Zeljka Carol Kekez

Sankar Raman
Sankar Raman / The Immigrant Story

Zeljka (Carol) was born in Croatia and came to the United States as a high school exchange student during 1989-90. Just one year later, the civil war  broke out in her home country, forcing her to seek refuge and to continue her studies abroad.

An urban designer, Carol co-founded PLACE, an immigrant-led design studio in Portland, Oregon creating social impact through health, education, housing, art, and placemaking. With commissions like the Nike World Headquarters, Portland International Airport, Halprin’s Open Space Sequence Restoration, Gateway Discovery Park and Portland Mercado, the studio has quickly become one of the city’s most acclaimed, culminating in an inaugural Architecture MasterPrize Landscape Architecture Firm of the Year. An award-winning strategist, professor, and curator, Carol guides PLACE’s creative initiatives for a better world and human dignity through design justice, philanthropy, and environmental stewardship. 

She recently joined The Immigrant Story Board to help develop the organization in its long-term growth and planning.