Skip to content

Reflections of Kenichi's Life

Dear Kenichi and Family,

We were blessed with your laughing presence during our first month of landscape architecture school in 2006. We will never forget that you were the first one to show us how to measure our stride so that we could walk a project site and know its dimensions. This is only one of the many tools and tricks you gave us, that remind us of you every time we use them in our work. But more than all the pragmatic things you taught us that year, we treasure the example you set for us of someone to aspire to be: a beautiful artist and designer with a playful, adventurous soul.

A few of us had the opportunity to interview you about your experiences with the field of landscape architecture and we were moved by your enthusiasm and dedication to your craft. You described your grandmother’s Japanese garden where you would play and where you learned to appreciate nature. You described the beauty and reverence of an ancient Gingko tree…the importance of valuing people and relationships during design…and lastly, your joy of visiting the International Fountain to watch the children playing in the water. “When I’m a little down,” you said, “I go over to the fountain and watch the kids play and it makes everything okay.” We will always think of you when we bring our own children

Thank you for everything you taught us Kenichi.

With love,

your students –
Judy Blanco
Margaret Chang
Riisa Conklin
Gia Clark
Carrie Barnes
Claire Beyer
Annika McIntosh
Karen Kennedy
Danielle Pierce
Maria Taylor


Quotes from Friends & Family

Audrey, I received a forwarded copy of your sad notice today. Knowing for some time of Kenichi’s illness did not provide me with much solace, although it meant for me that he no longer suffered. I looked instead at the attached portrait, at his wise and humorous face, direct gaze, and impish smile. I recalled having served with him on the Landmarks Preservation Board, and working on projects together in the 1990s, and his sharing knowledge about the Japanese community in Tacoma as we developed ideas for commemorating the historic Japanese Language School on the UW campus. I will remember and miss him. My condolences to you and his other work colleagues and friends.

~ Susan Boyle


Kenichi was so great – one of the nicest, most collaborative people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. We will all miss him.

~Marc Errichetti, Springline Design


Thank you, Audrey for letting me know. I admired Kenichi not only for his exceptional talent, but hisimmense kindness. My deepest sympathy to all who were close to him.

~ Very best regards, Linda Feltner (artist)


Almost exactly a year ago, Kenich & I had a picnic lunch-hike down to Carkeek Park beach. It was lovely and fun. You are so right about the story-telling. He always amazed me with all his stories – some so funny, others sad or shocking, but always entertaining. He knew so many people, particularly in the profession. Far more than me. I am a far richer person for having known Kenich.

~ Peggy Gaynor


I’m so so sorry to hear about Kenichi. I hadn’t seen him lately at the Wednesday morning yoga class we both attended, and was wondering why. He was such an important part of the landscape architecture world in Seattle and will obviously be very missed.  On a personal note, he really inspired and helped me in those early stages of the Denny Way CSO project, allowing me to follow my vision rather than stepping in as the landscape architect and dictating the site design. I know he had that wonderful collaborative spirit with so many other artists too. It was a rare thing and treasured by many.

~ Best, Laura Haddad


Kenichi was a fantastic landscape architect who created many wonderful and memorable places for us to embrace and enjoy. And Kenichi was more than that…he was a dedicated teacher and mentor, an effective community leader and advocate, a collaborative colleague, a proud and supportive father and a loyal friend. He spent his life giving of himself. A scholarship in his name to be given to a deserving student to further their education and begin their career is a worthy continuation of Kenichi’s legacy.

~ Dennis Haskell


Mr. Nakano was quite the star in the design community and one of those people who was not only respected and revered for his talent, but also known for being kind, warm and gentle. What a legacy. He spoke once at an SDA meeting that I attended many years ago, and of course I saw him in and out of the ARC office from time to time. The principals and project managers always had the best things to say about Mr. Nakano. Even though I never spoke to him other than to show him to the conference room and offer him coffee or water, I noticed he was so nice and polite, and could tell he was something special. He had a twinkle in his eye and a warm smile, didn’t he?

~ Ellen Kennard


I worked with Kenichi for 4 years at Robert Shinbo’s office in the late ‘80s (“that K-guy” – as one illiterate client dubbed him), which became our pet name for him. He was a mentor/confidant to me, and also a friend and fellow musician – we lived out our rock and blues stardom fantasies together Such a sweet guy. My best to you all.

~ Michael


Kenichi was an amazing person. I am so thankful that I got to know him, so sorry that he has left us so soon.

~ Peter Hummel


Kenichi was my first teacher in the LA program- the summer course. He inspired me and made me laugh. He was also dedicated to the public value of landscape architecture, and I like to think some of that rubbed off on me.

~ Peace, Mark S Johnson


Please express our great sadness and respect for Kenichi to all at Nakano Associates. As I mentioned to our staff, he was a gentle man and a landscape architect of great talent. I’m sure you, after working closely with Kenichi for so long, must feel an especially great loss.

~ My condolences, Stan Lokting


I was shocked to see this announcement. Besides doing a number of projects together over the years, I grew up with Kenichi, took piano from his mother – being at his home weekly for years, played on the same football and baseball teams in high school, and looked to him as a mentor as I began UW Architecture School 2 years after he started at the UW. Kenichi was a wonderful person and I always enjoyed connecting with him. I am very saddened at this news. Please let me know when and where services will be for Kenichi.

~ James R. Merritt FAIA


Very sad news; a leader in every sense of the word A soul very much missed.

~ Jerry Osborn


I knew Kenichi Nakano professionally. I am an electrical engineer and I worked as a design consultant on a number of Nakano Associates projects over a period of approximately eighteen years before Kenichi’s death. I knew Kenichi only from my professional interactions with him, project design meetings, construction site visits and the like. Nevertheless, during the time that I knew Kenichi, he was always one of my favorite people and I looked forward to every opportunity I ever had to see him. Kenichi Nakano was a wonderfully warm and humane man with a mercurial sense of humor. He was invariably kind and gracious to me, and he always made me feel that I was valuable to him. I suspect that many people had this experience of him, as I can’t imagine why he would have shown me this face without showing it widely. Interacting with Kenichi in any context was always a joy and a privilege and these interactions were always valued by me. I think that he had a gift for reflexively seeing the inner value of other people and that he communicated this to the people around him without thinking about it. I was very saddened when I heard about his death and I have always felt since that the world is a poorer place for his absence from it. Kenichi was a person who made me feel proud to be a human being in that I was proud to be one of him.

~ Jim Redding, Sparling


This is truly sad. Kenichi was one of the kindest most inspiring people I have had the pleasure to work with. He was always smiling and bringing a positive attitude. I will miss the opportunity to collaborate with him. My heart goes out to you.

~ David Schwartz, KPFF


He combined Rock and Roll with a gentle intellectual spirit that made all exchanges interesting and fun. The broad community here and across the country will miss him but our comfort goes out to Maya, his family and all of you- his close working companions. His spirit is strong – he will always be here Caring thoughts and hugs to all of you.

~ Peg Staheli


Audrey, He was an amazing person and I thoroughly enjoyed every interaction I ever had with him. We should all try to carry his passion and caring approach forward in our own lives.

~ With sadness, Lorna Taylor