Shaping Cities around the World

Written by Claire Suttles

MG2 is one of the largest architecture firms in America and one of the top retail design firms in the world. The 45-year-old firm partners with businesses around the globe to deliver transformative architecture, planning, interior design, brand strategy, and consulting services. MG2 operates out of offices in Seattle, Washington, Irvine, California, Washington, DC, and Shanghai, China.

Armed with diverse teams and deep expertise across multiple markets and disciplines, MG2 is active within the hospitality, mixed-use, office, residential, and retail sectors. Projects range dramatically in size and scope, including everything from landmark high rises to big box stores redesigned for high-density urban environments and even luxury tree houses.

One of the firm’s latest, high profile projects is a 50-story mixed-use hotel and residential tower for Stanford Hotels in Seattle. Designed to achieve a minimum of LEED Silver accreditation, the building will have 209 hotel rooms and 236 residential units with four levels of artists’ lofts and more than 10,000 square feet of hotel amenities and restaurants, including a rooftop bar overlooking Puget Sound. The main floor will incorporate 3,000 square feet of retail space anchored by a sidewalk café to capitalize on, and encourage, pedestrian traffic.

“That [is going to be a] landmark in the city and I also think it is going to be a landmark for the firm and the relationship we have with our client,” says CEO and Chairman of the Board Mitch Smith. “We are excited about that as we move forward.” This project is one of many “community building projects, projects that are reshaping the area around where they are located. We are excited about that impact.”

MG2’s recent move from Bellevue, Washington to Seattle gives the firm greater opportunity to influence the city’s development. “It has been a tremendous experience for the firm,” Mr. Smith remarks. “After being in Bellevue for a number of years, picking up and moving into a new space represented our current, contemporary point of view. It has been transformative for the firm and our culture. It has definitely elevated the energized, enthusiastic community we have within our firm.”

This high-energy, enthusiastic culture is a key aspect of the company. “It is important to me and important to everybody in the firm that we have a bunch of great people who are super enthusiastic and energized about what they are doing and who they are doing it with. There is a real community here focused on doing great work and having fun together. You have to have an enthused and energized group of people in order to create the great results we have been able to create.”

The company’s commitment to producing “great results” has been in place since the firm launched nearly half a century ago. “Since the founding of the firm, it really has been focused on clients and understanding what they are trying to accomplish and what their goals are and how we can support and align with that,” Mr. Smith details. The end result is satisfied clients and strong, long lasting relationships. “[The founder] started with a local representation of clients, but had a real tenacity about how he approached the work and a real sense of principles to achieve the clients’ objectives. Over the years it has grown and expanded and introduced a lot more skills and expertise to the benefit of our clients – the focus has been consistent. That focus is understanding what our clients’ objectives are and trying to formulate an approach and a strategy to achieve those goals.”

In addition to its commitment to clients, MG2’s corporate culture maintains a focus on community engagement. The firm has actively supported a number of organizations for many years. This year, the team decided to broaden their commitment. “We wanted a fresh perspective with a new generation of employees,” Mr. Smith explains. “We started a day of giving, which empowered our employees to choose a non-profit organization they wanted to commit their time and effort to support.” Employee teams supported an array of handpicked non-profits, from food banks to green initiatives—and that was only the beginning. “Instead of being just a few events, it turned into dozens of events in all of our offices. It is really a phenomenal experience in terms of reaching out to the community and giving back in a new way.”

Recently, MG2’s PLACE Resorts project won a 2016 INaward from the International Interior Design Association’s (IIDA) Northern Pacific chapter. The award won was the Best in Category/INConcept for a temporary, micro-luxury lodging solution. This project explored “how small” guests are willing to go when seeking an authentic experience that retains traditional hotel luxuries. The 98 square feet, micro-luxury space that the team created could be used for a wide range of purposes, from an upscale camping space or shelter at a music festival to additional rooms at a hotel that needs extra accommodations for a special event.

“That was one of the most phenomenal experiences we had in 2016,” Mr. Smith recalls. “Amazing things can be born out of that enthusiasm from young talent—and people with many years of experience as well.” The firm had a “completely wide open” internal competition to develop the concept, then aggregated the entries into a single, cohesive idea. To showcase the innovative design, the team built a full size model of the end result, dubbed PLACE Resorts. The model included every detail, “right down to the stationary and the monogramed shirt for the concierge. The intent was to create an experience, not just an object. We accomplished that. Getting the award from IIDA was an acknowledgement of the success of that holistic, comprehensive look [that demonstrated] how the new business concept would be implemented for a contemporary, micro, luxury resort.”

MG2 is well positioned to continue delivering high profile projects. “Being centered in Seattle is pretty fortuitous at the moment because Seattle is an extremely dynamic city and region,” Mr. Smith points out. “It is experiencing growth from a number of different sources, so that creates a lot of opportunity for a commercial firm like ours [that is] driven by the influx of jobs and the demand for housing and resources and services. That looks promising this year, and really the next couple of years. I don’t view it as tapering off in a radical way in the near term.”

The firm’s influence over the direction of urban development is not limited to Seattle. MG2 continues to enjoy an influential position in its other locations too. “Our Irvine and DC offices have been quite busy recently as well. It takes a lot of work to get to this point and I feel that the firm is in a great position to continue to have success with new opportunities and new clients that take advantage of the expertise we have built with the firm over 45 years. I am excited about the next five plus years for the firm – seeing it grow and seeing a lot of the young people that we have in the firm mature and contribute in a significant way.”

As the firm keeps growing and moving forward, the team will continue to have an opportunity to do what is meaningful to them—and make a positive impact on modern cityscapes in the process. Mr. Smith summarizes, “I love to do great architecture and work with great clients that give us an opportunity to do great work on their behalf.”



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