The Portico Group

Specialty: Zoos, museums, visitors centers, botanical gardens, parks, other places of cultural significance
Management: Michael Hamm, president and chief executive officer
Year founded: 1984
Headquarters: Seattle
urrent projects: Kent Town Square Park, Bremerton Harborside Park, exhibit design for an aquarium on Coney Island in New York

The Portico Group is having its strongest year in 21 years, according to President and CEO Michael Hamm.

USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center
Image courtesy The Portico Group
Portico recently completed the conceptual plan for the new USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center in Hawaii.

Portico is settling into bigger offices in downtown Seattle, and is looking to up its staff from 35 to 40 by the end of this year, he said. Growth is partly due to a better economy, but also has to do with tightly focused marketing.

A few years ago Portico, whose name means “gateway,” zoomed in on what is now its niche market — places of cultural significance, where people come to learn.

“In many ways it’s like theater,” he said. “We’re telling a story, and creating an environment.”

When the company got started, it did a little bit of zoo work, some parks and recreation work, and a few residential garden designs. That was in the 1980s.

Now Portico has added graphic designers and researchers who work to develop content for exhibits by coming up with themes and stories. The company also consults economists who study visitor numbers and look for trends.

Hamm said the company’s looking for more projects it can build from scratch so staff can team on design from the outside in.

Portico’s projects in other parts of the country — Chicago, Miami and New York — came about because its people were at conferences and writing papers, helping the company position itself as an expert in the kinds of projects it takes on.

Copyright ©2005 Seattle Daily Journal and DJC.COM.
Comments? Questions? Contact us.