Pro Bono Publica

Chicken Coop for the Institute for Women's Excellence, Rwamagana, Rwanda.

We helped out a great organization, Orphans to Ambassadors with a pro bono design and donation for a chicken coop to help feed 423 orphans at the Institute for Women's Excellence in Rwanda.  During the month of May, they build the coop, some rocket stoves, and some rainwater harvesting projects for this and other orphanages in the area.  Great work!

Hopefully, we'll have the chance to help out with more their future projects!

Please support them with a donation!

Seattle STEP UP for the 1%

Last night, we had about 50 people come out for drinks and a short program on pro bono design services.  Two non profits were kind enough to speak a little about their experience with pro bono service and what it allowed them to accomplish (a lot!).  One architect, Brian Palidar of GroupArchitect spoke about his partnership with the Sibling House Foundation, doing housing assessments/remodels to keep foster kids together.  We ended with a Q&A covering a wide range of topics, from convincing management to prioritize pro bono services, to selecting non profit clients. I was very pleased with both the attendance and the response!

If you have questions about pro bono service, how to sign up, or would like to have me come to your non-profit and answer questions about how to capitalize on the amazing expertise of local design professionals, please contact me at


CAST architecture and the Miller Hull Partnership have put together an after-work mixer for The 1%, an organization whose design professional members pledge to donate 1% of their billable hours to pro bono causes every year.
The event will have a short program featuring architects and clients talking about the power of pro bono, a question and answer session, light fare and drinks.  Most of all, mix and meet leaders in the Seattle's design profession looking to serve the non-profit sector!
Please let us know that you are coming, by July 22, via

Download from the Pro Bono Panel discussion

Alki Beach Park--Statue of Liberty Plaza--pro bono project completed in 2009

We had about 15 at the AIA/CORA Pro Bono Design panel discussion.  Joining me on the panel was Rachel Minnery from Environmental Works, and Geoff Piper from Global Studio.

A couple of valuable points that came out of our discussion:

1.  Pro bono work is different than being a volunteer.   Pro bono service is the application of our professional abilities, judgement, experience, creativity to work for the public good.  Volunteering is a valuable component of civic life, such as working for Habitat for Humanity, but is probably relatively unskilled labor.

2.  Vet potential clients--they need to have the community connection, stability, and personnel to carry out the mission, because our work as architects is really just the beginning for any pro bono project. Our work may be the seed, but it takes a committed organization to make the investment a reality.

3.  Treat pro bono projects just as you would any other project in the office.  Otherwise, you're doing both your client and our profession a disservice by treating it as a less than serious undertaking.  That means contracts, liability, life safety, and solid construction documents.

4.  Work on projects/issues that you are interested in.  First it will help make the commitment easier to make, help you build experience in that area, and help to show people (and potential clients) where your heart lays.

As architects, we're often not in the driver's seat with regards to the project, but with pro bono, you have to take up the mantle of a shared mission with that community group or cause, and part of the compensation for your investment in time is taking the project where you think it should go.  Your vision may be underrated in the private sector, but essential to many non-profits trying to raise funds.  It is a wonderful opportunity to be entrepreneurial,  make connections with a larger community, and act not only as problem solvers, but problem identifiers.

More about The One Percent

LOGO-THE-1-PERCENT I wanted to highlight more of the work of The One Percent program. Founded in 2005, it is a unique effort to encourage architects to donate a mere 1% of their annual hours for projects for the public good.  That may not seem like a enough to make a difference, but if every architecture professional committed that much time, it would total 5 million hours a year--or to put it another way--a 2500 person firm working full time all year, every year for the public good.

It is such a good idea, and it is amazing to me that it isn't a part of my profession's DNA.  If lawyers can do it, why wouldn't we?

Right now, the One Percent's website has, at last count, 865 firms nationwide that have made the leap, and pledged more than 280,000 hours of service, and you can find inspiration, rationalization (for the doubters),  as well as a matching service where pro bono clients and  architects can find each other.

If you are an architect, sign up!

If you are a non-profit, or community group, post your project and connect with a expert that can help your organization.  Whether it is an expansion, tenant improvement, fixing an accessibility problem, or to masterplan/visualize the org's ambitions, architects have expertise and ideas that you can harness.

As one of the early adopters of the 1% idea, CAST has been selected as one of fifty  1% Design Advocates nationwide, so in the next couple of months, I'll be putting together some open events to discuss pro bono service.  In the meantime, if you have any questions about pro bono service, please feel free (no pun intended) to contact me:


The Power of Pro Bono: Talk with founder of Public Architecture

CAST architecture's P-Patch is featured in the Power of Pro Bono book John Peterson, of Public Architecture, is coming to town on October 20th to give a talk on how pro bono design is making a difference.  His firm has been behind a national effort, call the One Percent, to mobilize architects to donate 1% of their time per year toward pro bono causes.

Recently they've published a book called the Power of Pro Bono detailing 40 project nation wide where architects have donated their time toward great causes. CAST architecture's first pro bono project, the Interbay P-Patch is featured in the book.

We joined up with the One Percent several years ago after finishing the first project for the P-Patch, and have since completed several, with more on the way. I heartily recommend public service as an excellent way for architects to use their unique skill set to improve the community.  Plus, personally, it feels great to know that you've made a difference in the lives of some of your neighbors.

Here are the details for the talk:

Wednesday, 10/20

Pan Pacific Hotel

2125 Terry Avenue, Lakefront Room

Cocktails start at 5:30, the talk starts at 6:15, with dessert and coffee afterwards.

Washington Park Arboretum's new Visitor's Center

Arboretum Visitor Center-North Gateway I have been collaborating with Susan Black and Associates to formulate a vision for the expansion of the Washington Park Arboretum facilities, as part of the SR 520 replacement and the demolition of the highway ramps that currently dominate the north end of the Park.

With this project, we are proposing a " new gateway structure to orient visitors, provide space for general services and curation/collection exhibits, and fulfill many of the aims of the 2001 Master Plan.  As conceptualized, the development respects the history of the site and reclaims the altered landscape to natural, healthy conditions.  It will provide organization, orientation, and education for visitors as a means to explore the greater Arboretum.

view of entry plaza-Washington Park Arboretum Visitor Center North Gateway

As a gateway, the design will put visitors in the frame of mind for the study and enjoyment of the Park.  Balancing educational needs and recreation activities as functions that informally overlap and inform each other, the facility welcomes both types of visitor and enfolds them in the living greenness of the Arboretum/Lake Washington edge environment.  The building concept blends with the naturalistic organization of the site with minimal visual impact and performs as a closed loop system with regard to energy and water, using only resources collected on site.  The concept also enhances the connectivity to the adjacent neighborhood and trail system and welcomes pedestrian and bike traffic.


The buildings are gently folded into a rolling wetland rise like leaves blown in on the wind.  The roofs are gently articulated to provide shelter and solar access.  Rammed earth walls announce the gateway yet continue uninterupted through the glass to become an integral part of the ambiance of the facility.  Glass walls provide an invisible barrier to the surrounding landscape during the day.  In the evening, light from the buildings spills out onto grounds muted by the vegetation foliage.

Washington Park Arboretum Visitor Center North Gateway

Retaining a small remnant of the “flyover” bridge allows for the development of an elevated promenade for the establishment of a “pier garden”.  The pier would be planted in a series of linear landscapes culminating in an overlook of the southern waterway of the Mountlake Cut.  The pier garden provides the visitor a new perspective of the northern limits of the Arboretum, Foster Island and the day-lighted Arboretum Creek." (from the Concept Plan)

Ideally, the building will be designed to the standards of the Living Building Challenge.  I've anticipated about 75kW of photovoltaics on the roof, plus a ground source heat pump for building climate control, harvesting all rain water for the building's use and to irrigate the demonstration gardens.

We've only just put this out into the public sphere for comments, and I can imagine that we'll have some lively discussions about how a modern structure fits within the Olmsteadian structure of the park.  I ultimately think that the contemporary architecture will best serve the Foundation, rather than grafting high performance energy and sustainable systems onto something that is overtly historicist.   The Washington Park Arboretum can look both both into its own history and the future to chart a path for success in it's second century.

Renderings courtesy of Lambert Design Studio

Interbay P-Patch published in new book

p-patch-book-cover We are very excited to see this survey of Seattle's urban community gardens, especially since the Interbay P-Patch is included as one of the case studies.  The P-Patch is one of my personal favorites because of the impact it has had in strengthening this vital community, and has been instrumental in showing other neighborhoods how to implement their own community garden.

Further, the P-Patch really showed us just how satisfying working on these small pro bono projects can be. Since the P-Patch, we'll donated about 5% of our yearly output to pro bono causes, including daycares, parks, and community centers and hope that we'll have more opportunities to help concerned citizen groups visualize and build a better city.

CAST will be in upcoming book on pro bono design!

IMG_3789-webCAST has been involved in a number of  pro bono projects over the years, such as parks, community gardens, community centers, art installations, and smart development, and one of those, the Interbay P-Patch, is being published in an upcoming book on pro bono design by Public Architecture. This project was originally headed up by Nathan Walker, and after he left town, we've continued our involvement, adding a kiosk, arbor and most recently cool signage at the street.

We're really excited about the P-Patch, one, because it is a project that is near and dear to our hearts, and two, it can inspire more firms to offer their expertise to help civic and community causes, and more citizen groups to see that if they can dream it, they can build it.