Johnpaul Jones shares ancient gifts at Bainbridge Public Library event

Renowned architect and Bainbridge resident Johnpaul Jones will speak from 3-4:30 p.m. Sunday at the Bainbridge Library.  - Courtesy Photo
Renowned architect and Bainbridge resident Johnpaul Jones will speak from 3-4:30 p.m. Sunday at the Bainbridge Library.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

When architect Johnpaul Jones moved to Bainbridge Island in 1967, building permits weren’t even required. A lot has changed in the 40 years since his career began, before he rose to international acclaim for reinterpreting zoological design, before leading the design team for the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC, and long before he would lend his sensitivity and expertise to the design of the Japanese-American Memorial a few miles from his home.

What hasn’t changed is Jones’ approach to a project. In fact, it’s downright ancient. Drawing on his Choctaw roots, and the lessons he learned from his mother and grandmother, Jones, a principal of Jones & Jones in Seattle, spends a lot of time listening.

“It’s a Choctaw thing,” Jones said on the phone Monday. “They were passed down to me, very ancient teachings, gifts.”

When a person listens to, pays attention to the four worlds, he said, a lot of wonderful things can happen. The four worlds – the natural, animal, spirit and human world – offer unique perspectives that can be “very helpful in solving problems.”

The man who listens has been doing a little more talking lately. He was invited by his alma mater, the University of Oregon where he graduated in 1967, to give the commencement speech to the 2010 graduating class. And Sunday his talk leads off the Bainbridge Library’s Fall Speaker’s Forum.

During his commencement speech, Jones encouraged this year’s graduates to honor diversity and recognize themselves as connected to the organic world.

For Sunday’s talk at the library, Jones said he would talk about why he has lived on Bainbridge for 43 years.

“It’s a place where you as an individual can hear birds, see animals, know your neighbors…it’s a beautiful place.”

This from a man who has been all over the world designing public and private structures.

In the late 1970s, Jones helped revolutionize zoological design by taking animals out of cages and putting them in settings that more closely resembled their natural habitat. Not only was it better for the animals themselves, but it gave the human world a better to understanding of the natural environment.

His zoological work includes the Gorilla Habitat at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, Tiger River Trail and Tree house at San Diego Zoo, and zoos in Ireland, Singapore and Australia.

Other work includes the Longhouse Education and Cultural Center at the Evergreen State College, The People’s Lodge in Seattle, and, closer to home, the Bainbridge Island Japanese-American Memorial.

Jones has specialized in creating public places that help tell the story of a place, and the BIJAM is no exception. In fact, the design follows the route taken by Nisei islanders on their way to Eagledale Dock where they were shipped off for internment. The walls undulating path flows like the tears that accompanied that walk.

On Sunday Jones will show slides of his own projects as well as examples of “the magnificent architectural heritage” of the American Indian people.

“Not a lot of people know it,” Jones said. “And, as a gift, I will talk about it. And I will talk about verbal gifts, stories passed down from generation to generation that are worth knowing about. Ancient gifts.”


Library Speakers Forum:

How Bainbridge Touches the World

Learn how members of the Bainbridge community have affected the world, near and far, in a variety of ways.

Sept. 19, 3 - 4:30 p.m.

Johnpaul Jones, architect

Indigenous Design: Emerging Gifts

Architect Johnpaul Jones, who has lived on Bainbridge Island for 43 years, has traveled the world on projects such as the San Diego Zoo and the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. He also designed the Bainbridge Island Japanese-American Memorial.

Oct. 17, 3 - 4:30 p.m.

Ometepe Sister Island/Camp Siberia,

Intergenerational Efforts Across the Globe

Young people from Bainbridge travel to Nicaragua and Russia to learn from and support people whose lives are much different from their own. Bainbridge Ometepe Sister Island has been exchanging coffee beans, people and supplies since 1986. Camp Siberia began in 1999 as a nonprofit residential summer camp to enrich the lives of Russian orphans and Northwest youth.

Nov. 21, 3-4:30 p.m.

Marcy Jackson, cofounder - Center for Courage and Renewal

Reconnecting Who You Are With What You Do

The Center for Courage and Renewal, founded in 1997, has helped people nurture personal identity and professional integrity.

Participants include teachers, physicians, clergy and others “who rejoin soul and role.” Their approach was developed through author and teacher Parker Palmer and the Fetzer Institute.

The Bainbridge Island Speakers Forum was founded in 1998 by Susan Bray who for 10 years brought a wide variety of presenters to the island for stimulating Sunday afternoon events.

“I had as much fun as anybody,” she said. “They were dedicated, really into their subject.”

All Speakers Forum events are free and are held at the Bainbridge Public Library, 1270 Madison Ave.

For more information, call the Library at 842-4162 or visit

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