Kansas City Readers Series
The Kansas City Reader Series is an eight part interview series from Our Daily Nada. Every month we publish a portrait with leading Kansas City creatives, a selection of conversations with personalities from the worlds of art, food, journalism, music and business.
Michael Paxton is a local architect whose work can be seen all over the Kansas City area, including the glorious Restaurant at 1900 and most importantly to us, Our Daily Nada. Here we talk architecture and books with the man that helped us build our space into a reality.
ODN: What do you enjoy most about being an architect? Is there a project you designed that stands out in your mind as your favorite and why?
Mike Paxton: I’ve always loved to draw and design, so getting to do that on a daily basis is great. But ultimately, being an architect is working with others to help solve problems. How to make a space work, how to make it unique, how to do something really creative on a budget. How to fix something once its discovered during construction. The list of problems to solve changes every day, and I really love the variety and creativity. My favorite project is usually the one I am currently working on. Recently we just completed the Restaurant at 1900 here in town. It’s a great space that I think is very architectural, but at the same time feels warm and comfortable for a drink or dinner. We also recently renovated a building at 6601 College Boulevard that DEG and Zoom are now occupying. Its great to take an older piece of architecture and give it a vibrant new life.
ODN: What is your favorite book and why? If it's too hard to pick just one what are your top three?
Mike Paxton: As a kid I loved the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and I hope that now that they are films, kids don’t stop reading them, because there is so much more depth and realism to them than can be touched in the movie. (Isn’t that true of all books though?) . Most recently, I love the work of Hugh Howey, specifically the Wool Trilogy. But anything he writes is a really good read.
ODN: What books about architecture would you recommend someone interested in the subject read?
Michael Paxton: There are so many! And a lot are honestly pretty boring and hard to get into. Witold Rybczynski (don’t let the name scare you) is one of my favorite architecture writers. He writes books that are more approachable and interesting and generally tie architecture in with modern culture and design. If your looking for books with beautiful pictures of architecture, the publisher Taschen is the go to resource.
ODN: Kansas City has a mix of historical and contemporary buildings. What are some interesting buildings from an architectural perspective you'd recommend people visit?
Mike Paxton: The Marcel Breuer designed house at 6701 Belinder is one of my favorites. It’s a mid-century design done by an internationally recognized architect and is really sculpture in the form of a house. Similarly, two recent examples of excellent modern architecture are The Nelson Atkins addition and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Both are great modern additions to the diversity of our city’s architecture. Historically, I love the River Market and Union Hill areas. The mixture of historic architecture and new infill create two of the most urban and walkable neighborhoods in town. They also lend themselves to smaller retail shops with local owners. And bookshops and bars. . . .
ODN: What would you most like to see or experience in a bookstore/bar in Kansas City? Are there other bookstores you have been to that you have fallen in love with? What did you love about them?
Michael Paxton: For a bookstore / bar, to me the most important thing is to feel comfortable when browsing books. Relatively quiet, well lit, comfortable furniture. A place where you want to relax and read and/or drink a little while to make sure the book you are purchasing is a good one. One of the best bookstores, which is sadly no longer in business was Prairie Avenue Bookshop in Chicago. It had all of the qualities I mentioned above, and was focused primarily on Architecture and Design, so it had everything you could want related to a subject I love.