Stan Laegreid’s career as an architect has taken him around the globe, designing commercial and residential buildings in China, Russia, Qatar and beyond.
Laegreid lives in Seattle and works as the senior vice president of design at Kemper Development Co., a firm in Bellevue.
His career path to architecture has roots in Richland, where his family relocated when he was in high school.
Laegreid, a 1972 Richland High School graduate, fondly remembered his days in the Tri-Cities.
Laegreid said he expected green forests and pine trees when his family moved from California to Washington in 1970, but instead he saw brown rolling hills.
He had grown up in Silicon Valley but was born in Minnesota. Like many transplants to the Tri-Cities, Laegreid’s father was recruited to work at Hanford, so the family moved north.
He entered Richland High School as a junior, where he found the basketball program to be even more competitive than in Sunnyvale, California, so he didn’t pursue sports. He found the community to be quite welcoming, however, and he came to love it.
Laegreid found comfort and consistency in drawing. He had always excelled at math and science, and his parents suggested architecture.
“I was kind of the curious kid from California that no one really knew how to figure out, so I worked that to my favor,” Laegreid said.
He often drew old Civil War-era machines or city skylines and buildings. Living in Richland, he grew to love Washington state and wanted to stay for college. He remembers an announcement on the loudspeaker at Richland High School reminding students of the deadline apply to state colleges.
He ended up at the University of Washington.
“I always had a fascination for Seattle and Alaska, and so when we moved here, I was actually pretty excited,” he said.
The Tri-Cities also grew on him.
“I really grew to love both the countryside and the people and the community,” he said.
He moved to Seattle to study architecture at UW, despite never visiting before. He still lives there today.
After undergraduate study, he met his wife, Jeanene, who also attended UW. The couple moved to Los Angeles for graduate school. Laegreid attended UCLA for a graduate degree in architecture.
The couple married in 1980 and worked in Los Angeles for about a year. Laegreid’s first job was at a Santa Monica firm, but it wasn’t too long before the pull of Seattle brought them back to the Pacific Northwest.
Laegreid left for a job at a fledgling firm in Seattle. At age 30, his first big designs were for Nordstrom’s retail stores.
He recalls feeling immense pressure presenting his designs to Jim and John Nordstrom for the first time, but it turns out that that kind of high-pressure environment would become commonplace in his career.
The 1980s and ’90s were a great time to be an architect, as firms were being hired internationally to develop and modernize cities worldwide, he said.
Laegreid’s work took him to China before tourists were permitted to travel there, as well as to Moscow and Dubai. Laegreid’s firm mainly worked on commercial and residential projects, and he was asked to travel a lot to consult on such projects.
He recalled working on a 40-story high-rise residential building in Doha, Qatar, and an Ikea development in Moscow. The work meant long stretches of international travel and some humorous anecdotes to bring home.
On his first trip to Dubai in 1999, a developer showed Laegreid’s his design concept: a palm tree-shaped building.
“I couldn’t keep from laughing, and I didn’t mean to insult him but I said, ‘This looks ridiculous,’” he recalled. “But, lo and behold, they built three of them.”
Despite his Minnesota and California roots, Laegreid found it important to get back to Washington state. He and his wife raised three daughters, two of whom still live in the Puget Sound area.
Laegreid lost his wife to cancer in 2008. He enjoys celebrating holidays with his daughters and their families. He calls his family his pride and joy.
Tri-City Connections is an occasional profile of Tri-City natives and former Tri-Citians who have had interesting careers.
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