Architect Devin Louis Miller Completes 25th No-Fee Project in War-Torn Country

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Hoping to foster a better, safer world, designer Devin Louis Miller has donated much time and effort to helping rebuild residential and commercial structures in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The bottom line is that innocent human beings just like you and me are caught in the middle, and it’s going to take human beings to save them.

For the 25th time, Oregonian architect Devin Louis Miller has designed a residential structure – cost-free – for a family trying to rebuild its life in a war-torn nation.

When local developers signed off this week on Miller’s plans for two one-story, three-bedroom homes in the Iraqi city of Basra, it marked the 24th and 25th pro-bono designs Miller had created for rebuilding efforts in a country devastated by war.

Miller, who earned dual master’s degrees in architecture and interior architecture from the University of Oregon, is one of a growing number of professionals in multiple fields lending time and services to rebuilding efforts across Iraq, Afghanistan and other war-ravaged population centers. Even with sizeable stipends from the United States, England and other coalition nations fighting against terrorist cells in these countries, rebuilding efforts are constantly hampered by spiraling costs, and Miller is hoping his donations will make a big difference.

“We’re not at war with the people of Afghanistan, just like we weren’t at war with the people of Iraq,” Devin Louis Miller said. “What people tend to forget is that terrorist groups and corrupt governments punish their own people first. The citizens of these towns, cities and nations are caught in the middle, and when the fighting stops, they’re the ones who have to pick up the pieces.”

The architect – who during a 25-year career has designed over 50 single-family homes, numerous townhouse communities and roughly one-dozen shopping centers between Portland, Ore., and San Francisco, Calif. – decided back in 2008 that his talents could make a difference in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. He first considered it, he said, after hearing about the Rebuild Afghanistan organization, organized by San Francisco-based engineer Masood Sattari.

Rebuild Afghanistan was an attempt to mobilize Bay Area professionals from within the Afghan-American community and beyond, starting with the first Rebuild Afghanistan event in Fremont, Calif., in 2004. Sattari’s idea gained momentum and eventually came to the attention of Devin Louis Miller, who attended his first Rebuild Afghanistan Summit at Dominican University in San Rafael, Calif., in 2008.

Miller would attend subsequent summits at Dominican University in 2009 and in Los Angeles, Calif., in 2010, and is now planning to attend the summit planned for Amman, Jordan, this April.

“It’s an amazing cross-section of professionals who are not only really good at what they do, but are true humanitarians,” Devin Louis Miller said. “Whatever your religion is, whatever you think about these wars, the bottom line is that innocent human beings just like you and me are caught in the middle, and it’s going to take human beings to save them.”

In addition to Rebuild Afghanistan, Miller has also donated his services to efforts directed by the San Mateo, Calif.-based Rebuilding Alliance, a coalition of people and groups from around the world dedicated to helping war-torn neighborhoods rebuild and to promoting policy changes that make these neighborhoods safer. One of the Rebuilding Alliance’s first programs involved brokering a partnership between Israeli and Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to help rebuilding efforts in several Palestinian communities.

“The work done by these groups has been truly inspiring,” said Michael Fridman, an Oakland, Calif.-based mechanical engineer who has worked alongside Miller on various Rebuilding Alliance efforts and on residential designs for multiple projects in Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city. “What professionals like Devin Louis Miller are doing is bringing hope and the promise of a better life to people who have suffered terribly, first at the hands of their own leaders and then from the strife and horror of war.”

With 25 completed projects under his belt, the architect said he’s looking forward to his trip to Amman in April, and said he hopes to someday be able to visit some of the neighborhoods in Iraq where his handiwork is being applied.

“I watch the news, but right now, it’s mostly all in my head,” he said. “I can barely imagine what these places are really like, and I think seeing them firsthand will give me a much better idea of just what these people are going through, and how important it is that professionals in all sorts of fields find the time to help them.

“I’m not a hero,” Devin Louis Miller added. “The heroes are the soldiers rooting out the real evil that’s taken over in these places. The heroes are the innocent parents who live there and are doing everything they can to protect their children from the horrors around them. Helping these people in any way I can is not heroic. It’s just the human thing to do.”

About Devin Louis Miller
Devin Louis Miller, 51, is a professional architect based in Bend, Ore. Born in San Diego, Calif., he earned master’s degrees in architecture and interior architecture from the University of Oregon in 1986 and has been in private practice ever since. A veteran of three Rebuild Afghanistan Summits, he’s been a contributing member of the Rebuilding Alliance since 2009. An avid boater and water skier, he lives in Awbrey Park, Ore., with his wife, Jillian, and their three children.

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