Two paths. One vision. A confluence of service and design excellence makes Mahlum what it is today. Of equal weight and impact, Edward Mahlum and Paul Hayden Kirk’s early influence shaped the firm’s values, defined the fundamentals of the practice, created a people-centered culture and provided an enduring legacy of community leadership. The arc of history for the firm bends in the direction of work that serves the whole — celebrating community identity, kindling connections to the earth and building neighborhood vitality.


A Tradition of Caring

Edward Mahlum, AIA, came to Seattle by way of Minnesota after spending his formative years in Norway. Trained as an architect in North Dakota, Midwest values came through in Ed’s approach — practical, steadfast and humble. He also carried with him a natural drive to serve others. For example, during WWII, he returned to Norway on a government-sponsored mission to help free his native land from the Nazis then came back to spend much of his professional energy providing comfort and housing for the aged in his beloved Seattle community. During a long and distinguished career, he designed many notable healthcare, post-secondary and housing facilities. From Ed, the firm’s deep service ethic, listening skills and passion for community-centered work developed.


CSI Puget Sound Chapter

President, Norwegian Community Club

Member, Sons of Norway

1962 Honoree, St. Olaf’s Medal

Advocated federal legislation to fund facilities for the aged


Breaking New Ground

Paul Hayden Kirk, FAIA, groomed at the University of Washington School of Architecture and trained by the likes of Henry Bittman, started his career in Seattle. Paul’s body of work includes wide-ranging healthcare facilities, churches and contemplative places, and private residences. Known for adapting the international style to address regional culture and materials, he used rough-cut stone, wood and glass in contrast to Mies van der Rohe’s preferred brick, steel and glass. Iconic in stature though modest in demeanor, Paul is one of the most published architects from the Pacific Northwest of his time. He tirelessly promoted design excellence — a passion vigorously tended by the firm’s leaders today.


AIA National Committee on Aesthetics

AIA President, Washington State Chapter

Visiting Critic, Cornell University

GSA Design Advisory Committee

Washington State & City of Seattle, Commission on the Handicapped

Washington State & City of Seattle, Historic Preservation/Development Authority

Coming Together

Mahlum & Nordfors, the second generation of Edward Mahlum’s practice, was a small player located in Magnolia when government became more businesslike in the 1980s. The firm needed to strengthen its presence, so relocated downtown and grew. Moving into the 1990s, local architecture firms expanded rapidly with the firm again facing a strategic choice. Mahlum & Nordfors offered incredible strengths in client service and institutional work. McKinley Gordon, the evolved form of Paul Hayden Kirk’s practice, knew commercial and residential work like no other. The two firms joined forces to leverage their compatible capabilities and create a service-focused model primed to deliver high-performance design.

Legacy of Leadership

A strong civic orientation defined Ed’s career. Design innovation and professional leadership in the AIA became Paul’s passions early on and thrived for decades. Though the focus of their leadership was different, the generous contributions of talent and time from both of them made a difference in how the practice of architecture grew here and the way Northwest communities took shape.

Nearly 20 years later, the highly engaged, professionally accomplished next generation of Mahlum leadership holds fervently to the values of the founders. The firm still strives to produce work that is conceptual, enduring and poetic, with visionary people to enrich the human experience.

Deep Roots in Design

Over the past five years, the volume of award-winning design work produced by Mahlum has grown tremendously. With a growing national profile, close to 65 professional awards and more than 100 published articles last year alone, we make progress toward the vision of the founders. In honor of the gifts they shared with us while living, we celebrate the everlasting power of their work.