"Give women and minorities an opportunity.  Realize they might have a slightly different way of presenting themselves - whether in an interview or in a school crit and it might not fit the typical mold, but be willing to take that chance!"



Did you always want to be an architect?
My grandfather was an architect – I would visit him in his studio and he would show me drawings of what he was working on.  He was also an artist.  That started me on that path. I always knew I was going to be an artist, architect or musician.  In undergrad I was doing a minor in music and was in a bachelor of art and architecture program.  I gravitated towards the culture of architecture and the conversations that were being had – it just felt right. 

Are you from KC? 
Nope, born in Connecticut, lived in Northern California for a long time, and then went back to Connecticut for grad school at Yale.  At Yale I met a boy from Kansas!  I was a really proud ‘bicoastal’ as I would say.  I was in bands and toured across the country – we played somewhere in the West Bottoms and I remember the culture of Kansas City being palpable and it was a really cool night that really stood out.    
When did you come to KC?  We moved here in 2004 and I was still working remotely for Pelli and started DRAW in 2005. 

What inspired you to start your own firm?
My mom. She always instilled a sense of entrepreneurship in me.  She started a business and I watched her do that when I was a kid.  She also instilled a little bit of dumb fearlessness in me -which you have to have to start your own business! 

What is your favorite restaurant in KC?
Pot Pie.    It has a good low key vibe, really good food, and the music playlist is always good.

So, you were in a band, what was your instrument?
I played bass first- in a bunch of bands.  Some I played bass and some I played cello. 
Do you still play?  We get the cello out for music time with the kids, but it can get a little violent! 
What was the name of your band if the kids want to look you up?  There were several.  33.3, Threnody Ensemble and Spitboy.  They ranged from hard-core punk rock to contemporary classical. 

 Who do you most admire?
There’s a long list.  The very first person I really admired when I was young was Albert Einstein.  I really admire a lot of my friends.  And, I did admire Zaha Hadid - what she contributed creatively to the profession was tremendous.

Advice you would give someone starting their own business?
There is a ton you don’t know and to realize that right off the bat and get really good help . 
I was speaking at an event about mentorship last week and was thinking about all of the helping hands and advice I've had over the years.   I've probably used 10 different resources over the years from Kauffman FastTrac, to HEMP (Helzberg Entreprenurial Mentoring Program).  Be a constant sponge and know that you’re going to work a lot more than you do for someone else.  If you want to start your own firm I think you know it.  But, don’t think it’s going to be easy.  And, you have to be really conscious of building your business around giving yourself freedom. 

If you could spend a day with anyone – who would it be?
The person that popped into my mind is Angelina Jolie.  I really admire her activism and that’s something that is important to me.  Dan (Maginn - Principal at DRAW) and I have talked about what our motivations in life and the business are - his is empathy and mine is activism so she is really appealing.  I also really admire how she has balanced an active family life with a professional career.  


Did you ever have a moment when DRAW was in its early days that you thought, ‘we’re not going to make it’.  If you did, what was the moment when you knew you would?
There were rough moments in 2008 & 2009.  But, I think having that attitude of finding out what we can do differently or better helped pull us through.  We have always focused on what our client needs.  We’ve focused on listening to our clients and having them be part of the design process.  That has helped us overcome any difficult times.

This is the best part about working in KC:
I would say the welcome greeting we received.  People were surprised I was starting my own firm right away, but people have always made me feel part of this community.  I think the pioneering spirit is still here – people are willing to give a lot of things a try and support each other in those efforts.

A musician you’re embarrassed you love…
Katy Perry. Having a 5 year old changes your playlist dramatically.  My daughter really loves the video Roar, but I don’t mind that one so much.   It’s a good message you don’t mind having your daughter hear. 

Architecture has been an old white guy’s business for a long time….You and others are obviously changing that.  What is one thing we all can do to make architecture more inclusive?
Give women and minorities an opportunity.  Realize they might have a slightly different way of presenting themselves - whether in an interview or in a school crit and it might not fit the typical mold, but be willing to take that chance!  

KC could do this better:
We can educate our children better.  I am working a lot on the East side of town and there is a massive need to spread the wealth in this town.  Not that it’s unique to Kansas City, but it is one of the big issues holding us back. 

Favorite Building in Kansas City?
My favorite building from a purely architecture perspective is the BMA Tower (One Park Place), but urbanistically I don’t think its very strong.  From an urban design perspective I usually think more about neighborhoods.  I really like the Nelson Atkins entire campus – it’s really successful. 

Your favorite TV Weather Person?

Biggest challenge facing KC in the next 5 years?
How do we really grow our population and our density.  We have more vacant lots coming online each year than we can fill.  We need to think strategically.  We are working with LISC on a project – the KC Catalytic Urban Revitalization Initiative to find strategies to build capacity for development, along with building up the people and the place.  It’s about buildings and developing the programs that go in them that help the community.  We need to work with multiple entities to revitalize all of Kansas City. 

 You can have dinner with one KC Celebrity – who is it?
I have had the pleasure of meeting our mayor on a number of occasions and he is incredibly fun company, so I would say Mayor Sly James for sure.