Special Interview: Rico Quirindongo

In addition to being in his fifth year of service on AIA Seattle’s board of directors, Rico is a mayoral appointment to the Historic Seattle Council, a board member for Pike Place Market PDA, and a founding member of the National Organization of Minority Architects Northwest Chapter. Rico sat on the AIA+2030 national steering committee, a committee born out of AIA Seattle that has seen to it that 24 cities nationally are providing curriculum to help design teams and owners meet the 2030 Challenge. Rico was recognized in 2011 by AIA National as a Citizen Architects on the Move, just completed a term as a member of the AIA National Communications Committee, was an Advisory Group member for AIA’s National Sustainability Scan, and was just awarded the AIA Seattle Young Architect Award in 2014.

The theme of this year's Seoul Design International Forum is 'Re-connect: Design as a value creator'. What do you think the city government should do to improve the value in the cities and in the lives of their citizen through design? And for that, how should the city's design organization be structured? I believe that organizational structure is one of the most important parts of maximizing the value creation of any organization. When organizing the city government's workforce, how can the design organization be structured to maximize the value of design? Also, what factors should be considered? 

As civil servants, our responsibility is to serve the needs of our cities, our citizens, and our diverse communities. To improve the value of our cities and lives of our citizens through design, we must start by listening to our communities, particularly marginalized communities of color, hear from our citizens what they need to be supported, how they can be uplifted, and how they have been underserved. That input and education needs to be institutionalized and iterative. With that data and interaction, city governments should use that information to inform and coordinate our infrastructure and capital investments, our placemaking efforts, and our policy decisions.

Our city’s ‘design organization’ is structured to develop and champion land-use policy, long range planning processes, community planning efforts, and equitable community investments. Moving forward, I am hoping that we expand our urban design and community engagement staffing levels to be more responsive to community needs. Further, I believe part of our value is our ability to apply ‘out-of-the-box’ design thinking to the problems of our city and provide a service to our partner departments. Our office has the opportunity, and in some sense a mandate, to help all our city capital and built environment related departments to plan and cross collaborate to ensure the best outcomes of our investments in neighborhoods and communities. We have recently identified this effort as an Equitable Communities Framework. Through the framework and a Capital Subcabinet, we are identifying barriers in City planning, land use, and regulations, and regulatory processes that inhibit financial prosperity for communities of color and work with community development partners in all sectors to imagine a post COVID future.

If there is an important case as an example of efforts made by city governments or public institutions to create social value, please introduce it. It may be difficult to answer because there are so many examples, but I would appreciate it if you could introduce an example of efforts to improve social value carried out in other cities or institutions that you would like to introduce to Seoul. 

The Capital Subcabinet supports several interdepartmental collaborations that pilot place-based planning and community development grounded in racial equity and environmental justice principles. The first recent effort to deliver coordinated capital investments by several Capital Cabinet agencies to a historically underserved community is the Duwamish Valley Program (DVP). The DVP, launched in 2016, offers precedents for the Equitable Communities Framework. OSE and OPCD co-led the DVP to advance environmental justice and equitable development in the Duwamish Valley neighborhoods of South Park and Georgetown. The DVP demonstrates how 18 departments (collectively known as the Duwamish Valley Action Team) collaborated to: 1) align short-term investments to address immediate needs and build trust; 2) develop, fund, and implement mid-term strategies that addressed longstanding community priorities, and 3) holistically advance 6 long-term strategies. 

Other examples of cross department and interagency collaboration at City of Seattle include: 

Station Area Planning, such as Mount Baker Station Area Planning, where the City and Sound Transit are jointly redeveloping several parcels adjacent to the Mt Baker light rail station with affordable housing, a childcare and early learning facility, and potential open space. This transformational redevelopment opportunity fulfills longstanding City, Sound Transit, and community goals to create more affordable housing and a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly area around the light rail station. There are future opportunities through a FTA Grant focused on equitable transit-oriented development and utilizing remnant parcels, shared early planning work with ST, and City-led station area planning in various communities, such as Delridge and Graham St. 

Seattle Public Utilities developed the Multiple Objective Decision Assessment (MODA) to identify how they can leverage their large infrastructure investments, and coordinate with other departments to create outcomes the advance equity and community health. 

Outside Citywide is an interdepartmental initiative to foster collaboration across departments and with external partners to create a more cohesive, connected, and equitable public space system. Through partnerships and innovation, Outside Citywide identifies priority areas and key strategies to improve public space at the city scale, while also testing and improving these strategies by implementing projects at the neighborhood scale. 

Equitable Development Initiative, which is a place-based model that supports community-led and driven land acquisition and development. Coordinated efforts both prior to and after land acquisition, as well as other forms of technical assistance and strategic planning with the community planning division at Office of Planning and Community Development, specific initiatives and investment in other offices and departments would create the potential for greater positive impacts within communities.  

Community Planning projects, in neighborhoods such as Westwood Highland Park and Aurora Licton Springs, are planned to be a vehicle for coordination of site and neighborhood-specific infrastructure investments that are filtered through the lens of community vision and imperatives. Both these projects model the coordination of planning efforts with the advance planning of capital departments like Seattle Department of Transportation and Seattle Public Utilities. The ability to combine engagement efforts and hear from the community simultaneously opens the potential for outcomes that are aligned across City offices and departments, and most importantly, that better meet community needs and expectations. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic, we are living through challenging time. How can design strive for social innovation or improvement of public life in the post-COVID era? Or, we would be grateful if you could tell us how the role of design in the past and the role of design in the future will be different in response to climate change and various social and technological changes. 

We all have an opportunity to be agents of social change though built environment advocacy, volunteerism, and professional design services. Through our city policy work, public private partnerships, and design services, we need to meet community where they are at, be informed about community needs, and develop culturally enriched, place-based solutions that provide true value to the communities we serve.

Category related contents
Hashtag related contents