In 1996, we founded el dorado in the Crossroads Arts District of Kansas City as part architecture firm, part fabrication shop, and part art gallery. The neighborhood was just beginning to take shape: artists holed up in abandoned buildings; tumbleweed blew down streets empty of hip galleries and rustic coffee shops; and artist Jim Leedy was the spiritual leader. Our practice was an experimental platform, assembling artists, makers, and designers to meet in studios and raw exhibition spaces to envision new ways of working. We considered ourselves outlaws, and with our friends in the Crossroads, we were right at home.
Over the years, we have helped build and grow the Crossroads and Kansas City at large, forming a design and fabrication team that now extends our unique platform regionally and nationally. We’ve expanded our collaborative, cross-disciplinary approach to cities like Calgary, Denver, Seattle and Minneapolis, offering urban design, public art, city planning, fabrication, and community building to a diverse set of organizations and communities. Our staff at el dorado has been shaped by a willingness to create sustainable new work that spans typology and scale, often within a single project. We’ve recently created a leadership structure at el dorado that gives form to these unique talents, and longevity to the way we practice.
As we gear up for an exciting new chapter, el dorado is thrilled to announce the installment of three new Associate Principals: Steve Salzer, Chris Burk and Sean Slattery. Steve, Chris and Sean combine to offer 60 years of experience in architecture and industrial design, and more than 50 years at el dorado alone. They play significant leadership roles in our most notable projects, and, along with fellow Senior Project Manager Steven Jones, take great care of our best clients. Moving forward, Steve, Chris and Sean will continue to lead projects and also anchor the operations of the business itself.
Nancy Woodfill joins the firm’s leadership as Senior Associate. Nancy has been with el dorado since 2000, and, during her first 10 years as Office Controller, she single-handedly whipped the firm into good administrative shape. Under her guidance, we’ve survived two tax audits, fourteen coffee shortages, and one knee-buckling recession. She’s helped us build lasting relationships with Kansas City’s best business institutions and she now leads a bustling administration department within el dorado. She’s a true innovator in her field— her administrative agility has balanced architectural processes, design-build delivery structures and ambitious fabrication projects that are at an urban scale. While some find it hard to believe that she keeps up with our practice, el dorado knows that we are the ones who have a hard time keeping up with her.
Ted Arendes and Grace Philipp will step up as Associates at el dorado. Ted is an architect trapped in the body and beard of a maker. He is rock solid as a Project Architect, but when el dorado’s shop is active and moving at full steam, Ted can’t help but be front and center. Ted’s leadership continues a legacy of designing and making at el dorado, and our shop looks forward to exciting new fabrication opportunities in the near future.
In a relatively short tenure at el dorado, Grace Phillip has quietly emerged as an undeniable leader at the Project Architect level. She offers finesse with a wide range of projects rarely seen in a young designer— her ability to shift gears and contribute design vision at a high level to any given project is remarkable. Her generosity extends to not only to our team at eldo but also to a broader community. She is a regular contributor to the AIA Kansas City Women in Design, Girl Scouts, HALO Learning Center and the International Interior Design Association. Her desire to help out is contagious— it is not uncommon for el dorado to collectively rally around her causes. Grace is a woman of few words, but when she speaks, we take action.
2016 was a significant year for el dorado — it marked our 20-year milestone as a critical design practice in Kansas City. 2017 is just as significant as it launches our next two decades. We are fortunate to have a diverse set of talents and skills anchoring our leadership structure. As partners, David and Josh will lead el dorado to a frontier of exciting new projects. They will continue to ask us to work collaboratively in ways that are fresh and innovative, and perfect for each project. And, they will soon be calling on you to join the fun. Here’s to the next 20!