Nakano Associates

Specialty: Landscape architecture for multifamily housing, schools and campuses, urban design, transportation facilities
Management: Kenichi Nakano, owner
Year founded: 1990
Headquarters: Seattle
Current projects: High Point and Rainier Vista low-income housing, Seattle; several college campuses around Puget Sound; Mercer Island park and ride

Nakano Associates principal Jim Yamaguchi said that while 2004 was not as busy as anticipated, work has really picked up since November.

Photo courtesy Nakano Associates
Nakano Associates designed Seattle’s Union Station Square, which was part of the Second Avenue South street improvement project. The plaza has three gingko trees and a series of sandblasted cubes designed by artist Bill Will.

“We’re anticipating a good year,” he said.

The firm has focused mostly on public housing projects but is shifting toward urban design and schools and campuses, based both on its reading of the market and a consensus among its staff of 14 of the types of work that interest them.

This year, Nakano is designing campus features at Seattle Pacific University, Peninsula Community College in Port Angeles, Green River Community College in Auburn and University of Washington-Tacoma, where it is designing a Japanese memorial.

Yamaguchi said that Nakano is focused on green design now more than ever, thanks in part to this year’s drought. He said Nakano staff have had frequent discussions on how to address the drought in their work.

“It’s a tough one for landscape architects to come up with a solution,” he said.

He said they are looking at selecting different plants, including drought-tolerant plants that can die back and still look good; using water-saving technologies such as drip irrigation; and delaying new plantings until the fall.

“It doesn’t matter what you plant, they do require water to establish themselves,” he said.

Nakano’s work at the High Point housing project, including low-allergen, drought-tolerant landscaping and an innovative natural drainage system, helped the low-income project win a Seattle Built Green award from the city’s Department of Planning and Development last month.

Though he would not name the project, Yamaguchi said Nakano is working on a 16-story “living wall” for the western side of a planned office building in Portland. The wall would be covered in plants to shade and cool the building. The firm did similar walls on the Capitol Hill library, but the Portland project would use the green technique, seen most often in Europe, on a dramatic scale.

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