Recently Completed ProjectRead More
By: Jamie Treadwell, Senior, Christoval High School
As I began my freshman year in high school, I was often asked a question: "What did I plan on doing with my life."Read More
This chapel was completed over 30 years ago. Craig Kinney recently visited and was taken with the stained glass windows.Read More
KFW just completed a restroom addition to a much larger, earlier project, the Texas Bank Sports Complex.Read More
Godfather of Texas Modern Architecture
One of the nation's best unknown architects…Read More
As the ASU Museum project progresses, the time to pick finishes has come…Read More
As we dive into the design of the ASU Museum, we're looking at existing brick patterns on campus for clues...Read More
How my new experience turned into a National Championship title…Read More
We had the pleasure of touring this little jewel…Read More
Just thinking about next week excites my inner foodie…Read More
A friend offered Susan and me her apartment for a week stay in New York City--she made us an offer we couldn't refuse. Since we lived there in the 80's, we've been back perhaps five times and it's always intriguing to see how the city has changed while remaining, in many ways, the same. We said "yes!".
The endless energy remains, like an angel hovering over the city, driving innovation and pushing for the new. The neighborhood where we worked, lower Chelsea, has been transformed from derelict to divine due to the Hi-Line park being a stratospheric success and generating countless new "starchitect"-designed buildings by Renzo Piano, Frank Gehry, the late Zaha Hadid, Enneagram, Diller Scofidio, and others. Construction cranes tower over many areas. Times Square is glitzier than ever. New bike lanes are a welcome addition. Central Park continues to be the green beating heart, keeping the city sane and breathing.
The Hi Line
Yet, I can't help but miss many of the things that are now of a bygone era. The unique districts have lost much of their distinct purpose, having become homogenized thru countless chains strung along the streets and by the extraordinary rents that forced many of the Mom and Pop's to leave. Nowadays, it's hard to tell that there was a Garment district teeming with teenagers pushing carts of hung clothing along the avenues or a Meat Packing district where you could view innumerable hung carcasses by day and more colorful characters walking the streets by night. Some heat has left Hell's Kitchen as it lurches towards Purgatory and there is little Italian being spoken in Little Italy. Much of the grittiness has morphed into gentility. There is no more graffiti on subway cars and the place actually feels safe.
Garment District 1940's
Garment District today
Meatpacking District 1950's
Meatpacking District today
Still, New York City is a marvel, one of the real wonders of the world. World-class in so many large and small ways. Walking the streets is full of adventure and discovery. Many of the new buildings are laboratories of inventiveness. The detail of the city in old and new is palpable. New restaurants abound. It's easy to get around. While there, Halloween was about to happen and we got to review/judge costumes of young and old everywhere we went. The young won.
And now, safely back home, I read accounts of a sad young man fueled by bad religion, driving and killing people near the West Side Highway. Lord, have mercy.
Today I finished a painting that has been brewing for months and then materialized quickly in the past week. It is a commissioned copy of a work of genius that shined brightly and burned out in a drug overdose at age 27. Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988), the child of a mother of Haitian descent and a Puerto Rican father, started as a graffiti artist in Brooklyn. His mother Matilde instilled a love of art in Jean-Michel, taking him regularly to the fertile sacred ground of the great museums in NYC. Child prodigy, tragic talent, hit by a car at 8, spoke English, French, and Spanish by age 11, musician, writer, social activist, pie-wielding high school drop-out. He suffered from depression and an appetite for narcotics. Within a short span, he was homeless eating 15-cent bags of cheetos, and then an instant celebrity. His influence loomed large throughout my years in art school in the 1980’s. He had a disdain for the art world and dodged questions about his own art in interviews. His life is a tiny complex crystal that few can resist straining to take in. In 2016, his painting at Christie’s drew the highest price to date for an American artist. $110,000,000. Diving into his work is a thrill, a cathartic party, especially with his life being so different than mine. I share this experience in our KFA blog because I suspect that fruitful creative processes have an origin in this kind of thrill.
We are thrilled to have been a part of a great project for San Angelo, The Stephens Performing Arts Center. Reclaiming and reinventing the old derelict Coke warehouse has been a very good thing for downtown and for the arts, giving life to both.
Hill Country Residence
During one of our office's Friday afternoon discussions over beer, we decided to document some things we like about San Angelo. I like old signs. I took a camera and began to record several of the old painted signs around town. This signage is often very simple or layered or weathered...but it works, especially when set against a great West Texas sky. See what you think as you CLICK THRU THE IMAGES BELOW...
Everywhere you look, from the grocery store to the clothing store and hardware store, consumers are presented with various products labeled with the word "recycled". Many people, myself included, gravitate towards these products because I believe we are making a better choice for our environment. However, I pose a question, "are we making a better choice?"
The year was 1970, millions of people stepped outside for peaceful demonstrations while demanding environmental reform in the first celebration of Earth Day. One product of this movement was a design competition led by the Container Corporation of America. The CCA wanted to create a recognizable symbol to be used by any manufacturer engaged in recycling. Gary Anderson, a young college student would be responsible for the circular arrow design we have come to know today.
There are several products we use every day that are made from recycled materials such as: cereal boxes, bottles, paint, paper, concrete and floor coverings. If you decide to purchase these products then you are completing the recycling loop. In addition, recycled materials also become new products that are different from their original uses. Many of these show up in the building industry such as carpet made from plastic soda/water bottles and asphalt or concrete that incorporates recycled glass.
Items such as paper and aluminum are also reported to be practical for recycling because aluminum can be used again and again and countries like China, depend on our paper waste to make paper goods.
As I continued to research and answer my own question, "are we making a better choice by recycling?" I discovered evidence that indicates maybe not every location should recycle certain items such as, glass. Not all recycling facilities can accept glass, and some facilities have to transport the glass recyclables at least 200 miles away. Furthermore, in some larger cities, residents are urged to recycle and they are provided separate plastic bins for separating recyclable materials. In doing this, cities also had to increase their fleets of waste disposal trucks to keep up with the demands of transporting these recyclables. While it sounds like the best of intentions, it does contribute to the growing pollution problem.
In an intervew with economist Holly Fretwell, Research Fellow at Property Environmentand Research Center and an adjunct instructor at Montana State University, she makes a claim that the U.S. at its current rate of trash production would have enough landfill space for the next 100 years on one of Ted Turner's expansive ranches with 50,000 acres to spare. Fretwell also makes note of the positive results that come out of landfills. They are carefully lined and sealed once full and then cities have built beaches, or parks, and even ski resorts all above a pile of waste.
While doing further research on landfills I stumbled upon another question - are landfills really that bad? I know, they have a pretty bad rap. They are unsightly, the smell can be rather intoxicating, and just plain gross. However, I came across several examples of what a landfill looks like once it's sealed and I was impressed. Some examples worth noting are:
One positive thing to take note of: now we have these beautiful park spaces and conservation land that could have been asphalt and concrete.
At the end of the day, are we making a better choice? I guess it depends on what you decide to recycle or not. Maybe it depends where you live. Maybe, we have to accept that both worlds need to co-exist. Landfills and Recycling Centers. At least we can ride on our recycled skateboards over the skate park - landfills.
Process (noun): a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end
Wandering alone through the downtown library, always searching for inspiration I spot an intriguing spine that reads, "spaces of chillida". Lower case text, black on white. I know if I don't pick it up and at least take a glance, I will always wonder what was inside. As I slide the book out of its spot on the shelf, a sense of familiarity fills me. When I open the book I instantly feel as though someone has taken ideas right from my head and filled these pages. The artist, Eduardo Chillida, was a sculptor from the Basque region of Spain. He studied architecture before delving into drawing and sculpting producing art through direct contact with his chosen medium: clay, iron or stone. It is notably present that his background in architecture provided a richer body of work through a sense of spatial relationships, scaling of elements, and structured organization. Above all, I believe Chillida was instilled with a deep appreciation of the process. Having gone to art and architecture school, I am all too familiar with this fundamental act.
After a brief introduction to Chillida's work, I can begin to see his process and how he landed there. His work draws on influences from nature and ancient civilizations. The process often begins with black on white paintings and cut-paper forms. Then his ideas are led into the next dimension, and this process incurs studies of light, scale, and space. One of the final steps in this process is to site the sculpture in a desired environment.
There are parallels between the art world and architecture world, that are often intertwined. Architecture takes on a very dense process to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the occupants as well achieving a particular end result derived from a specific vision. The process in architecture is sometimes broken into phases such as: conceptual design, schematic design, design development, construction documentation, and the construction phase. This process is intended to build upon the last phase completed.
Throughout my life, I have discovered that I am deeply fascinated with the process. I find it rewarding to not only see where you came from but how you actually get there. This finding has further instilled in me a deeper appreciation for objects around me, the daily spaces I occupy, to the food that I cook. This fascination has led me to choose my surroundings more carefully in a society of take and toss. I feel obligated to recognize the process, discover how it came to be and the effects it will incur along the way. As I continue my path of becoming an architect, I have discovered that the role of the architect is dynamic and the list of responsibilities continues to grow. The duty to always ensure the health, safety and welfare no longer applies to the occupants alone; we are charged with providing this duty to our natural environment as well.
In cleaning out the innards of our computer, we came upon some old projects that have not been heard from in years: old projects that were designed but never built or old small built projects that we seemed to have relegated to the digital dustbin. Finding them was like seeing an old friend on the street after many years. The connection is real and immediate. Here are some images of these "children"...for better and worse.
THE GIVING QUILT AT BAPTIST RETIREMENT COMMUNITY
The Giving Quilt - Donor Recognition Wall
COTTAGE ON LAKE TRAVIS
PREGNANCY HELP CENTER
SHADY GULCH OLD WEST TOWN
EARLY CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION BUILDING - STUDIES
GLENMORE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL - LIBRARY AND CAFETERIA
NORTHEAST ELEMENTARY - EARLY STUDIES
DEER VALLEY RANCH - SITE PLAN STUDY
GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE - CHAPEL
SHIRLEY FLORAL - Awning studies
WEST TEXAS RANCH HOUSE
Written by Shelby Rowe, age 17, Central High School senior, intern at KFA
"What do you want to be when you grow up?" This question is thrown at you the moment you walk into your first classroom. When you are little, answers consist of cowboy, cheerleader, racecar driver, and mermaid. Everyone is so excited for their future and just can't wait until they are old enough to fulfill their innocent dreams. The closer I got to grown up, the more unsure of my answer I became. Every year, my answer would change. Maybe a veterinarian, a concert pianist, a special ed teacher. I would pass by street artists drawing cartoon faces of people posing in front of them and think, "Well that looks fun. Maybe I should do that." Everything looks fun and exciting to a seven year old who's not worrying about how much money they will make and if that will actually make enough to raise a family on. The question only comes more frequently in high school. You get to arrange some of your courses to better fit your college and life plan, if you have one. Teachers, counselors, parents, nosy church ladies, all curious as to what you want to do with the rest of your life. "You are the future. What do you plan to do with it?" Everyone hates the "I don't really know," answer, but that was all I could come up with. I have so many hobbies, so many joys, how am I supposed to narrow it down to just one for the rest of my life? Growing up, I filled notebook after notebook with drawings, resisting the urge to not cover my textbooks with doodles. Every week, I looked forward to my art class in school and even better were the art classes after school that I was constantly enrolled in. Further into high school, it became clear to me, and anyone who met me, that whatever I did with my life, art would have to be a part of it. painting and drawing had always been my outlet, the thing I did by myself, for myself. No one taught me how to do it, I just did it because I wanted to, because it made me happy. It wasn't until the summer between my sophomore and junior year that I discovered a new form of art: architecture. History has always been my favorite subject in school because I am fascinated by people, how and why they lived they ways they did, their artistic and musical tastes, what materials they had access to and how they used them. That summer, my family and I took a trip to Europe, traveling to Paris, London, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. In Paris and London, I was intrigued by architectural staples such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey, but I also noticed the small apartment complexes, street pubs, tiny boutiques, aging churches tucked away and hidden by the busy streets. In Ireland, I fell in love with the intricate bridges and ancient monastery ruins, Scotland showed me castles and cemeteries. Everything was so detailed, the wood and stone carved by hand, each their own masterful piece of art. This art was different from any that I had ever created or imagined creating. This is when architecture became a very real thought as to what my future plan would contain. I had always thought of architects as the people who united America with uniform, blocky buildings, destroying the individuality of beautiful cities and urbanizing every inch of open space. Big cities across the country, across the world, are sacrificing their personalities to chain restaurants and department stores, Wal-Marts and McDonalds. Architects, however, fight this uniformity. They infuse cities with interactive pieces of art, adding a bit of their own personality. Why architecture? This is why. There is something very pleasing to see your art being used instead of simply framed and hung on your bedroom wall. This will be my contribution. I will add to the community character by revitalizing historical styles and incorporating them with my own taste. Architecture will allow me to turn my hobby into something productive and efficient, something needed instead of just something admired by a few of my friends. Architecture affects everyone. People spend their lives going in and out of buildings, up and down downtown streets, walking through parks, constantly surrounded by the work of an architect. As wonderful as a painting hanging on the wall is, I want to look at a home, an office, a school, a library and be able to say "I helped create that. We made that beautiful building happen." These are the places where people spend their lives. I want to make these places more than just four walls and a roof they visit every day.
Feeling apprehensive, I took a tour of our local Tom Green County jail. I know this sounds dramatic, but as our design team entered the facility with the Sheriff, it seemed as if we were entering a downward spiral to Dante's Inferno (that's the English Major coming out in me). That night, I lay in bed with images of my jail visit flooding in:
- Everything was painted grey and the jail spaces blended into a pervasive flat grey color--the walls, the cell bars, the concrete floors, the dirty ceilings, all was grey. Even the fluorescent light beamed a harsh grey-blue.
- Everything that could possibly be vandalized was vandalized--the TV's, the lower ceiling fluorescent lights, and the exposed plumbing. Graffiti was scrawled into every surface. Metal mirrors were so scratched that my image resembled a fractured Willem de Kooning painting.
- Since there was no natural light, it was hard to determine the time of day. I was told that prisoners stayed up all night when the lights were off and slept all day when the lights were on. So, during the day, to block the light, inmates tucked scraps of cloth and newspaper over the lower light fixtures so they could sleep.
- Inmates dragged their thin mattresses onto the floor and pulled their blanket or sheet over their head to sleep. They looked like mummies...or corpses with a sheet over them, the kind you see on TV cop shows.
- Ceilings were typically so low you could reach up and touch them without tip-toeing due to the jail being a renovation of an existing building. It felt like a coffin lid.
- The jail was like an underground rabbit warren of tunnels with corridors snaking this way and that. It was difficult to understand the layout and to understand where you were in the jail. Many corridors couldn't be monitored due to the layout. Many corridors were dead-ends and were only about three feet wide with cell bars stretching to the end of the corridor. Views were truncated due to the many bars. Looking down the corridors, you could see hands gripping the bars but no attached body due to the blocked view.
- I saw the misspelled word "desperite" scratched into the wall of a cell.
- There were similarities to a zoo: caged animals being observed as they lived their lives behind bars.
- The staff reported difficulty in keeping employees working over three months before they quit. No wonder.
Design a jail? Who would do such a thing? Architects are taught to design "pretty" buildings and jails are definitely not pretty. Right?
Turns out, some very good architecture firms design jails. My preconception was that, by necessity and by a general code of what Western justice means, jails needed to be as austere and minimal as possible: criminals need to suffer for their misdeeds and reflect on what freedom meant. Wasn't the sheriff in Arizona--Arpaio?--setting a great example? Weren't the criminals there repenting of their sins and swearing off a life of crime? Turns out, they are not. Turns out, the opposite appears to be true.
I came back from the jail tour confused and shaken. Jail design didn't interest me--at least it didn't before the tour. Honestly, I was more interested in the design of projects that had a decent chance of being what I deemed aesthetically pleasing. But, as I lay in bed, I began to ask myself questions.
Why practice Architecture? If architecture is going to make a difference, shouldn't it be involved in making things better? What happened to my understanding of architecture as a real force for good? Had I become more of a style-maker instead of a difference-maker?
After this tour, I went on another tour of a different jail in Lubbock County. This jail had a vastly different model of incarceration, one that is "kinder and gentler," where the treatment of inmates gets many people in these parts riled up because it's not the "lock 'em up and throw away the key" style of justice. The difference could not be more striking. The Lubbock jail has an abundance of natural light, ceilings are high, TV's are within reach and available, a self-serve drink bar and laundry are within the multi-inmate spaces, counseling is available, the noise level is much lower, and instead of bars there was glass. There was very little vandalism. If I were to pursue a life of crime, I would do the crime in Lubbock in lieu of Tom Green County, just in case. There seemed to be less tension and despair in the air. Perhaps the greatest difference between the two jails was that the Lubbock jail followed a "Direct Supervision" model where guards are in the same space as the inmates; at the Tom Green County jail, there was "Indirect Supervision" where guards are in a separate and secured space observing the inmates.
I live in a fairly conservative West Texas county where many of the populace sip the tea from the Tea Party. And so, when the officials most involved with the jail--the Sheriff, the Jailer, and our County Judge--expressed that they had been completely wrong in their thinking on justice issues, I was impressed with their humility and I began to really focus in on what they had to say. During several lengthy discussions with these folks, as we toured the different jails, I learned that the recidivism rates between these two jail models were radically different and this difference translated to money. The direct supervision model (Lubbock County) cost slightly more money to build and yet, because the recidivism rate is lower and because it's easier to keep trained staff on hand (and fewer staff), in the long run it is more cost effective than the indirect supervision model (Tom Green County). Being more humane is more fiscally conservative. Imagine that.
"Humans are animals and animals adapt to their environment," said one of the jail staff. I think what was meant is that if we place anyone in a brutal atmosphere, they adapt...and become brutal; and that if we build something that is more ennobling, people adapt to that environment as well. Perhaps another way to say this is by Winston Churchill: "We make our buildings and then they make us." Our built environment has a say in who we are becoming.
My hope is that the architecture we do in our small city does more than merely improving aesthetics and that our buildings can be instrumental in promoting a better way to live--even life in a jail.