1920 - 1929

Seattle in 1920 enjoyed a new era of cultural, social, and economic growth never seen in the Pacific Northwest. During this time of promise and excitement, our firm’s founder, William Henry Witt, moved across the country in search of his own American dream and eventually decided to start his engineering practice. The firm we know today as Magnusson Klemencic Associates, an internationally recognized, award-winning engineering company, was born.






W. H. Witt founds company in Seattle, WA

W.H. Witt, 1909



Office Location: Securities Building



Office Location: Seaboard Building



Harold Worthington and George Runciman hired



Office Location: Lloyd Building



Firm formally named the W. H. Witt Company


1930 - 1939

In the 1930s, America, Seattle, and the W. H. Witt Company were hit by the Great Depression, which lasted until 1939 and represented the industrialized world’s worst economic downturn. Companies struggled, banks failed, stores closed, unemployment surged, and engineering projects halted as financing dried up. Washington’s lumber industry crashed without the previous decade’s construction boom. Seattle’s structural engineering and architecture firms closed their doors one by one. Yet, the W. H. Witt Company endured through perseverance, sacrifice, and risk.





Two Seattle projects—the Textile Tower and the Seattle City Light Building—provide the majority of the firm’s income between late 1930 and early 1931


Keeping Afloat

Small steel detailing projects from contractors and fabricators such as Howard S. Wright & Son, Sound Construction and Engineering, Pacific Coast Steel, and West Coast Construction Company (billed for as little as $3 per job) keep the company afloat during the Depression and between larger projects

The New Deal’s infrastructure funding and the Cullen-Harrison Act legalizing beer and wine (ending 13 years of American prohibition) save the company as the firm is hired to build bridges and breweries in Washington

Company cash ledger, 1933



Hailed as America’s longest reinforced concrete span (exclusive of arches), the McMillin Bridge in Pierce County, WA, receives national acclaim in Engineering News-Record



With a central span of 190 feet, the Purdy Bridge in Purdy, WA, is believed at the time to be the longest box girder bridge ever built



The firm designs bottling houses for Rainier Brewing Company in Seattle, WA, and the Olympia Brewing Company in Tumwater, WA


1940 - 1949

Following World War II, the W. H. Witt Company accompanied its architectural clients and expanded its client base into the Alaska Territory to meet postwar demand, resulting in a miniature Klondike Gold Rush. War-era military personnel and construction workers arrived in Alaska by the thousands and decided to stay, creating demand for homes, schools, hospitals, and churches.

In 1945, Harold Worthington and George Runciman quietly celebrated 18 years of partnership under the flag of the W. H. Witt Company.

In November 1945, Worthington and Runciman amicably agreed to separate the firm’s accounts into “Old Witt Co.,” “New Witt Co.,” and “George Runciman.”





Joe Jackson and John Skilling hired



Helge Helle hired



The Loussac-Sogn Building is the largest commercial building in Anchorage, AK, upon completion


1950 - 1959

In the postwar building boom of the 1950s, architects reeled in commissions from developers and owners, resulting in the W. H. Witt Company’s swift uptake of new projects. Buildings were constructed more economically by contractors who respected Worthington & Skilling’s efficient structural designs. After enjoying their experience and being impressed with the innovation, architects and owners returned for more. The firm added the innovative minds of many talented individuals this decade, including Jack Christiansen, Bill Ward, Kent Rogers, and Les Robertson, and added a Civil Engineering practice.





Jack Christiansen hired



Bill Ward hired



Skilling teams up with architect NBBJ and general contractor Howard S. Wright & Company to build for Boeing a massive B-52 hangar with a thin-shelled concrete roof

B-52 Hangar, Moses Lake



The firm name changes to Worthington & Skilling three years after Skilling is made partner



The Yakima Junior High School Gymnasium in Yakima, WA, represents America’s first thin-shell, pre-stressed concrete structure

John Skilling on-site at Yakima Junior High School



Kent Rogers hired



Worthington & Skilling adds a Civil Engineering practice, which is overseen by Bill Ward



Les Robertson hired


1960 - 1969

The dawn of the 1960s revealed space exploration, scientific advancements, and political energy unlike any decade prior. The Space Race captivated the world, evidenced by the many attractions underway at the Century 21 Exposition / Seattle World’s Fair. The engineering world also reached new heights as Worthington, Skilling, Helle & Jackson was commissioned to design the world’s tallest buildings—the World Trade Center towers in New York City.





Firm name changes to Worthington, Skilling, Helle & Jackson



Office Location: Washington Building

The Washington Building (now known as Puget Sound Plaza), Seattle



The firm engages with Minoru Yamasaki for the iconic U.S. Science Pavilion at the Century 21 Exposition / Seattle World’s Fair



Art Barkshire hired



The United Steelworkers Building (IBM Building) in Pittsburgh, PA, marks the first exterior space frame office building and the first use of 100,000-psi high-strength steel



Firm name changes to Skilling, Helle, Christiansen, Robertson



The Rivergate Convention Center in New Orleans, LA, features America’s largest cylindrical shell roof and earns an Honor Award from the American Consulting Engineers Council


1970 - 1979

As many Americans continued to fight for expanded social and political rights, the country also saw a shift away from politics and turn toward pop culture. In the engineering world, the success of NASA’s space program encouraged many young people to pursue careers in STEM from the late 60s through the 70s. However, the country’s recession from 1973 to 1975 ended the postwar boom enjoyed for the last several decades, and the oil crisis of this period shifted the nation’s priorities toward energy and conservation. Jack Christiansen’s beautiful thin-shelled roofs began to fade out, and in came the era of steel domination and its economic viability, given international competition and trade globalization.





New York City’s World Trade Center Towers are the world’s tallest buildings at the time of completion and the first to use prefabricated, multiple-column-and-spandrel steel wall panels and mechanical damping units to reduce wind “excitation”; it also is the first project to perform comprehensive studies surrounding wind environments and human sensitivity to building motions, as well as boundary layers utilizing wind tunnel testing

Architect Minoru Yamasaki with John Skilling and Les Robertson in the wind tunnel



The Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis, MN, is the world’s first catenary-supported, clear-span building



Office Location: Financial Building



The firm is engaged for its first international project (Jubail, Saudi Arabia)

A rendering of the Royal Saudi Naval Stadium Expansion, Jubail, Saudi Arabia



Jon Magnusson hired

A young Jon Magnusson scales the Kingdome



The Kingdome in Seattle, WA, is the largest concrete dome ever built

Kingdome under construction in Seattle, 1975



Rainier Tower in Seattle, WA, marks the first high-rise building supported by a flared pedestal


1980 - 1989

Beyond political tensions of the ongoing Cold War, increasing popularity of “Reaganomics,” and the age of entertainment, one of the most significant shifts of the time was the personal computer. As Apple launched its Macintosh and Silicon Valley became the hub of technological advancement, the engineering world saw ever-increasing opportunities. Programs like FORTRAN allowed Skilling to employ the benefits of computer-optimized designs on innovative projects like Columbia Center and Century Square in downtown Seattle.





Firm name changes to Skilling Ward Rogers Barkshire





Columbia Center in Seattle, WA, represents the first high-rise tower designed with composite columns at the apexes to reduce wind sway in a triangular-braced building





The Washington State Convention & Trade Center in Seattle, WA, incorporates the first-ever specially designed trusses in its design to create a “building-bridge” over a major highway





Firm name changes to Skilling Ward Magnusson Barkshire (SWMB)





Office Location: Pacific First Centre

Pacific First Centre in Seattle, known today as U.S. Bank Centre





Two Union Square in Seattle, WA, is the first building to use steel pipes filled with a world-record-breaking, high-strength, 19,000-psi concrete and hyper-efficient, viscoelastic dampers




1990 - 1999

Building on the previous decade’s success, cost savings, and innovations, SWMB had a solidified reputation as one of the most prominent engineering firms entering the 1990s. A decade remembered as both comfortable and transformative, technology and the growing power of the internet changed everything from politics and domestic life to business and the economy. With an ever-expanding project portfolio, the firm capitalized on its “Market Sector” approach to diversify pursuits and expand the talent pool of experts in particular building types.





Ron Klemencic hired





Office Location: Rainier Tower





The American Institute of Architects (AIA) confers John Skilling with an Honorary AIA Member (one of the highest honors bestowed upon a non-architect); Seattle Mayor Norm Rice proclaims June 3, 1994, “John Skilling Day” in Seattle, congratulating the city’s “creative and remarkable man”





KeyArena in Seattle, WA, earns the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Grand Conceptor Award





The Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu, HI, is the first to incorporate a full-building-depth “super-truss” structural system into its design





The Asian Star Building in Muntinlupa, Metro Manila, Philippines, is the world’s first new high-rise building to incorporate Performance-Based Seismic Design (PBSD)





Safeco Field in Seattle, WA, features the first fully retractable stadium roof structure with linear tracking and independent roof panels




2000 - 2009

The end of one century and the beginning of another…While innovation and technology peaked, challenges such as the economic recession and the 9/11 terrorist attacks rocked the decade, heavily impacting the firm and the industry. Yet, some of our most accomplished, award-winning, world-class designs emerged. Strength of leadership, commitment to designing the best projects in the world, and reinvestment in international projects allowed the firm to endure.





Key Center in Bellevue, WA, is America’s first new construction high-rise building designed using PBSD

Key Center in Bellevue, 95% complete



Following the construction of Safeco Field, the Kingdome in Seattle, WA, is demolished to make room for another firm project, the new Seahawks Stadium and Exhibition Center

Kingdome implosion, March 26, 2000



The 9/11 terrorist attacks leave the country shocked and heartbroken when two Boeing 767 airplanes hit the firm-designed World Trade Center Towers

Jon Magnusson was interviewed by many news outlets after the disaster, including ABC, seen here talking with Peter Jennings



The Highcliff in Hong Kong represents the world’s tallest residential tower upon completion, built for typhoon conditions and incorporating tuned liquid “sloshing” dampers to control wind acceleration



Firm name changes to Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA)

An article in Engineering News Record announcing the name change, 2003



MKA opens Chicago office



111 South Wacker in Chicago, IL, marks the world’s first high-rise with a certified LEED Gold Core and Shell

111 South Wacker is home to MKA’s Chicago office



The U.S. Federal Courthouse in Seattle, WA, earns ACEC’s Grand Conceptor Award



MKA’s Green Roof Evaluation Project in Seattle, WA, an unprecedented, three-year research collaboration proving the stormwater benefits of green roofs, earns an ACEC Grand Award



Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, WA, earns ACEC’s Grand Conceptor Award

Olympic Sculpture Park (Photo credit: Lara Swimmer)
Seattle Mayor, Greg Nickels, proclaims April 29, 2008 “Magnusson Klemencic and Olympic Sculpture Park Day,” in honor of the award winning project



The vertical, first-of-its-kind Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre in Dallas, TX, offers complete flexibility and movable components


2010 - 2019

The 2010s revealed a clash of ideologies, affluence, and technology. In a post-9/11 world, many projects focused on safety, security, and design excellence, and an increasing awareness of climate change pushed the industry towards more sustainably‑ conscious designs. MKA’s determination and innovative contributions to many notable, large-scale projects lifted the firm from the struggles of the Great Recession into a new era of success and profitability.





Mineta International Airport Terminal B and Concourse, in San Jose, CA, is the first major airport to use a special truss moment structural system



City Creek Center in Salt Lake City, UT, features one of the “world’s most intricate” fully retractable roof structures

City Creek’s roof when retracted, is designed to dip out of view



Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA, employs an Advanced Delivery Method fast track schedule to deliver the fastest NFL stadium upon its completion and MKA’s quickest-designed large project

Levi’s Stadium under construction (Photo: Hawkeye Photography)



The LEED Platinum San Ysidro U.S. Land Port of Entry in San Ysidro, CA, is MKA’s largest civil project at the time of award and features “net zero” for all non-potable water and zero discharge for stormwater

In addition to achieving “net-zero,” the project was able to remain fully operational during construction



MKA Foundation launched



MKA’s story is documented and published in the book We Had to Be Dreamers: A Century in Engineering Leadership, authored by Sybil Hatch and Tyler Sprague

Charette at MKA during the book’s development, 2014



T3 Minneapolis in Minneapolis, MN, is America’s first heavy-timber high rise



150 North Riverside in Chicago, IL, utilizes the highest-capacity H piles ever used in the city, features the world’s largest rolled steel sections (W36x925), and the first use of 70-ksi steel in America

The unique structure of 150 North Riverside allows the tower to fit on a slender site of just 85 feet wide



The Amazon Spheres in Seattle, WA, marks a first-of-its-kind structural system constructed from organically shaped steel Catalan sections



Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, CA, is the tallest building west of the Mississippi River (based on the highest occupied floor)



The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) / Structural Engineering Institute (SEI) releases the Prestandard for Performance-Based Wind Design (PBWD), to which the MKA Foundation was a major contributor



Launch of the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3) tool, for which MKA was a lead funder and part of the executive leadership team


2020 - Present

MKA celebrated 100 years as a company at the start of the decade. The country was also plunged into the chaos of the COVID-19 Pandemic, forcing worldwide shutdowns and economic challenges. While COVID-19 has forever impacted the world, we know from over 10 decades of lessons learned that change is inevitable and challenges spark innovation. Our eyes are on the next frontier and the adventures and collaborations ahead!





Rainier Square in Seattle, WA, marks the first application of SpeedCore in a high-rise structure



MKA celebrates 100 Year Anniversary

MKA celebrates at the Olympic Sculpture Park in September of 2021, a year late due to the pandemic



MKA becomes a signatory of the SE 2050 Commitment



St. Regis Chicago in Chicago, IL, is the city’s third tallest building at 1,200 ft



The three-story Las Vegas Convention Center Expansion Phase 2 in Las Vegas, NV, features 270-ft trusses and an architecturally expressive “sno-cone” roof spanning 500 ft and cantilevering 150 ft



Hines engages MKA to create the Hines Carbon Reduction Playbook, a company guide published globally and featuring additional training sessions, case studies on current Hines projects, and the development of a database for future carbon accounting



The 14-acre Presidio Tunnel Tops park in San Francisco, CA, is built over the Presidio Parkway Main Post Tunnels and reconnects the Presidio to the waterfront for the first time in nearly 80 years



The Beaudry in Los Angeles, CA, is an early test case for the EC3 tool, preventing approximately 13,650 metric tons of verifiable equivalent carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere during construction and at no additional cost to the owner



MKA’s Seattle office undergoes a complete upgrade during a major Tenant Improvement project



MKA names David E. Eckmann, SE, PE, FAIA as President

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