PKA Architecture is an award-winning design firm that specializes in custom homes, lofts and cabins as well as boutique commercial projects. While each project is as unique as the homeowners, the studio’s work is always guided by a respect for the environment, an understanding of how a home should relate to its surroundings, and a commitment to exceptional design and enduring quality. Here, PKA’s Kristine Anderson and Gabriel Keller discuss the future of design, the importance of home and more.
How would you describe the heart of PKA’s design process?
Gabriel Keller: Collaboration is the heart of the PKA design process, both with our clients and everyone on the team, including builders, engineers, interior designers, artisans and landscape architects. We’re using the most advanced technology to provide dynamic, real-time collaboration and virtual design capabilities for clients all over the country.
What are some of your favorite elements, techniques and processes you see leading the future of design?
Kristine Anderson: Great design is always a reflection of a client’s unique story and their site, so our favorite elements are always those that help create a strong connection between the homeowners and nature. To that end, we’re passionate about modern high-performance windows, doors and skylights that allow a home to live big while blurring the lines between indoors and out. We also love organic modern materials that echo the surrounding landscape, like beautiful wood paneling, flooring and cabinetry, fireplace surrounds and accents.
Can you discuss the importance of creating a dynamically diverse design portfolio?
GK: We have deep respect for every style of architecture, including traditional, transitional, midcentury and organic modern, and we’ve never wanted to be pigeonholed as individuals or as a studio. By taking on a wide range of projects including new construction and renovation as well as boutique commercial projects like Eleven, Travail and Highland Bridge, our team is able to learn and develop a wide spectrum of skills, thus honoring the tradition of architecture while shaping the future of the profession.
How have conversations with clients evolved over the past year?
KA: While 2020 was challenging, it also served to underscore the importance of home. We have many clients who are excited about building a new home or cabin because their lifestyles have changed, and they have more flexibility with schedule and commutes. Some of our clients are renovating their home to create space for home offices or additional family members, and many are finally doing the cabin or kitchen renovation they’ve been dreaming of for years.
What are some ways PKA focuses on sustainability?
KA: As members of AIA, we’re guided by the goal of designing a world that allows people, communities and our planet to thrive. Our work is aligned with the AIA Framework for Design Excellence, 10 defining principles that support a healthy built environment while enhancing social, economic and environmental value. To this end, we are always researching and adopting new technology, techniques and materials, and collaborating with our building partners to incorporate them into the project.
How is PKA cultivating a new generation of designers?
GK: Since we founded the firm 10 years ago, we’ve always cultivated a dynamic and creative culture in our studio. We invest in continuing education, technology, tours, awards, leadership forums, workshops, and studio trips to Mexico and Costa Rica. We also encourage our architects and designers to create innovative new products like custom metal doors, window profiles, historic restoration elements and other products that we share with manufacturers for the benefit of others.
KA: Our team of individuals has an incredible array of creative interests and talents, and we cultivate and support their interests with sabbaticals and other forms of exploration. We also showcase the work of local artists, photographers and artisans in our studio.
How are you finding joy and inspiration right now?
KA: I’ve always been a designer, maker and artist, so when I’m not working, I love painting with watercolor and oil, taking photographs, sketching, and cooking with my husband, Tom. We built our own cabin near Knife River, and I just finished the art studio where I’m currently working on plans for the renovation of our home near Lotus Lake.
GK: I find great satisfaction in community service. After being a volunteer EMT with Lake City Ambulance, I recently became a paramedic with Hennepin EMS so that I could give back in the community where I live. I also find joy in nature, spending as much time as possible in the wilderness with my family, and through my longtime support and involvement with Wilderness Inquiry.