Design for Innovation
 

FIVE QUESTIONS WITH KAI RAAB, AIA


February 22, 2019

With over 14 years of experience in total, Kai came to join WSA Studio as a Project Manager in June of 2018. He’s kind and soft-spoken, but we quickly learned that Kai is the also kind of guy who speaks his mind. And, so far, we’ve never been disappointed with what comes out.

Kai studied Fine Arts at Georgetown University, and then went on to earn a Master of Architecture from the University of Kansas in 2004. He likes Architecture because he still gets to use his mad drawing skills to put his designs on paper before beginning the drafting process. Currently, Kai is overseeing the construction of a brand new sports complex for Newcomerstown Schools.


Tell me what you do here at WSA Studio.

As a design manager at WSA, I serve as a kind of middle man between our principals, studio leaders, clients, consultants, and design specialists. At the firm I worked for previously, I was classified as a project architect, which meant that I did a lot of drawing. Now the work that I do is much more oriented toward scheduling and structuring our work, and focused on oral and written, versus pictorial communication. Every now and then I still get to draw something pretty. Occasionally I also speak truth to power.

You have a Bachelor’s in Fine Art. How does that background inform your design?

I think it connects me with an older generation of architects that came up doing more of their work by hand. Architects approach drawing and image-making as a means to an end, however, rather than the end product, which was how I used to approach it. I think that good architecture, just like good art, identifies and amplifies some quality that resonates with people.

What is your favorite project that you’ve ever worked on? Why is it your favorite?

The pavilion at Inniswood Metro Gardens. I’ve worked on a lot of neat old churches, but there I think we managed to create a sacred space by working in a setting where the built environment is very intentionally set in harmony with nature.

WSA aims to be a partner in productivity for our clients. What does that mean to you?

I think we owe it to all our counterparties, be they clients, consultants, contractors, etc., to work collaboratively for mutual benefit. I think that many of our clients, particularly in the workplace and educational markets, are under tremendous pressure to show good outcomes and demonstrate return on investment for the projects we’re hired to deliver. We elevate our practice by making the relationship with our clients a partnership that looks beyond the terms of our contract and a short-term transaction.

What advice do you have for young people pursuing a career in architecture?

Architecture can be intimidating, especially if you don’t have years of experience and accumulated habits to rely on. Just remember that you’ve already come a long way to be where you are right now, so don’t discount the experience and habits you’ve acquired that have brought you here.