Partner Profile

Kirsten R. Murray

Her projects range from small to large, from home to the workplace and everything in between—she is an architect interested in exploring all facets of daily life.

Kirsten Murray is a design principal and owner at Olson Kundig. She is equally adept at designing a new residence as she is to solving complex projects in urban campus settings.

1111 East Pike

1111 East Pike

100 Stewart

100 Stewart

9th & Thomas

9th & Thomas

High-visibility Seattle-area projects that she has led on recently include Art Stable (an urban infill project composed of adaptable live/work mixed-use units), 1111 East Pike (also an urban infill project, involving retail and condominiums), 100 Stewart (a mixed-use building with a hotel and housing), 9th & Thomas (which includes office, retail/restaurant, and residential components), and assorted developments in Los Angeles and Vancouver.

“Collaborating on the bigger questions of programming, site design, and building in urban contexts greatly interests me.”

—Kirsten R. Murray

Kirkland Museum

Kirkland Museum

Paradise Road student housing

Paradise Road student housing

Murray also enjoys workplace design; her current clients include Gawker Media in New York, several innovation labs for technology companies, and Casey Family Programs in Seattle. Her museum work has taken her from the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Arts in Denver, while her campus work has ranged from the Paradise Road student housing at Smith College to the Heritage University expansion.

Murray has been with Olson Kundig for 26 years. She grew up in Boulder, Colorado, and did her undergraduate work there, then attended Virginia Tech for graduate school.

“I had a professor who was deeply into Scandinavian design—Alvar Aalto, socially democratic architecture, maintaining a strong relationship to craft and the landscape—and it struck a chord. I moved to Seattle right after school because I perceived something resonant with that here: the woods, the water. I loved the region’s poetic sensibility and complementary design sensibility. I already knew the firm’s work, and I got a job here within a few months.”

—Kirsten R. Murray

Murray serves on the board of Seattle’s Henry Art Gallery and the national board of the AIA Trust. Her interest in professional development has led events hosted by the AIA and other entities. A frequent lecturer, she is often found speaking about design and design practice around the country.

“I often speak about our internship program, or the role of architecture in the community. I was asked to write a chapter for a recent AIA publication on professional practice, so I discussed ‘creative culture.’ I think of myself as an ambassador for that, both within and outside the firm."

—Kirsten R. Murray

“One of the things I love about Olson Kundig is our involvement with the arts and education. We sponsor things, collaborate, and work with organizations that are doing important work in the community. We strive to be good citizens, both locally in the design community and beyond, making robust contributions to learning and the profession and doing work that is inclusive. At the international level, we are part of the Van Alen Institute, a New York–based collaboration of designers who are thinking aspirationally about culture and design.”

Murray is also a key figure in the development of the firm’s international Internship Program and its lecture series, both of which have been going strong for nearly two decades. The Internship Program provides six-month positions to new architecture grads, giving them real experience on project teams and weekly mentorship seminars. To date, it has hosted interns from more than 30 countries and every state in the United States.

“Anyone who starts to work here will immediately find that being on the staff is like a continuing education course that never ends. There’s something going on almost every day: artists, technical experts, or craftspeople coming in to speak. We put a lot of energy into r&D. There are constant opportunities to share your personal interests, travels, or academic background at lunches and other forums. I’m very proud of that, and it is something that differentiates us from more corporate firms. This is a highly developmental place.”

—Kirsten R. Murray

Free Book Incident

Free Book Incident

Table Talk

Table Talk

Murray was a co-director for [storefront], a two-year-long undertaking, sponsored by the firm, which hosted a series of investigative, community-based projects. “One of my favorites was an exhibition called ‘Free Book Incident.’ A local bookseller wanted to liquidate their inventory, so we put on a free book exchange that lasted for a couple of months and involved a lot of related programming. Another of my favorites was ‘Table Talk,’ a collaborative program with the University of Washington’s Digital Arts and Experimental Media Program. We designed a space to host dinner conversations around charged social and political topics, and a table centerpiece that would the record the conversations for broadcast, connecting them with similar events and programming happening all over the world. It brought together so many of my interests, from education to architecture to utopian theory.”

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