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03.04.2009
Hutchison & Maul Architecture
Emerging Voices 2009

Skylights for the metal shop and cantilever office addition in seattle.

Hutchison & Maul Architecture
Seattle, Washington

The tiny, Seattle-based firm Hutchison & Maul Architecture has kept a pretty low profile, especially considering their prolific output. The principals have been more preoccupied with their projects than with self- promotion. “What’s our marketing plan? We don’t have one,” said Robert Hutchison, one of the plainspoken principals of the eponymous firm, along with Thomas Maul. The firm, currently just the two and never more than five, has built a remarkable number of projects, ranging from installations to houses to what they call “background public buildings.”

Both principals have undergraduate experience in engineering, but their work doesn’t necessarily put structure front and center. Through careful site and program analysis, they often uncover unexpected design opportunities, which they exploit with an artful sensibility. One such opportunity came in the form of a hundred-year-old frame house slated for demolition on the site of one of their projects. In one day, Hutchison and Maul, with the help of friends and associates, pierced the structure with thousands of holes, turning the house into an eerie lantern. That night, they threw a party in the transformed space, giving the house a last act before the wrecking ball the next day. “Hole House 1 was about exploring light and structure, and a way to celebrate the life of the building,” Hutchison said. The two replicated the experiment with a more humble structure, not surprisingly called Hole House 2, and inserted colored acrylic rods to heighten the beautiful and haunting effect.

For a below-grade metal shop, the architects took a code-required parking screen and turned it into a thin, sawtooth skylight clad in Cor-ten. In profile, it looks like sculpture. Inside, light washes the concrete walls, elevating the quality of the space, while meeting its programmatic requirements. “We don’t just grab the latest, coolest thing. We try and have self-control,” Maul said. “We like what is tested, what is tried-and-true.” This sense of finding unexpected possibilities in the pragmatic spaces of everyday life will be put to the test in their largest project to date, a 16,000-square-foot public works operations center in Bothell, Washington, clad in wooden planks with a broad entrance overhang projecting into the tree-dotted site. The center will break ground in the next few months.

 

The Courtyard House in Mercer Island, Washington.
Alan Abramowitz
 
Alan G. Brake