In 1949, Omer Mithun, a professor of architecture at the University of Washington, opened a firm in Bellevue to develop designs that complemented his teachings. With a staff of former students, Mithun embarked on a career in residential design. But as Bellevue grew, Mithun's firm diversified.
The Eastside is a living museum of Mithun's work, with residential developments, corporate offices, medical office buildings, municipal offices, churches, fire and police stations, and shopping centers. He was an active member of the community and the first chairman of the Bellevue Planning Commission, a post he held for 19 years. Courted by many "big name" architects in Seattle, Mithun stayed where his heart was, in Bellevue.
The staff grew slowly until the office moved in 1990 to its current location at the Times Square building in Seattle. Another move is in the works, with the firm's recent announcement that it will be leasing office space at Pier 56.
As the firm doubled in size from 1997 to 1999, the number, size and types of projects also grew, with multiple specialties including commercial, institutional, residential care, community design and medical projects. Asian markets have been a component since the early 1980s when the firm designed several Japanese housing developments.
Among the firm's defining projects are REI's flagship store in Seattle, the Smith Tower renovation in Seattle and the Salish Lodge renovation.
In design now are the $150 million Pacific Northwest Aquarium in Seattle and the Thea Foss Waterway development, which will feature hotel, shopping, residential units on a three-block waterfront site in Tacoma.