Firm Profile: PRA

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Swallow Valley Farm Center, 2012, joint project by PRA and EDC. Photo- Pete Retondo

We are a small firm dedicated to design innovation, exceptional service to our clients, and superior documentation. Our practice is mainly residential, both new buildings and additions, with some commercial and condominium projects mixed in with custom residential structures. We take pride in producing designs that make sense with-in their context, whether with adjacent architecture or with surrounding natural features. We always seek unique and creative responses to design challenges -that’s why our clients hire us. We have been dedicated to developing the application and principles of ecological design since long before it was fashionable, and maintain a partnership with Sim Van der Ryn’s Ecological Design Collaborative.

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Amity, Oregon residence, 2014. Photo-Pete Retondo

Pete Retondo, AIA the principal (M. Arch, UC Berkeley), started his career working on the design and construction of inner-city playground space and rehabilitation of abandoned housing in the declining industrial Hudson River city of Troy, N.Y., with a group of fellow undergrads from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He pursued the central idea of thoughtful design as a response to integrate individual human, larger social, and global environmental needs as he gained experience as a builder, and as an architect in the offices of Van der Ryn Architects, where he was managing associate. He has served as project architect for a number of successful Bay Area architecture firms.

Pete has pioneered the use of non-toxic materials and applied energy-conservation strategies such as passive and “active” solar design, geothermal heat pumps, slab cooling, selective glazing, green roofs, and integrated whole-house controls years before such techniques became better know (see for example “Mercury, et al., one architect’s view of recent developments involving domestic indoor pollution,” Progressive Architecture, March, 1991). As project architect for EDI’s “Guitar House” (see “Marin’s Greenest Mansion,” Marin IJ, Jan 9, 2006) he directed a quarter-million dollar research project demonstrating the viability of rammed and pneumatically-applied stabilized earth for that 17,000 s.f. residence. PRA’s Petaluma Guest House project is the first North American use of an innovative German glass that effectively guards against bird strikes (see “A Bird-Friendly Cottage,” San Francisco Chronicle,
Feb 2, 2014).

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Stairs of bamboo oak and waterjet-cut steel in 1906 S.F. Victorian farmhouse 2nd story addition. 2011. Photo- Richard Tauber

The firm was founded in 2006, and thanks to some exceptional clients we will continue to break ground as architecture is being challenged to redefine itself to be more relevant and more disciplined. The firm’s background in digital technologies such as CNC processes, three-dimensional virtual design as an everyday practice, and total station / EDM as built documentation, keeps us competitive both in efficiency and quality. Most importantly, we bring a deep experience and understanding of construction and the realities of material developed through constant observation and research. In a world where practically everything is now labeled “sustainable” and “green,” architects must be responsible to dig deeper to call out what is really deserving, and to separate technologies with potential from the dead ends.





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