Arch 11’s Andrews emerging leader in field of architecture

BOULDER – For Ken Andrews, architecture is about solving problems.

While art tends to be a place where “anything goes,” Andrews said design tries to overcome a practical problem. “(Architecture) involves elements of both.”

His work as an architect in addition to his commitment to community service and teaching earned him the Colorado North chapter of the American Institute of Architects’ awards for both Young Architect and Instructor of the Year for 2011.

AIA’s executive director Sonia Riggs said Andrews will receive a $1,000 honorarium at the annual Young Architects Award Gala. “It’s the biggest award given,” she said. As the only major association for professional architects in Colorado and the largest nationwide, it’s quite a prestigious feather for up-and-coming architects.

These days Andrews said architectural firms tend to break into two camps, specialists with a particular solution to a particular problem, and generalists who sell a problem-solving approach to every problem. The small firm where Andrews is now partner, Arch11 Inc., is in the latter camp.

“When you say you’re an architect, the first thing people ask you is ‘What kind of architecture do you do?'” Andrews said. “The answer is, we do work that is interesting.”

He doesn’t meant that in the sense that other firms’ work is boring, but that he loves the challenge of finding a way to tackle each unique problem that comes his way.

Arch11 consists of the principals James Trewitt and E. J. Meade, and five other employees. Andrews estimates 50 percent of their work is commercial and the other half is residential, with the percentages shifting one way or the other with changes in the market. “We’re doing more commercial now,” he said.

Andrews was selected by a seven member jury of architects, an engineer and last year’s winner.

AIA’s director of programs Nicolle Thompson said Andrews was selected from 75 applicants who had been registered architects for 10 years or less as showing great design, creativity and commitment to the community.

One of the things that stood out was that Andrews is also a full-time professor at the University of Colorado Denver.

Andrews said in addition to bringing real-world experience to the classroom, he tries to impress upon his students that rather than rejecting a project as impossible due to budget, materials or other hurdles, to ask themselves how to accomplish a client’s goals with the resources they have.

Far from hampering creativity, he’s found it thrives under constraints.

In his seven years at Arch11, Andrews has been substantially involved in more than 50 projects in roles ranging from designer to project manager to partner in charge.

Andrews received his bachelor’s degree in environmental design from the University of Colorado in 1999 and in 2004 his master’s degree in architecture from Rice University in Houston, Texas where he was awarded the Pitman Prize for Excellence in Architecture.

“We try to be as collaborative of an office as we can,” Andrews said. “(Architecture) can’t be done in isolation. … In my opinion, Arch11 owns the project, and it’s a collective environment, a workshop where everyone has authorship.”

Richard J. Sands, president of home builder Hammerwell Inc. in Boulder, has had a close affiliation with Arch11 for 15 of his 35 years in business. In letter on behalf of Andrews, Sands wrote that Andrews had been project manager with 11 different multimillion-dollar homes that involved “seamless design details and very demanding clients.

“From his previous experiences of actually working on construction sites, he has a functioning knowledge of construction methods, techniques and materials,” Sands wrote.

One of Andrews’ fellow professors, George Hoover, wrote in his letter that Andrews “draws a clear distinction between an ethically questionable trend in the profession to ‘seclude itself in ivory towers” and become ‘subservient to greater powers,’ and a movement by a number of today’s more thoughtful architects to engage themselves in the great ethical and political issues of the day.”