award was the 2003 AIA Firm award from the American Institute of Architects. Architects Dave Miller and Bob Hull graduated in 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War and both joined the Peace Corps. Miller spent four years designing and building houses in a satellite city of Brasilia. Hull, meanwhile, traveled to Afghanistan. There he spent 24 months constructing mud brick schools in Kabul. Both said they saw modernism under the influence of regionalism. Both learned to design simply using limited materials and resources. Both learned to build small but efficient buildings. Read the story at:

Sturdy foundations: Miller/Hull Partnership finds stability, recognition during soft economy*

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Sturdy foundations: Miller/Hull Partnership finds stability, recognition during soft economy
Betta Ferrendelli Special Reports Writer

Architects Dave Miller and Bob Hull agree that their work abroad served as the foundation for the Miller/Hull Partnership, an architectural design firm they started in a small office in Seattle's Smith Tower in 1977.

Miller and Hull met while studying architecture at Washington State University in Pullman in the late 1960s and became immediate friends.

They graduated in 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War and both joined the Peace Corps. Miller spent four years designing and building houses in a satellite city of Brasilia. Hull, meanwhile, traveled to Afghanistan. There he spent 24 months constructing mud brick schools in Kabul. Both said they saw modernism under the influence of regionalism. Both learned to design simply using limited materials and resources. Both learned to build small but efficient buildings.

After returning to the United States, Miller worked in Chicago and Hull went to New York City. Eager to return to their native Northwest, they met up in 1976 when they took jobs with a Vancouver, B.C., architecture firm. They accepted the company's offer to open a branch office in Seattle. A year later, they became business partners and started Miller/Hull.

In 1978, Miller and Hull moved from the Smith Tower to its current location, 9,000 square feet of open studio space in the Maritime Building. The company has grown to include two other partners Norman Strong, an architect who oversees the management and business side of the firm and who became a partner in 1985, and Craig Curtis, who became a partner in 1994.

The firm's financials are sound, Strong said. Gross annual revenue in 2002 totaled $6.6 million, up 20 percent over 2001, Strong said. While other firms in the Puget Sound region put hiring on hold or cut staff, Miller/Hull was in a position to hire last year. It doubled its staff last year and now employs 22 architects and 16 intern architects. Strong attributes the growth to a number of projects that came off hold and new projects that were getting under way.

But when Hull and Miller started their business 24 years ago, work did not flow to them immediately, Hull said.

"There we were, just sitting and tapping our fingers on the table waiting for work to come," he said.

They didn't have to tap too long before they the University of Washington asked them to design a laboratory. That was the beginning of a client list that has grown notably diverse over the last two decades. Clients include national and local government agencies, academic institutions, private developers, corporations and residential owners.

"We became fairly diverse almost right away," Miller said.

Keys to the firm's success, the partners agree, include that diversity, collaboration, the willingness to take risks with designs and keeping project budgets modest.

"We're not extravagant in our work and never have been," Miller said.

The firm's design philosophy centers around designing buildings that fit comfortably and naturally within the surrounding landscape, Curtis said. It is a philosophy that has helped the firm to win more than 140 awards, he said.

Miller/Hull's most recent award was the 2003 AIA Firm award from the American Institute of Architects. Employees picked up what Curtis characterized as the highest honor a firm can garner in Washington, D.C., in early March.

The AIA Firm award is given annually to recognize a firm that has produced consistent quality architecture for at least 10 years, Hull said. Miller/Hull won the award based on its environmentally friendly design, as well as a collaborative "workplace studio approach to projects," Miller said.

"There are no office walls here," he said. "Here everyone works openly and as a team."

Miller/Hull is known for its Pacific Northwest style of architecture, characterized by a woodsy or natural theme, sharp lines and classic boxy shapes that can be applied to homes and commercial spaces through exposed timber and expansive floor to ceiling windows.

Miller/Hull designed the $11.2 million Fisher Pavilion, which houses Fisher Communications Inc. near the Seattle Center.

"The Pavilion is representative of Miller/Hull's style, in that it blends well with the surroundings," said Bonnie Pendergrass, senior project manager for the Seattle Center. "It is a building that's nestled into the ground and doesn't draw a lot of attention to itself, yet it was designed to be versatile and functional."

Pendergrass said Miller/Hull designed the Pavilion to be an "approachable, open and welcoming kind of place," but in a style that a variety of people would feel comfortable coming to and using. Indicative of the Miller/Hull style, the back and sides of the Pavilion are built into the ground, while the front of the building is made completely of five large, expansive windows, Pendergrass said.

The $6.5 million city hall on Bainbridge Island, another Miller/Hull design, was opened in February 2000, said Lynn Nordby, Bainbridge city administrator. The island's city hall is a classic Miller/Hull design with wood, concrete and the floor to ceiling windows, Nordby said.

"Given all the gray days we have here," he said. "The extra amount of light that comes in the building is a real plus."

In addition to the 2003 AIA Firm award, Miller/Hull has earned two national AIA honor awards and the Seattle Design Commission Commendation award last year, the AIA Seattle Merit award in 2001, the AIA Seattle Housing the Northwest Merit awards last year. The firm also earned the Federal Design Achievement award in 1999.

The 2003 AIA Firm award has given Miller/Hull affirmation that they have been doing something right with its design over the last decade, Miller said. No sitting back and resting now. The award is going to make the firm work harder, Hull said.

But Hull and partners have never shied away from work. They've intentionally kept the company small, and still roll up their sleeves to design.

"We're pretty lean and we like it that way. We also want to continue to be architects," said Strong.

Reach Betta Ferrendelli at 206-447-8505 ext. 117 or bferrendelli@bizjournals.com.


© 2003 American City Business Journals Inc.
More about Miller/Hull Architecture Firm



Read more about Miller/Hull Architecture Firm at:

Miller/Hull Architecture Firm

Firm Origin
After graduation from Washington State University, both David Miller and Robert Hull served in the Peace Corps in Brazil and Afghanistan, respectively. Upon returning they worked separately in various offices including Marcel Breuer and SOM prior to coming to Seattle to form The Miller/Hull Partnership in 1977. In 1985 Norm Strong was named partner, and in 1994 Craig Curtis became the fourth partner. The office is located in downtown Seattle and has a staff of thirty-eight. In-house capabilities include master planning, urban design, full-service architectural, interior design, and space planning. We have projects in Washington, Alaska, Oregon and California.

Firm Mission
With their experience in the Peace Corps, both David Miller and Robert Hull believe in socially responsible and humane public architecture. Since 70% of our projects involve public funding, we have learned that certain responsibilities come with public work. We encourage public input as it enriches the design and makes it truly representative of the community for which it is intended. Working with advisory committees and citizen groups is a rewarding experience, and we support the process of interactive decision making. We do not believe that public buildings need to be institutional in appearance or functionality. All public buildings are public architecture and as such must contribute in a positive way to their communities. Our interactive process is applicable to private clients as well and our collaborative way of working leads to very successful projects.

Project Base
In 23 years and with over $150 million worth of completed projects, our work base is composed of a diverse assortment of project types - from neighborhood park structures to a $9 million laboratory for the Bureau of Environmental Services. Miller/Hull specializes in projects such as schools, higher education facilities, nature centers, community centers, mixed use buildings, laboratories and corporate offices. In addition, we are noted for the design of innovative and affordable residences.

Commitment to Quality and Service
The Miller/Hull Partnership's past performance with numerous clients proves our dedication to being a service-oriented firm. We have built a strong reputation and have been rewarded for our efforts by repeat commissions from clients such as the University of Washington, Washington State University, Seattle Pacific University, Olympic College, the cities of Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Issaquah, Auburn and others. Miller/Hull is highly skilled at project management and through excellent communication; accurate scheduling and cost control, is able to bring projects in on time and on budget with minimal clarification required during the construction phase.

Commitment to Design
The Miller/Hull Partnership's design reputation is based on simple, innovative and authentic designs. Since its inception in 1977 the firm has pursued a rigorous logic in its design approach in the belief that architectural programs are best solved directly and efficiently. During the firm's history Miller/Hull has received over one hundred design awards, including two National AIA Honor Awards, and has been published in numerous national and foreign design journals.

Miller/Hull's design philosophy centers around two essential architectural ideas. One is to use a building's structure to create a significant place within a site, and the other is to be sensitive to climate and to respond to these environmental demands with the form of the building. These ideas evolve from an appreciation of the extraordinary beauty of the natural environment and have allowed Miller/Hull's projects to have an unusually clear fit to their surrounding context.

Founding partners David Miller and Robert Hull, both raised in Washington State, have explored the development of two dominant themes in America's western regional architecture: the need to establish a defined place within the landscape and the art of rational building. Their attitude toward building in the landscape takes advantage of a mutual inflection in which architecture and landscape seem to need each other for completion. In their residential architecture they attempt to capture the spirit and vitality of the West by focusing on the tensions between nature and materiality; detail and structure.

Miller/Hull is a firm that will always work within the modern tradition. They see, however, the modern ideology as evolving and not static. Miller/Hull strives to make a significant contribution to a better modernism.

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