Nelson-Atkins Lecture Series Features the “Most Innovative Architecture Firm in the World”

Kansas City’s skyline is ever-changing. The Mary Atkins Lecture Series at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art offers an annual forum for looking at the evolution of architecture here and abroad.

On the evening of Oct. 13 more than 400 patrons are expected to fill Atkins Auditorium for the series that offers a “state of” architecture and design discussion.

“We have a vibrant architecture and design community here in Kansas City,” said Catherine Futter, director of curatorial affairs for the Nelson. “This lecture series brings in some of the top architects so we can learn from them and they can learn about some of the amazing things happening in architecture here.”

This year, the series features Gregg Pasquarelli, founding principal of SHoP Architects in New York.

SHoP was named Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Architecture Firm in the World” in 2014 and received the Smithsonian/Cooper Hewitt’s “National Design Award for Architecture” in 2009.

Over the past 20 years, SHoP has grown from five architects to a staff of nearly 200 employees who work on projects around the world, including skyscrapers in New York City, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., Google Inc. offices in Mountain View, Calif., and Uber Headquarters in San Francisco.

Although SHoP has not yet done any projects in the Kansas City area, Pasquarelli and others from SHoP have served as jurors on panels for the American Institute of Architects design awards, where they made contact with architects from the Kansas City-based firm el dorado Inc.

Josh Shelton, principal architect for el dorado, said Pasquarelli’s hands-on approach to architecture makes him a great fit for the lecture series.

“He is involved in every aspect of design and construction,” Shelton said.  . . . “This discussion will be good for anyone who is interested in how things are made.”

It’s Pasquarelli’s particular attention to how things are made that makes SHoP unique, Shelton noted.

SHoP has done extensive research into how new fabrication techniques can be used to create the ornate adornments found on older buildings. The subject is particularly relevant in Kansas City, where there is a strong tradition of artisan-based architecture that is difficult to create in new construction because of a lack of artisans.

“They’re creating old-world design in the 21st century,” Shelton said.

Pasquarelli describes it as a special moment in architecture technology.

“Technology has evolved so we can make architecture beautiful again,” he said. “We’re seeing differentiation in form, texture and beauty.”

Pasquarelli doesn’t put his work in any particular style category. He describes SHoP as a “general practitioner” of architecture.

“Principals of great architecture go beyond typologies,” he said.

So, in addition to enjoying some blues and barbeque, Pasquarelli is looking forward to exploring the diversity of architecture in Kansas City and sharing the work and research his firm is doing in other places.

“There’s a remarkable building boom happening globally,” Pasquarelli said. “It’s time for everyone to sit back and look at what we’ve done and decide where we want to go next.”

Alexia Lang

Alexia Lang is a multimedia journalist who has worked in newspapers, magazines, radio and blogs. She holds a journalism degree from UMKC and her Master’s work is in Leadership.

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