As 2011 wound down, we caught up with interior designer Kelly Bauer, principal of award-winning Richard+Bauer and board member of IIDA's Southwest Chapter, at her offices in Phoenix, Arizona, and chatted about her rock-star team, love of graphic design, and four-wheeling in the desert.
ID: What projects are you working on right now?
KB: My big project right now is in Delaware. It’s the Applied Optics Center for Delaware State University. We did the Meinel Optical Sciences building at the University of Arizona in Tucson and it was a national award winner. The optical scientists working in the program in Delaware saw the building and called us to do their project!
ID: What have been some of your favorite projects over the years?
KB: My favorite is the Harmon Public Library here in Phoenix. It’s a small library that’s only about 12,000 square feet, but it’s such a beautiful project. The materials are simple and straightforward. The community that it’s in really loves this library. It’s become a community hub. I think that’s what I really love about it, too.
ID: Who or what are some of your influences?
KB: Tod Williams and Billie Tsien’s work. I love what they do. They have a project in La Jolla, California. It’s The Neurosciences Institute and it’s just beautiful. Every year I go and walk the plaza. Everything about that building is wonderful and timeless. They do something that’s very profound with natural materials, and if they conceptualize something they remain true to it.
ID: Where do you look to inspiration?
KB: I love going through graphic design print publications, or even something like Rolling Stone or National Geographic. I love the way a graphic designer puts together the content and components and colors on a page. I believe that graphic design is at the forefront of the design industry. These designers are out there promoting something to catch people’s interests. It’s always got to be something new, fresh, and crisp. I try to pull that into what I do.
ID: When did you realize you wanted to be a designer?
KB: I have an uncle who is a champion entrepreneur. He dabbled in development for awhile and had a small construction company, so I had this reference point in construction. I used to spend time with him and my aunt in the summer and we built things constantly. Once we even built a stone bridge together. We were always working and getting our hands dirty. And then my aunt, who was the total opposite and very refined, used to take me with her to antique stores, shopping for linens… all these little excursions away from getting my hands dirty.
ID: What does design mean to you?
KB: To me it’s the experience. When you walk into a space or a plaza or a park, it’s the experience that you feel. It’s what you see and the feeling you may have with what you hear, what’s around you, what you touch… it’s the full experience.
ID: What are some splurge items you get to use in your work in institutional and educational design?
KB: Hopefully there’s money we can push to the end to do something with graphic design. It makes all the difference because it puts projects in the realm of connecting with the user. Like in the public library world, for instance, graphics become critical.
ID: What do you do to relax?
KB: Last year I bought a Jeep Wrangler, and, being in Arizona, I just love to go up the canyons and take it four-wheel driving. That, to me, is so fun! Also, I bought a little place in San Diego and going there is so relaxing because it’s like a different world. Plus, I have a dog and it’s great to take him to the beach and let him run in the water.
ID: What are some places you like visit when you travel?
KB: I was in China last year with an architect friend in Tucson who asked if I’d be interested in helping him outfit three model homes that he designed. It was a lot of fun. My favorite travels though have been over to Spain. I have some very good friends there, an architect couple in Barcelona. We do a lot of shared lecturing and travel.
ID: Do you have any advice for emerging designers?
KB: Come out with the spirit of investigating and ask questions. Don’t just agree, ask why. Be open to everything. Don’t just conform. Don’t try to lay low.