The Next Generation Leadership: Kris Barkley
June 2, 2022
“This steadying influence on the organization contradicts the old saying I learned during my days in the South that “a prayin’ knee and a dancin’ foot don’t grow on the same leg.” Kris does indeed have both.”
As Dreyfuss + Blackford Architecture surpasses and I approach the age of 70, the firm is also transitioning to its third generation of leadership. This is the first of five blogs focused on the people that make up the principals group: Kris Barkley, Gus Fischer, Scott Shannon, Jason Silva, and Amy Eliot.
Just as the founders of the firm, Al Dreyfuss and Len Blackford, bestowed enormous trust in me to be a good steward of the firm, I too have deep trust in the values and instincts of each of these leaders.
I’ve always considered myself enormously lucky throughout my life. I have had my share of challenges thrown at me and just as I’ve jumped off the cliff, I’ve found my landing spot and been able to move on knowing that our future is improved. I reflect on why I have been so lucky. Part of this has been that I’ve surrounded myself with a quality team of talented individuals. Key to this team are the many talents of Kris Barkley.
Kris has shaped the design work of Dreyfuss + Blackford for the past 33 years. During that time, he has demonstrated his devotion to design. He has always begun design with a search for the true purpose of the work. As a modernist Kris has found that design is an exercise in discovery, designing from the inside out. He has always approached his work with the rigor of a student seeking to understand the underlying “why” before developing a solution. The context and the purpose of the work have been his north star. He has favored quality design moves that last over time. It is through that lens that the work of the firm can best be viewed.
I can think of no better project to symbolize Kris’ contribution to the firm than the SMUD Headquarters Rehabilitation. Kris’ approach to the project came from a place of reverence to the work that came before him, and a deep understanding of the need for SMUD to address the workplace of the future. The outcome has received wide design recognition for both its sensitivity to a historic landmark and a forward-thinking approach to creating a nimble and connected workplace.
Kris has been a strong voice in the practice, especially addressing the important role that design technology plays in the design and construction industry. He has always paid attention to the technical side of a project. Advocating on behalf of the most current design technology has advanced the firm’s ability to compete with others multiple times our size. We have always “boxed above our fighting weight”. This has been due to a quality team with the most current tools available. Kris has been a huge influence in shaping how we do our work and defining the tools we use to do it.
As architects we need to be balanced because we exist at the intersection of arts and technics. There is no contradiction in Kris’ leadership in the realm of design and the practice. His approach to his art is deeply rooted in the rigor of understanding, the need and the technical requirements to execute it properly. He brings that same rigor to the administration of the firm. This steadying influence on the organization contradicts the old saying I learned during my days in the South that “a prayin’ knee and a dancin’ foot don’t grow on the same leg.” Kris does indeed have both.