BLRB Architects Adds Seven Team Members

BLRB Architects recently hired seven new team members to continue the high level of service the firm provides its clients throughout the region.

Jamie Sandburg is a talented architectural designer who brings significant experience with public facility design and sustainable design features. She is a graduate of Washington State University’s Architecture program, earning Master of Architecture and Bachelor of Science in Architecture degrees. Her recent experience includes the design of a LEED Platinum Community Center for the Tacoma Housing Authority’s new housing project in the Hilltop neighborhood.

Nickolas Watkins joined BLRB as an Intern Architect, bringing recent experience on a variety of public and private projects throughout the northwest. Nickolas graduated from the University of Idaho’s Architecture program, earning Master of Architecture and Bachelor of Science in Architecture degrees.
His recent experience include the Clackamas Town Center Remodel and Expansion, the Google Campus Phase II Core and Shell project in Kirkland and Banks Middle School in Banks, Ore.

Elizabeth Stonecypher has joined BLRB as an Intern Architect, bringing specialized experience in the development of architectural graphics. She is a graduate of the University of Idaho, earning Master of Architecture and Bachelor of Science in Architecture degrees. Elizabeth recently worked in Beijing, China, as a designer and architect working primarily on the city’s subway entrances.

Kourtney Strong joins BLRB’s Portland office as a Project Manager, bringing more than a decade of experience in the design of public and private facilities. Kourtney is a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, where she earned dual degrees in Architecture and Building Sciences. Her recent experience includes a variety of commercial, industrial, retail and institutional 
project types throughout Oregon.

As one of three new team members in the firm’s Bend office, Aiden Humphrey joined BLRB with significant sustainable design experience and training. A graduate of University of Oregon’s Master in Architecture program, Aiden studied sustainable practices at an advanced level with professor G.Z. Brown, an internationally recognized energy expert. Aiden has designed numerous residential, commercial, educational and medical projects.

Also joining the firm’s Bend office is RJ Johnson, a project manager and architect with more than 20 years experience serving public and private clients throughout the region. A graduate of the University of Idaho’s Architecture program, RJ has specialized expertise in sustainable design practices developed while working on a variety of commercial, educational, residential and municipal projects.
Dustin Locke is another of the firm’s new Bend hires, with specialized expertise in environmental and community-based architecture. A recent graduate of the University of Oregon’s architecture program, Dustin has interned at two distinguished Northwest firms and served in the United States Navy as an Avionic Electronics Technician.

Tacoma Dome District Feasibility Study Receives AIA Award

As part of AIA Southwest Washington’s Honor Awards held November 7, BLRB received a Citation Award for the 415 East urban infill feasibility study the firm completed in collaboration with the Tacoma Housing Authority and Pierce Transit.
The mixed-used, mid-rise residential development would be located along 25th Street East, across from Freighthouse Square and along the Sounder and Link commuter lines in the Tacoma Dome district. 
The building’s programming envisions a mix of market-rate and affordable housing, retail and café spaces, shared interior areas, outdoor patio, green roof, lofted library, community meeting rooms and a fitness center.
To soften the urban atmosphere, private grass areas are provided for individual units, and the rooftop of the parking garage is utilized as a vegetated courtyard with a dog run.
The 415 East project is envisioned as the start of Tacoma’s first modern multi-mode transit-rich neighborhood - a positive catalyst for future sustainable growth and urban community in Tacoma.

BLRB Architects Hires Three Team Members

BLRB Architects recently hired three new team members to continue the high level of service the firm provides its clients throughout the region.

Scott Winters joined the firm’s Tacoma office, bringing specialized experience in the development of architectural graphics and renderings. Scott earned a Master’s degree in Architecture from the University of Oregon and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Mixed Media from Western Washington University.

Henry Rhett joined BLRB’s Bend office, bringing 15 years of technical design experience and specialized expertise with design tools such as AutoCad and Revit. Prior to joining BLRB, Henry ran his own design firm, completing dozens of residential and commercial projects. Henry earned his Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Oregon.
Melissa Guarin, AIA, LEED AP BD+C has joined BLRB’s Portland’s office, bringing more than a decade of architectural design experience and expertise with design development, project coordination, drawings and specifications on a variety of public and private projects. Melissa earned Master of Science in Architecture and Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Baker Middle School Wins Learning By Design Award

BLRB has received a Publisher’s Commendation Award for outstanding educational facility design in the Fall 2013 Edition of Learning By Design, the biannual guide that showcases and recognizes innovative school and university design and construction projects.     

Recognized for its creative design of Baker Middle School, BLRB is only one of four firms to receive a Publisher’s Commendation Award in the Fall 2013 design competition.

BLRB’s design of Baker was applauded for its emphasis on community access, personalized educational environments, flexibility and environmental stewardship. The bright and airy design embraces both small learning communities and shared learning spaces.
The design of the 118,320-square-foot replacement incorporated green elements, such as on-site timber reclamation, rainwater harvesting and natural ventilation.

Learning By Design recognized BLRB’s design for “beautiful materials inside and out (that) help to create a warm and inviting feel for students, staff and the community.”

Learning By Design Fall 2013 Edition

Helen Keller Elementary Replacement Wins Top Award

BLRB Architects’ replacement of Helen Keller Elementary School for the Lake Washington School District in Kirkland was recently awarded the William W. Caudill Citation award as the top project in American School & University Magazine’s 2013 Architectural Portfolio.
The 56,000-square-foot elementary school was recognized for its “great integration of concept into the overall plan.” The jury also noted the school’s small learning communities and how they benefit learning.

The replacement of Helen Keller Elementary School opened to students in September of 2012. Keller’s design reflects a comprehensive, state-of-the-art elementary school that supports personalized instruction and community building among students and teachers.   Windows, skylights and lightwells ensure that interior spaces are filled with natural light, ensuring a pleasant, inspiring and sustainable learning atmosphere. 
The school is organized around four small learning settings, organized by grade level, that facilitate individualized attention and enhance student-teacher relationships.   Each learning setting has a unique character and is identified through the use of color, signage and raised tactile braille which identifies Keller’s four guiding principles: respect, growth, integrity and perseverance.

American School & University Magazine’s 2013 Architectural Portfolio will be available in November. William W. Caudill (1914-1983) was an American architect, teacher and author, best known for his educational facility design.

2013 AS&U Architectural Portfolio Issue

Principal Recognized for Excellence in Construction Specifications

At the annual awards banquet of the Mt. Rainier Chapter of Construction Specifications Institute held on June 6, BLRB Principal Dennis Kabba received the Donald E. Paine Specifications Award.

The award is presented yearly, recognizing excellence in the area of specifications writing and “outstanding stature as a practicing specifications writer.” Larry Barger and Fred Johnson, who are both previous recipients, presented the award.

Kabba has worked with BLRB Architects for over 25 years and oversees the firm’s construction administration services as well as quality control processes. He is a past president of the Mt. Rainier Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute.

Baker Middle School Replacement Wins Educational Design Award

Baker Middle School recently received a Merit Award from the Council of Educational Facilities Planners International during the annual state conference in Spokane.

The project was recognized for “capturing the resourcefulness necessary to create a welcoming and rich learning environment that also enhances the community.”

The resourcefulness refers to a land swap with Metro Parks to maximize the space available on the 13-acre site, which features a multi-use baseball/softball field, a synthetic turf soccer/football field and a park/play area. Harmon Park, which was previously adjacent to Baker, was traded to Tacoma Public Schools by Metro Parks for the land that now houses the STAR Center community facility on South 66th Street.
“It has been extremely rewarding to see the land of the demolished 1954 school become a recreational area and baseball gem in this part of our city,” said Ron Harpel, AIA, who served as project manager for the Baker replacement.

The committee was impressed with how the district and BLRB’s design team met the challenge of facilitating the necessary land exchange through public outreach, commitment and dedication, resulting in an outdoor component that enriches the neighborhood.

“When 21st century learning connects with community based resources for a higher vision, amazing spaces are developed,” said Lee Fenton, AIA, managing principal at BLRB Architects. “The synergy between Tacoma Public Schools and Metro Parks created a winning outcome at both Baker Middle School and the STAR Center.”
Baker was also recognized for being a well-proportioned 118,300-square-foot building with aesthetically pleasing materials and sustainable design features that complement interior and exterior spaces and instructional activities.

Higgins elected to Board of Directors of the CEFPI Oregon/SW WA Chapter

BLRB Architects’ Richard Higgins, AIA, was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the Oregon/Southwest Washington Chapter of the Council of Educational Facility Planners International. Richard was elected to an At Large position for 2013-2014.

Richard previously served as Chapter Governor, Chapter President and Regional President of the  Oregon/Southwest Washington Chapter of CEFPI. Richard joined BLRB earlier in the year, and serves as the Director of the firm’s Portland Office. 


Founded in 1953, BLRB Architects has grown under the direction of just three managing principals across six decades of architectural practice.  It is with pride that the firm announces the expansion of that list to four, with the elevation of Lee Raymond Fenton, AIA, to the position of managing principal for BLRB Architects.

With BLRB since 1984, Lee succeeds Thomas L. Bates, FAIA, who has managed the firm since 2002.  Throughout his career, Lee has established himself as an energetic and creative design force whose work has been consistently recognized for excellence by industry and peer associations.
He has served as a principal and integral member of the firm’s leadership team since 2002, helping to guide BLRB’s growth and development to the regional practice it is today.  Lee is an active member of the Council of Educational Facility Planners International and American Institute of Architects, Southwest Washington Chapter, as well as several community organizations.  As managing principal, Lee will maintain oversight and direct the activities of all four of BLRB’s offices located in Washington and Oregon.
Thomas L. Bates, FAIA, will now serve as Chairman of BLRB Architects’ six-member Board of Directors.  With BLRB since 1981, and having served variously as principal for design, and managing principal, Tom will continue to play a central role in business development and project leadership.  Tom was elevated to the AIA College of Fellows in 2008 in recognition for his contributions to the practice of educational architecture, and preservation work with historic schools.

David Pool, AIA, an associate principal of the firm since 2009, has been elevated to principal.   He will continue to provide project leadership and oversee design services across all four BLRB locations.  Dave joined BLRB in 2004 and has nearly 20 years of architectural experience.   Dave’s recent projects include the replacement of Keller Elementary School in Kirkland and Chinook Middle School in Bellevue.


Gregory A. McCracken, AIA, has been promoted to Senior Associate. Greg has over 20 years of architectural experience and joined BLRB in 2011 as director of the firm’s Spokane office. Greg is a skilled project manager and architect and has worked on numerous educational and civic projects including currently, the modernization of Walla Walla High School and the modernization of Stevens County’s Administration Building in Colville, WA.

Abbey Cwiek-Garrett, IIDA, IDCW, has been promoted to Associate. An interior designer with over 10 years of experience, Abbey joined BLRB in 2009 and brings specialized skills in space planning and programming for projects ranging from educational facilities and commercial spaces to office interiors and healthcare facilities. Abbey’s recent work includes
the renovation of the Clean Water Innovation and Technology Lab at University of Washington Tacoma and the replacement of Baker Middle School for Tacoma Public Schools. Abbey graduated from Washington State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Interior Design.

Aaron Winston, Associate AIA, has been promoted to Associate of the firm. A talented and creative designer, Aaron has significant experience in residential and commercial design. Aaron’s current projects include the Gateway Project at Eastern Washington University, encompassing a stadium renovation/expansion to include mixed-use opportunities. Aaron is a graduate of University of Washington with a Bachelor of Arts in Architectural Studies.  
Caela McKeever, LEED® AP, joined our Tacoma office, bringing specialized skills in architecture and interior design. Caela graduated Magna Cum Laude from California Polytechnic State University with a Bachelor of Architecture degree and recently completed the Architect Registration Examinations.

Richard H. Higgins, AIA, LEED® AP, recently joined BLRB Architects to direct the firm’s Portland office. He brings more than 30 years of architectural planning and design experience to his new position and significant depth in secondary and post-secondary facility planning and design. Richard has earned an outstanding reputation for collaborative project development, creative design solutions and responsive service. 

Baker Middle School Wins National School Design Award

The replacement of Tacoma School District’s Baker Middle School was honored with a Citation Award in American School & University Magazine’s 2012 Architectural Portfolio.

Each year, American School & University Magazine honors schools that support key features including sustainability, flexibility, security, transparency and adaptability.

The jury recognized Baker for its “strong middle school plan” and its “comfortable and well-detailed environment.”  

The 119,000-square-foot school includes several state-of-the-art green features that not only save on school district costs, but also permit valuable educational opportunities. The use of native landscaping, natural light and collected water runoff is combined with low-flow fixtures, recycling stations and solar
panels to make the best use of existing resources. 

Contemporary technologies were also employed to aid in classroom instruction including SMART Board interactive whiteboards, sound enhancement, document cameras and wireless internet capability. To assist deaf and hard-of-hearing students, strobe lights are placed throughout the school to notify students of announcements and emergencies.

Previous BLRB projects that have been honored by American School & University Magazine include Curtis High School Athletic Complex (University Place), Hamilton Middle School (Seattle), Simpson Intermediate School (Montesano) and Garfield High School (Seattle).

BLRB Honored for Sustainable Transportation Leadership in Tacoma

At the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce luncheon held on Friday, October 12, BLRB Architects was honored with a Transportation Innovator Award for the firm’s involvement in the Downtown On The Go program.

BLRB was one of five businesses honored for their work in sustainable transportation and commute options. BLRB was specifically recognized for providing and promoting sustainable commuting options to its employees and playing a leadership role in the community.

BLRB has a long history of working with Downtown On The Go on efforts to improve transportation and daily life in Downtown Tacoma. Recent involvement includes Park(ing) Day, participation in the Live Downtown program and participation on the Prairie Line Trail redevelopment through downtown Tacoma.
Downtown On The Go presents the Transportation Innovator Awards annually to acknowledge and celebrate work being done that helps meet the Downtown On The Go goal of reducing the number of single-occupancy vehicles 11 percent by 2015.
With a six-decade history of sustainable leadership in the Tacoma area, BLRB Architects seeks to balance functional facilities with environmentally conscious design. BLRB was the first architectural firm in Washington State to design a LEED equivalent school and designed the first LEED Platinum office building in Southwest Washington, Tacoma’s Pacific Plaza.