Donald I. King
Contributor: Tyler Sprague
Donald I. King is a Seattle-based architect, planner and educator with over 50 years of experience. He has provided a community-based practice planning, design and project management services in the Pacific Northwest since 1981. King has blended a life-long professional career in architectural design with community activism and service.
Born in Port Huron, Michigan, King was interested in architecture from an early age. Showing a propensity for drawing and design, King’s high school art teacher encouraged him to work on imagining a new town and a plan for the central business district of his home town. This project published in a full-page spread of the Port Huron Times Herald and caught the attention of a local architect. His high school helped arrange an apprenticeship in the local design firm. By the age of 17, King was actively engaged in the practice of architecture.
During the late 1960s, King forged a close connection between Detroit and Los Angeles through a variety of community design centers. In 1968, King volunteered with community design center in Detroit, as a way to connect his budding interest in architecture with a need to remain serve his community. In late 1968, he moved to Los Angeles to continue his education at LA City College. He received one of the first AIA/Ford Foundation architecture scholarships, and began studies at California Polytechnic Institute, while continuing his work in the community in the LA Area. In 1975, King returned to Detroit and completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts, with a focus on Interior Architecture, from Wayne State University.
Shortly after, King returned to Los Angeles to pursue a Master of Architecture from University of California, Los Angeles. Here, King was able to work with Charles Moore at the Urban Innovations Group, and guest faculty Frank Gehry. During his second year in school, King worked as a designer/drafter in Gehry’s office.
For his master’s thesis, King fused his high-minded design skills with culturally-relevant community design. He chose a Hawaiian community college campus site, adding buildings that were responsive to climate, Pan-Asian island culture, and other proto-sustainable, off-the-grid design ideas.
King arrived in Seattle in 1980, and began working with Environmental Works Design Center, a not-for-profit organization providing design services to a variety of community partners. In 1981, King became a Principal of Environmental Works and served in that capacity until 1985.
At this time, King established his own, independent practice DKA Architecture. For the next 30 years, DKA Architecture designed over 400 significant projects throughout the Seattle area. In 1994, DKA Architecture designed the Sea Mar Community Care Center - a culturally-responsive design for Latinx population, using Pre-Columbian architecture of Mesoamerica as precedent. With the adjacent childcare facility, it was the first care facility in the state to be designed with an integrated, inter-generational focus. In 2008, DKA Architecture led an adaptive-reuse of a 100-year old school (Colman School) to house Northwest African American Museum galleries, genealogical center, offices and support spaces on the ground floor and 36-units of affordable housing on the upper two floors – known as the Urban League Village at Colman School. Also in 2008, DKA Architecture designed the Asian Counseling & Referral Service Community Center. Reviving his thesis themes, King achieved a design sensitive to Asian-Pacific Island culture while advancing important themes of the contemporary Pacific Northwest (like extensive daylighting).
Since 2015, King has led Mimar Studio as a pre-development and consultancy firm to a variety of clients and projects. King has also accepted an Affiliate Professor in the Department of Architecture at the University of Washington, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate design studios. This instruction has complimented his founding of the Nehemiah Initiative, a faith-based community development initiative dedicated to empowering the African American community in the Seattle region and beyond to support the retention of historically Black institutions by advocating for development of real property assets owned by those historically Black institutions.
Curriculum Vitae | Donald I King FAIA, provided fall 2022
Kaplan, Victoria. Against All Odds: An Ethnographic Case Study of One African American Architect., Ph.D. Dissertation, Fielding Graduate Institute, 2004
Nehemiah Initiative Seattle, https://www.nehemiahinitiativeseattle.org/, Accessed January 13, 2023.
-- Backstory –
Odessa Brown Clinic– Laurie Wilson,
First intentional Afro-centric project
Central Area Clinic – co location with Carolyn Downs (founded by Black Panther party)