Defining your design firm’s core values with architect Christopher Kempel

At the core of
Rockefeller Kempel Architects‘ work is a mission to give back. This week on Disruptive Design, DNN Editor in Chief Courtney Porter sits down with one of RKA’s partners, Christopher Kempel to discuss his values-centered approach to design. Through their wide-ranging conversation they uncover how Kempel combined his early interests to design his career and the importance of mentorship to inspire burgeoning designers and architects to do the same. Click play on the video below to watch their discussion: 

Christopher Kempel started working in architecture in the early 90s which places him in a strange place between the older generation who predominantly hand-render and the younger generation who predominantly digitally-render. He sees the value of both. That is a common thread when you talk to Kempel: his ability to bring different groups together and unite them for a shared mission. When he was in Northern Ireland with Habitat for Humanity, what stuck with him most was how cooperative opposing groups were. How they were able to set aside differences for a shared purpose and how those differences even aided the task at hand. Unlike many architects and designers who complain endlessly about difficult contractors, Kempel is one of the lucky ones who only has glowing things to say of his: But is it luck? Perhaps seeing the contrast of opinions as a strength, rather than as a detriment, is the secret to his success. 

Photography of Rockefeller Kempel Architects’ projects by Eric Staudenmaier

Leadership in the architectural community

Kempel was a founding member of Coastal CRAN®,  as part of his local AIA chapter. The Custom Residential Architects Network (CRAN®) Knowledge Community is dedicated to advancing knowledge and providing valuable information for architects involved in, or interested in delving into, custom residential practice. Through avenues such as discussion forums, national symposia and conventions, publications, and local activities, CRAN® actively fosters the exchange of knowledge and expertise. This network, aiming to enhance the professional development of its members, serves as a platform for architects to collaborate and grow. But within his local architectural community, Kempel recognized a gap left to fill. There were specific challenges that accompanied designing along the Southern Californian coast and thus a spin-off, Coastal CRAN®, was founded.

What is Coastal CRAN®?

Within the CRAN® umbrella, Coastal CRAN® specializes in addressing the distinctive elements inherent to Southern California’s coastal cities. Recognizing the diverse nature of architectural projects and the unique suitability of architects for specific endeavors, CRAN® emphasizes the importance of architects supporting one another. By sharing resources and experiences, the network strives to contribute to the improvement of the built environment in coastal cities and elevate the architecture profession as a whole.

See Also

More about Christopher Kempel 

A graduate of The UCLA Master of Architecture program, Kempel further honed his skills at the Kunsthochechule Weissense in Berlin, an international program that values an interdisciplinary approach, considering society and art as interdependent. From his early years, Kempel has been captivated by the interplay between natural and manmade environments, manifesting in the synergy of his drawing, building, and visionary talents.

His focus on exceptional craftsmanship underscores his belief that meticulous attention to detail elevates the overall experience of tailoring a family’s home or a new office building. Kempel’s profound passion lies in the realm of designing residential spaces, driven by the conviction that a thoughtfully designed home can significantly enhance one’s well-being. This commitment to detail is exemplified by his immersive approach, such as spending several days living on a family’s land to intimately comprehend the nuanced changes in sunlight throughout the day, ultimately informing the design of their future dwelling.

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