My Summer at el dorado

Posted on August 3rd, 2018 at 12:49 pm by

Guest post by Eleanor Knowles, eldo Prize #3

Four months ago, I was living in St. Louis studying architecture at Washington University. I had never been to Kansas City and didn’t know what it had to offer. Now, after reflecting on my time at el dorado and my amazing summer living in KC, I can’t imagine having spent my summer anywhere else. I experienced the Midwest at its finest — meeting some of the most kind and generous people along the way.

When I accepted the opportunity to work at el dorado for the summer, I didn’t think twice. So many aspects of the firm interest me. I was especially excited about the diverse scope of projects and wide range of scales of el dorado’s practice: city-scale planning, public art installations, custom fabrication, and everything in between. I was also drawn to the value that el dorado places on fabrication and craft, especially while working on projects all over the world.  

On my initial tour of the office, I found my desk, the shop, the unlimited coffee in the kitchen, and the office supply of peanut butter (among other things). On my first day, I was fully immersed in the office and the work. From there, each week was as engaging as the last. In my first week alone, I went on a site visit to the Crossroads Hotel, participated in client meetings, and was brought into the fold on three diverse projects. Over the course of the summer, there was never a dull moment or a boring task. Each week brought something new: a different project, a new design phase, another idea, a new source of inspiration. I worked across all phases of the design process, from project proposals and schematic designs, to buildings in the construction phase, to projects going through final revisions. Working on everything from initial site studies to finish specifications, I quickly gained an immense breadth of experience and I always felt that my contributions were valued.

One thing that really excited me about coming to el dorado was the fabrication shop and over the summer I learned how to work with metal for the first time! I fabricated light fixtures for a client and learned how to weld. I absorbed as much knowledge as I could, as Chris and Ted passed on expert techniques and tricks.

In my time in the office, I learned new design programs, developed new skills, and made new friends. I worked on renderings for the design of the new Mattie Rhodes Cultural Center and documented their folk art collection. I also created schematic drawings for a project dealing with public perception of recycled water in California and built a scale model for a private residence in the Flint Hills of Kansas. I spent time in the eldo archive diving deep into past eldo projects in preparation for upcoming design awards. The office was busy and bustling all summer, and the city was too.

After work and on weekends, I spent my time getting to know Kansas City. I explored the city by bike with an endless list of recommendations from my coworkers — I had a full team of tour guides giving me local knowledge and expert advice for the best places in town. I took in the sites, enjoyed the food, and loved all the people I spent time with. We watched the World Cup Final together in the Power and Light District, we went on bike rides, and we tried new spots for food and drink. We picnicked in the park at the Shakespeare Festival, explored First Friday in the Crossroads, and went out for wing wednesday at the Peanut (a long held eldo tradition). We cooked-out, we ate in, we sought out the best tacos, the best barbecued jackfruit, the best music, and the best local beer. The summer flew by and I felt at home in Kansas City.

From the beginning of my time at el dorado, I felt like a valued member of the team. My ideas were respected, and my input encouraged. Throughout the summer I worked with almost everyone in the office. I was inspired by and grateful for their honest advice and their passion. I learned so much in such a short time and I am coming away with an increased excitement for my last year of school and my future in architecture. I now feel confident that I have a solid foundation of experience and I look forward to keeping in touch with everyone at el dorado, and to coming back to Kansas City in the future.