Not quite gone and never to be forgotten, BLRB Architects announces the retirement of principal, Ron Harpel, AIA, effective December 31, 2021, bringing to a close a meaningful three-decade long career of award-winning work and service.
Ron graduated from Washington State University, achieving the institution’s five-year professional degree and he was employed by the University as a teaching assistant during his final two years of study. The experience of part-time teaching served Ron well throughout his career, informing his efforts to mentor and empower emerging professionals in the field. Other highlights of Ron’s education included critiques with Dave Miller, FAIA and Bob Hull, FAIA, achievement of an AIA academic merit scholarship and summer internships with the BJSS and NBBJ. Ron and his wife, Christin, continue to support WSU’s Weller Fund Scholarship program each year.
Ron obtained his architectural license in 1990 in Massachusetts where he garnered valuable urban design and planning experience with Jung/Brannen Associates in Boston, a large multi-discipline firm. A native of Olympia, Ron returned to the Pacific Northwest in 1991, first joining BLRB Architects until 1995, and subsequently working with other regional firms, before returning to BLRB in 2004. Ron became a principal of the firm in 2011 and lead efforts on the firm’s civic planning and design projects. He was also a valued marketing voice as BLRB expanded its geographic footprint, opening offices in Portland and Bend, Oregon, and Spokane, Washington.
Throughout his more than 40 years of experience, starting with an internship at BJSS Architects of Olympia, Ron has served a variety of public agency and not-for-profit clients, providing community-centric design solutions that integrate public art and communal outdoor spaces. Ron’s influence on the Pacific Northwest built environment can be seen through his work on the Thea Foss Waterway Master Plan (ARRJW/ZGF); the International Museum of Glass (Arthur Erickson/AARJW); Dickman Mill Park (AARJW/Bruce Dees), Tacoma’s Fallen Firefighter’s Memorial, Auburn’s Les Gove Park (BLRB) and Lacey’s Virgil Clarkson Senior Center (BLRB).
Ron’s K-12 projects completed during his tenure with BLRB includes the nationally recognized Baker Middle School (Tacoma Public Schools) and Wilburton Elementary School (Bellevue School District), and multiple projects for the Auburn, Tacoma, University Place, Olympia, Bellevue, Lake Washington and Northshore school districts. Ron recently lead the firm’s service on the classroom building addition, campus wide modernization and athletic field improvements at his alma mater, Olympia High School, completed in 2020. He is also closing his career with a progressive design-build delivery project for Tacoma Public Schools.
In 2015, Ron was honored by AIA Southwest Washington with the Charles T. Pearson Award for his demonstrated commitment to community service. He has served as a board member for multiple organizations, including the Thea Foss Waterway Urban Design Review Board, Metro Parks Tacoma Active Lifestyles & Community Wellness Board, Habitat for Humanity, Communities in Schools, Tacoma Arts Commission, AIA, Southwest Washington Chapter, and St. Patrick and Holy Cross churches in Tacoma.