Olson Kundig Architects
2012 AIA Seattle Honor Award
Photo Credit: Dwight Eschliman, Benjamin Benschneider
James D. Cowan FAIA
June 19, 1920 - May 22, 1999
The son of a Yakima Valley pharmacist, James Douglas Cowan pursued architectural studies at the University of Washington and Yale University (cum laude 1947). He served in the US Navy in World War II, and during a brief respite from his undersea duties in the war in the Pacific, married Ruth Moulton. The marriage lasted more than 57 years and produced three daughters, Laurie Cowan and Janet Day, of Seattle, and Deborah Gallant, of Vashon Island. Ruth Cowan died June 1, 1999.
After the war, Jim settled his growing family in Yakima and went to work for architect John W. Maloney, eventually forming the partnership Cowan, Paddock, and Hollingberry, specializing in business and institutional projects. During the 1960's, he served terms as President of both AIA Central Washington and AIA Washington State Chapter (1966). In 1968 he moved to Seattle, where he served a stint as Executive Director of the Washington State Council of Architects (now AIA Washington Council).
He worked as an architect for The Richardson Associates, McKinley Architects, and Seafirst Bank, retiring in 1985. His former boss, colleague, and long-time friend David McKinley FAIA remarked Jim's contributions to the administration of architecture, particularly in its relationship with government agencies. The American Institute of Architects honored him with election to the College of Fellows in 1977.
A licensed pilot, he often flew in pursuit of his business interests in a Piper Tri-Pacer he co-owned with one of his brothers. Active in civic and cultural affairs, he pursued his life-long interest in music and theater as head of the Yakima Community Concerts Association board and, occasionally, as a leading man in productions of the Yakima Little Theater Group.
Good design makes a difference