NSPJ Architects’ Values-Based Approach to Custom Architecture in Kansas City and Beyond
By Tim Homburg, AIA, Co-President
The past three years have brought significant changes to the U.S. housing market. Freddie Mac estimates that the pandemic’s impact on the economy (as well as the Federal Reserve’s efforts to combat inflation) led to a housing unit shortage of 3.8 million.
For multifamily architecture firms, this shortage presented ideal circumstances to shore up the housing gap with new options for residents. The Midwest, home of NSPJ Architects, has been particularly fertile ground for new multifamily projects. According to LBM Journal, this region, along with the West, “have now ascended to the forefront in terms of the proportion of newly authorized multifamily units.”
The pandemic’s reverberations, however, posed unexpected challenges. Supply chain difficulties, sudden design needs to accommodate remote workers, and many other demands required critical thinking and creativity for which there was no prior model. Project phases were affected at every turn, despite multifamily architecture’s ability to offer housing that meets residents’ needs, including high-end amenities and floor plans, as well as deep social and economic impacts for communities.
What did we learn? First, we were reminded that national and local architects’ experience on any given project is highly dependent on factors that are out of our control. Yet further reflection was needed. We also recognized the significance of this experience and how we transformed so-called problems into opportunities to demonstrate who we are as a firm.
When challenges occur, humility, or the clear recognition of our limitations, should set in, and critical questions should be asked: “How will an architecture firm respond when faced with inevitable adversity?” The answer lies in the resilience of a firm’s values. “Values resilience” is how a firm demonstrates its core principles during its most challenging moments, whether delivering a project or experiencing inevitable industry cycles.
Values Resilience Fosters Meaningful Relationships and Leads to New Solutions
Our firm’s experience since the pandemic began has been as much about developing luxury custom architecture in Kansas City and beyond. These services are a demonstration of our firm’s values, including collaboration, integrity and service.
Like all multifamily architecture firms, NSPJ faced pandemic-related challenges at every project phase. We reflect now and recognize how resilience saw us through. Resilience is frequently framed as “toughness” in business; namely, the hard-won chase for projects during market oversaturation. However, our resilience is a more patient, confident approach, which waits, listens and recognizes uncommon opportunities within the challenges. It is a way to demonstrate who we are, and what we believe can and should be done.
NSPJ Architects responded to the challenges of COVID-19 by:
- Cultivating genuine, collaborative partnerships with developers, construction teams and owners to help projects succeed no matter the toll, the disruptive force of the pandemic.
- Delivering projects despite the supply chain crises, labor shortages, skyrocketing material costs, and contractors who had to shutter their businesses.
- Pivoting in the moment to create multifamily amenities for residents that would keep them safe and allow them to thrive during the pandemic.
- Maintaining our unwavering commitment to serving local communities and economies by delivering engaging multifamily projects as part of revitalization efforts.
To be resilient means far more than discovering new means to carry out business as usual. It means adopting a design philosophy that is resilient against old modes and methodologies, by discovering ways of serving all stakeholders that feel challenging to sustain, especially in the face of adversity.
The Legacy of Resilience and Design Excellence in Multifamily Architecture
Some of the finest work of NSPJ Architects in the multifamily architecture space has emerged from taking on challenges during the pandemic. Our custom architecture in the Kansas City area over the last three years, including Chadwick Apartments in Shawnee and CORE on the Kansas City Berkley Riverfront, are testaments to our firm’s commitment to bettering communities through design. CORE, in particular, has captured the attention of the Kansas City community. Our architecture for this property was recognized with a 2024 Design KC Award in the multifamily residences category, as well as a Kansas City Business Journal Capstone Award.
However, continuing resilience is a necessity. Architects are already on the front lines of developing climate-resilient infrastructure solutions. Creative flexibility will always play a role, as well. It is beholden to architects to develop solutions that create housing options outside the single-family home — and even beyond the scope of current multifamily configurations. Additionally, new approaches must be explored to feasibly increase the economic and social impact for residents and communities.
As architects on the local and national stage, the NSPJ team intends to carry our values, expertise and legacy into the next phase of our discipline. We look forward to partnering in collaborative efforts that ultimately provide beautiful, desirable spaces where people can thrive. Contact us online or call (913) 831-1415.