Tonkin Architecture was founded as Tonkin/Greissinger in 1972 by Les Tonkin and Walt Greissinger. Initial work included schools and private residences. The partners shared a strong interest in historic preservation. In 1974, they purchased the historic Triangle Hotel and Bar on First Ave. The firm had an office on the upper floors and also ran the bar on the first floor. They continued this arrangement, while renovating the building!
In 1974, John Koch became Tonkin/Greissinger’s first employee, however, the firm didn’t have enough work to support hiring employees, so John left for a few years, but later returned and became a partner in 1982. In 1988, John Koch left the partnership to oversee Facilities Planning at Oregon State University. John returned to the firm 2007 and became a partner again in 2013.
From 1972 to 1990 the firm name went to through variations including Tonkin/Greissinger, Tonkin/Greissinger/Koch, Tonkin/Nishioka/Koch, and Tonkin/Koch as Les Tonkin’s partners changed. During the 1980s the firm focused on historic renovations, re-use of historic buildings, additions to historic buildings. The work included renovations and new constructions on military bases in Washington State.
Key projects in the 1980s, included the renovation of the old Washington State Capitol and the award-winning redevelopment of the historic Interlake Public School as the Wallingford Center, which houses apartments on the upper floors with retail and community spaces on the lower two floors. Wallingford Center and much of the firm’s other 1980s work was partially financed by the Historic Income Tax Credit Program. Through this work the firm became expert in meeting the National Park Service’s requirements for Historic Income Tax Credit funding.
In the late 1980s the firm’s work began to focus more on affordable housing, beginning with scattered site work for the Seattle Housing Authority. The firm, which was named Tonkin/Hoyne/Lokan or Tonkin/Hoyne for many years, has continued to focus on both historic renovations and affordable multifamily housing. A key project in the 2000s was the re-development of the Seattle Housing Authority’s Rainier Vista. This work included both urban planning and new housing to replace worn out World War II era worker housing.
Future partner Tim Quinn (2003) and Pam Derry (2006) joined the firm as staff during the Tonkin/Hoyne/Lokan years. In 2013 the firm became Tonkin Architecture with partners Les Tonkin, John Koch, Tim Quinn, and Pam Derry. The partners agreed that the firm would move forward in the future as Tonkin Architecture with no further name changes. Since the death of Les Tonkin in 2016, John Koch, Tim Quinn, and Pam Derry have run Tonkin Architecture with a continuing commitment to affordable multifamily housing and historic preservation and an openness to new challenges.
The firm’s interest and involvement at the former Sand Point Naval Air Station (now Seattle’s Magnuson Park) extends back to work for the Navy in the 1980s and to the Seattle-King County Coalition for the Homeless’ 1993 master plan for Sand Point. It has continued with new affordable housing for Solid Ground (Brettler Family Place and Phyllis Gutierrez-Kenney Place)and with the redevelopment of the Navy’s enlisted barracks (“Building 9”) into Mercy Housing Northwest’s Mercy Magnuson Place.