Seattle-based mwworks, an architecture studio best known residences and strong contextual work that knits into landscape, has received the 2016 Northwest and Pacific Region Emerging Firm Award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The award recognizes emerging firms less than ten years old that are challenging traditional perceptions and methods of architecture. The AIA Northwest and Pacific Region (NWPR) includes the states of Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho and Hawaii, and the territory of Guam. The firm also garnered a 2016 NWPR Merit Award for the residential project, Little House, located on the Hood Canal in Washington state.
In recognizing the firm for the Emerging Architect award, the jury noted, “mwworks’ design quality really separates their firm from many small practices. Their work is seemingly simple, but quite sophisticated, displaying a love for both making and purity of concept. What was gratifying to see is that they are now moving this ability beyond the private residential realm, and into larger commercial projects.”
Since co-founding mwworks in 2007, Steve Mongillo and Eric Walter have been deeply involved in the design and management of every project at the firm. “We are thrilled to receive this recognition,” affirmed Mongillo and Walter. “It is a testament to the hard work of our staff, the many consultants and craftspeople who have helped to realize the work, and most importantly to our clients who brought us along on their journey.”
The firm’s work is widely recognized for its exploration of materiality, craft, and deference to the power of the natural world. “We strive to use materials and mass as clear elemental space makers, creating solid and void relationships that enhance user experience and provide layers of surprise,” said Mongillo. “It is about focusing on connecting people with the beauty of landscape through the strong integration of outdoor rooms, plantings, courtyards, and carefully framed views.”
Best known for residences in the Pacific Northwest, the firm's work now extends beyond the region to include a high-rise apartment in the South Beach area of Miami, a home in the Wasatch Range in Utah, and a small high-tech resort in the Alaska wilderness.
“Looking back, starting the firm in 2007 just before the recession, was probably not the best timing,” noted Walter. “But what was fortunate about it,” added Mongillo, “was that our work became shaped by the challenges we faced, each project required maximizing the design potential within modest budgets. When the economy recovered we carried forward our desire to make the most of each opportunity…to carefully examine material choices and spatial implications.” Little House, completed just last year, embodies these hard-earned principles. A simple cabin, it is only as big as it needs to be and is crafted with a limited palette of materials. Large windows, and an ample exterior deck emphasize the surrounding landscape.
The firm’s best known project, the Case Inlet Retreat, won a 2016 National AIA Honor Award earlier this year, and has also received numerous local and regional awards. Situated on the line between forest and meadow, the house is an exercise in restraint, engaging the landscape through decks and terraces that merge the house into the landscape with expansive glazing that visually connects the inside with the outside.
Rock Box, a karaoke bar and one of the firm’s early award-winners, typifies the firm’s approach to sustainability. “For Rock Box we looked for ways to showcase the bones of the existing structure and used as many re-purposed and recycled materials as possible to yield an economical and environmentally appropriate solution,” said Walter.
“We remain convinced that even modest architecture can serve as a powerful force in the daily lives of its users. Architecture can surprise, delight, and at its best moments, create a sense of poetic calm and a powerful relationship with the natural world,” noted Walter.
mwworks is a small, collaborative design studio based in Washington State. Our work is rooted in the region, every project informed by the unique character of this landscape and expressive of our region’s strong legacy of craft. Formed in 2007, co-founders Steve Mongillo and Eric Walter have been deeply involved in the design and management of every project at the firm. Our work has been published extensively, both nationally and abroad, and has been recognized by numerous design awards, including a National 2016 AIA Institute Honor Award, AIA Northwest and Pacific regional awards, Washington AIA awards, and featured in Architectural Digest’s 2013 ‘Ones to Watch.’
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