PRP Now! Aimee Axelson // Mahlum Architects

November 11, 2021
PRP Now! is a series of interviews that highlight a current UTSOA Professional Residency Program student every few weeks.

PRP: Tell us about your PRP firm. Where are you working? 
I am working for Mahlum Architects in Seattle. The firm’s purpose is to empower individuals and communities through the spaces and places where they live, learn, and work. They value listening carefully to those that their designs will impact and integrate engagement strategies with the community throughout the design process. The result is a thoughtfully designed built environment that amplifies the voices and embodies the aspirations of those engaging with it. Their philosophy was a huge part of what drew me to the firm. 

PRP: Do you enjoy the city you’re working in?
Yes! Seattle is beautiful and has been especially gorgeous during my time here where the sun shines most days in the summer and early fall. The access to national and state park hiking and biking trails so close in proximity is unparalleled to anywhere else I have been in the country. The Pacific Northwest is majestic and otherworldly. 

PRP: What is currently on your desk? What are you working on? 
A Cherry Street Coffeehouse latte with house-made caramel syrup, half-eaten chocolate marshmallow donut from General Porpoise, a Mahlum embossed sketchbook, trace paper, and a published book on cross laminated timber by a Mahlum architect that I am helping with a grant submission to the United States Forest Service for an educational building designed with CLT in Oregon. I am also exploring exterior material options and assemblies for a regional dialysis center in downtown Seattle. It’s been interesting learning how to merge the client’s brand as they have many centers across Washington with the architectural language of the neighborhood that has a very passionate community and respecting the site’s rich history. Fun fact is that Seattle was the location of the world’s first outpatient dialysis kidney center in 1962 and the University of Washington is where dialysis care was innovated. 

PRP: Describe the firm culture?
The collaborative culture is wonderfully encouraging and exciting. They foster an environment that allows everyone to have a voice and share. Because the firm is dedicated to acting on their philosophy and beliefs, it attracts like-minded people. Therefore, you are among those who share the same values and attitudes. An example of the action steps they take to their commitments is recently they brought in an expert on critical race theory to facilitate a two-day training for Mahlum employees on ways to incorporate Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion into the design process. 

PRP: What is the first thing you'll tell your classmates upon your return to UT? 
At the risk of sounding cliché, do PRP! I was hesitant at first because I didn’t want to take an extra semester to graduate. I am so grateful I ultimately decided to explore this opportunity. This six-months of experience has allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of what type of firm I want to work for upon graduation – something I could not have achieved without PRP. 

PRP: As you’re finishing up the week, what are your plans for this weekend? 
Going to the Hoh National Rainforest. It’s insane the nature you get to experience and connect with around here on the weekends. The other weekend it was Vancouver and the Sea to Sky highway in British Columbia with sites of fjords and towering waterfalls. 

PRP: Is there anything else that you would like to add? 
The relationships and connections you establish and people you learn from through PRP are incredibly valuable to expanding your perspective and network. You get practice working in a professional collaborative environment, sharing ideas and processes with a team in addition to getting practice on how to communicate clearly for coordination in moving projects along.