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portrait of Stephen Yamada-Heidner

Stephen Yamada-Heidner

Principal | AIA, LEED AP

“Like design, music is rational but it’s also intuitive. Ideas build upon each other and you can tap into something bigger than yourself.”

An architect with a foundational career in law, Stephen Yamada-Heidner is drawn to the rational, complex aspects of design practice. During his tenure at Olson Kundig, which spans more than 25 years, Stephen has developed an affinity for the rigor of institutional projects, drawing energy from the intertwining logistic challenges and collaborations inherent in them. As the firm’s most experienced project manager, Stephen is known throughout the firm as a practiced and intuitive mentor who bears a strong sense of ethics. For this, he credits his highly principled mother, a feminist poet, as well as his intensive legal education and training.

In addition to architecture, Stephen also plays music with an improvisational collective. “Like design, music is rational but it’s also intuitive,” he notes. “Ideas build upon each other and you can tap into something bigger than yourself. I find that the practice of architecture and creative pursuits like music actually feed each other. This is evident particularly in the way Olson Kundig collaborates.”

Stephen holds a Master of Architecture from the University of California at Berkeley and a Juris Doctor from the Hastings College of the Law at the University of California at San Francisco. He has worked on a diverse range of project types throughout his career, from cultural and museum projects such as The Burke Museum of History and Culture, The Wing Luke Museum, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Bezos Family Foundation, to commercial projects and exhibits for Microsoft, as well as libraries and community places of worship such as Saint Mark’s Cathedral.