The Heart of Architect Carl Zarrello

August 4, 2015

The latest feature of Heart Behind the House highlights Foundation architect Carl Zarrello. Carl has been working for the Foundation since 2002, creating the ever-evolving design of a Fisher House. His passion for design has only been amplified during his tenure with Fisher House, and he brings something very special to these homes.

Carl Zarrello already had a relationship with Arnold and Ken Fisher when they asked him to get involved with Fisher House Foundation. The original architect, David Haines, had passed away, and Arnold and Ken needed someone to continue his work. That was the beginning.

Originally handed the 11-bedroom design, Carl implemented this model into his first two homes he worked on, the second Fisher House at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii; and the third Fisher House at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC.

 Although Carl made some slight changes to these homes, he knew the design of the house needed to evolve.

“The next evolution of the house was the 21-bedroom design,” said Carl. “It gave us the equivalent of two 11-bedroom houses in terms of occupancy, and that was completely new.”

 Eventually a 12-bedroom model was designed and the 12-suite and 21-suite became the standards. The evolution of the Fisher House not only includes various design sizes, but also differentiates based on the region the home is located.

The Charleston Fisher House, located in the historic district, was altered to better reflect the setting. The functionality of the home is the same, but the plan was modified. The future Fisher House in Las Vegas, was also modified for their climate as well.  

“Because that house literally sits by itself in the desert, the porches are in a different location and the home has a stone and stucco façade,” Carl noted.

“We try to make the houses respond to the setting by not developing a 100 percent new design, but by simply modifying the house,” Carl continued. “Also, at the beginning of this process, we tried to keep the houses in a recognizable form so that no matter where people saw a Fisher House, they would recognize it. We created a brand. We’re less conscious of doing that these days because Fisher House has such a broad appeal.”

From blue prints to ribbon cutting, it takes a little over a year for Fisher House doors to open. Carl develops the initial design and drawings over three months; and from that point, it could be nine to eleven months for construction to be completed.

 For nearly a decade, Carl has been contributing to the Fisher House community. He relates the opportunity to a special one that not many people get to contribute to.

“This is something special you see on the news, but you never get a chance to directly participate in something like this. From the first day they called me in, that was the first thing that occurred to me. That’s the most compelling part of this for me. I’m so lucky I can’t even tell you. To have a work environment I have doing the work we do – it’s tremendous.”