Downtown Design Center Director
School of Architecture, College of Fine Arts
Ken McCown is taking over as director of the School of Architecture's Downtown Design Center. Located on Las Vegas Boulevard in the historic Fifth Street School, the center serves as a studio for advanced architecture students and a resource for working professionals in the community.
Background Information? My father was in the military, so I grew up in America! Much of my time was spent at West Point, where my father was the Commander of the Band.
What drew you to your profession? I grew up always wanting to be an architect -- it was something that seemed natural.
What do you find as the most interesting thing about your field? It is always something new. If one is trying to make a place, every place is different, and needs a different type of approach and solution. The other rewarding aspect is that places are for people - it is nice to work in service to people.
Biggest misconception about your field? My background is in architecture and landscape architecture. People often think that those professions design houses and gardens. People in my field design spaces between buildings, provide ecological plans to save habitat of critical species, design urban plazas and streets, design stormwater runoff systems, and of course design buildings other than houses!
What has surprised you about your field? How much black clothing architects wear.
What inspired you to get into your field? I saw Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House (on the campus of the University of Chicago) when I was seven, and knew that's what I wanted to do. It was magic, like the house was in motion and froze in its position.
Research field? My research is the application of research. As a practicing professional, I am interested in using the latest in research from fields of science and art to make places. With my interdisciplinary background, I use architecture and landscape architecture in tandem to create sustainable urban design. My work in Las Vegas will involve the city, region, and state of Nevada; producing projects to create sustainable places and communities.
Who was your favorite professor and why? There have been several favorites; there are so many to choose from and to whom I owe a deep gratitude and obligation to honor their efforts with me. I stay in close contact with Kevin Hinders (at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). He is always challenging himself to learn more and cares deeply about how his student's progress with their careers.
What kind of professor would you like your students to remember you as? One who cared about them by teaching them how to make the best decision and prepare them for what the professions of architecture and landscape architecture will demand.
What is your proudest moment? Walking into the Downtown Design Center for the first time as an employee. It was exciting and humbling!
What would people be surprised to know about you? I was an ocean lifeguard for a few years.
PC or Mac? Both!
Can't work without? Great collaborators who are competent, fun, and want to make where they are the place to be.
Favorite past time? I really, really, really love the Tour de France.
What gadget could you not live without? A toothbrush.
If you could fix one thing in the world what would it be? My work has to do with sustainability, so anything that makes people closer to living in harmony with the Earth.
One tip to succeed? Stay close to successful people and work with them.
Who is your hero? Anyone chasing their dreams.