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Kevin Wilkes
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Kevin Wilkes: An Introduction

Kevin Wilkes was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1957. He lived in Manhattan from 1960 to 1973; Westfield NJ from 1973-1975; Princeton Borough from 1975-1983; Princeton Township from 1983-1987; Franklin Township from 1987-1998; West Windsor from 1998-2003; Princeton Borough from 2003-2004; Montgomery Township in 2004. Kevin currently resides in Princeton Borough.

Education – secondary, college, graduate

Kevin attended Trinity School in Manhattan for twelve years, from 1963-1975. While growing up on the upper West Side, he developed an enthusiasm for social activism and intellectual debate, and a passion for theater. In his senior year, he redesigned an unused basement rifle range into a black box theater seating 74. Trinity’s Parents Organization was sufficiently impressed by his proposal to the degree that they funded the $40,000 project. In May of 1975, Kevin supervised the renovation of the space and designed the sets and lights for the opening production, Twelfth Night.

At Princeton, Kevin continued his involvement with the theater, both through the Architecture Department and as an extra curricular activity. He designed sets and costumes for two dozen campus shows and studied scene design under Zach Brown and technical direction under Mitchell Kurtz. He took three years off between his sophomore and junior year to pursue theater work full time. He worked at McCarter Theater, first as a scenic artist and then as assistant technical director under such designers as Michael Yeargan and John Lee Beatty. He also worked in Manhattan designing both stage sets and modest interior projects, such as a new lobby for the Circle Rep on Sheridan Square, and a second stage for the Playwrights Horizons on Theater Row. At Princeton, Kevin’s most influential design critic was Alan Colquhoun, under whom he designed his Thesis project: “Collective Survival in the Manhattan Grid: A Plan for the Future of Off-Broadway Theater.” The design proposed that the Circle Repertory Company, Playwrights Horizons and the Negro Ensemble Company would join together under one roof with each company having their own individual theaters. They would share the building’s support spaces, rehearsal spaces, workshops and circulation with the goal being to better ensure collective survival as well as individual growth. The proposed project was located on a 42nd Street Redevelopment Site, on the west side of Seventh Avenue between 41st and 42nd street; it simultaneously proposed adding new support spaces and lobbies for Herts and Talent’s adjacent New Amsterdam Theater.

After completing his undergraduate degree in 1983, Kevin served his apprenticeship with Doug Kelbaugh, AIA in Princeton Borough and Alan Goodheart, ASLA in Princeton Township. The following year, along with Alan and Doug, he won Third Place in the Cultural Arts Pavilion Competition for Newport News, Virginia. He also won an Honorable Mention in the 1984 Young Architects Competition in New York City.

Kevin received his Master of Architecture degree from Yale University in 1991. At Yale, Kevin’s most influential design critic was Juan Navarro Baldeweg, under whom he designed the Wooster Guild - a teaching and research facility where traditionally opposed white collar and blue collar activities such as design and heavy construction were combined in order to train a new breed of Master Builder/Architect for future leadership in the profession.

Professional Practice / Teaching / Honors / Community Service

In 1985 Kevin Wilkes founded Princeton Design Guild, a design / build practice focused on residential architecture. He designed and built residential rehabilitation and addition projects in Central New Jersey with a crew of three. This design work has a craft based philosophy that uses interior day lighting strategies and fine materials to create rooms of lasting comfort and spiritual resonance. Embedded in compact residential floor plans, axial visual arrangements and Mannerist elevation strategies enliven the private rituals of domesticity. The act of making these projects - of physically assembling them - is a natural extension of drawing and model making. This process ensures success and design integrity.

The first house completed by the Princeton Design Guild, for Nicholas Ulanov, was featured in Donald Prowler’s 1986 book, Modest Mansions: Design Ideas for Luxurious Living in Less Space, and also in Architectural Digest, April 1989. The project gutted a dilapidated one thousand square foot post-war pre-fab and added two additions. The design intention was to transform the interior world while maintaining its suburban exterior massing, a contextual response to the existing Princeton neighborhood. Also in 1986, Kevin started teaching architectural design studio as an adjunct critic at the School of Architecture / New Jersey Institute of Technology.

In 1988, Kevin was awarded an Architecture Fellowship Grant by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts based on his design projects with the Princeton Design Guild. He took a leave of absence from the Guild and from NJIT to pursue his Master of Architecture degree at Yale. He completed his course work in 1990, completed his thesis with Kent Bloomer and Tom Beeby the following fall, and returned to Princeton.

Kevin rejoined NJIT as an adjunct studio critic in 1991, teaching second year studio in the fall and fifth year studio in the spring. In 1992, Kevin was recruited by the Construction Official of Princeton Township to be the municipal Building Inspector. The primary responsibilities of the job were performing inspections relating to concrete, foundations, wood and steel framing, building envelope, and final project completion. As the inspector for Princeton Township he monitored six subdivisions being built along Princeton’s rural edges. The largest was Calton Homes’ 300 unit subdivision called Washington Oaks. In addition to his responsibilities at NJIT and Princeton Township, he revived the dormant Princeton Design Guild. Kevin holds four licenses granted by the State of New Jersey: ICS Building Inspector, Subcode Official, Construction Official and Registered Architect.

In the summer of 1994, Kevin was promoted to full time special lecturer at NJIT and was appointed coordinator of second year studios. His responsibilities for 1994-1996 included planning and development of the program sequence as well assisting the development of curriculum content for the entire second year. In June of 1996 he shifted his full attention back to the growing and expanding business enterprises of Princeton Design Guild.

Over the past ten years PDG has completed more than 125 residential and commercial projects from Kissimmee, Florida to Manhattan, New York. Princeton Design Guild is a full services design / build collaborative that is based in a 15,000 square foot commercial facility in Belle Mead, NJ. PDG is unique among local area architecture firms in that they build their own projects with their own full time staff. PDG employs sixteen architects, designers, craftsmen, cabinet-makers, carpenters, masons and metal fabricators, all working as a functional team. Kevin Wilkes leads two divisions – Wilkes Architects and PDG Construction LLC - in harmonious pursuit of high quality custom design and sophisticated execution of complex construction strategies. PDG designs their projects, including the interiors, manages the municipal approval and permitting process, builds the project and completely outfits the interiors with products made in their custom woodworking shop in Belle Mead. PDG has completed many projects in Central New Jersey with the majority being located in Princeton Borough, Princeton Township, West Windsor, Montgomery, Hopewell, Hillsborough and Franklin Township.

In addition to their residential work, PDG designs and manages specialty Municipal projects where creative originality and quality execution is required. In 1997 PDG designed and managed the Princeton Township Municipal Building Charrette – an open design competition where a jury comprised of Princeton Township officials and independent architects selected the new Municipal Building. The winning design, selected from among thirty anonymous entries, was fully realized by Princeton Township over the ensuing five years. This past summer PDG was the architect of record for designer Amado Batour and the builder of “Remembrance Fountain.” This memorial, located in front of South Brunswick Municipal Building, is dedicated to three local citizens who perished in the attacks of September 11. This design / build contract was completed on time and on budget for dedication on September 11, 2005.

Kevin serves on the Steering Committee of Princeton Future and is Chair of the Program and Projects Committee. He was one of the designers who led the Witherspoon Street Corridor Study from late fall2004 to May of 2005. Through creative design strategies and collective study of the fabric of the existing community, Princeton Future developed design options for streetscape improvements and community preservation in order to enhance the quality of life for all who live, work and visit along Witherspoon Street. In 2006, Kevin led a town-wide design Charrette creating eleven different proposals for the redesign of Merwick, the YM/YWCA and Stanworth Apartments.

In 2004 Kevin founded Princeton Occasions, a NJ non-profit, with the specific purpose of designing and building special event gardens featuring local art and architecture talent. The initial project, Writers Block, designed and built a literary urban scholars garden on an under utilized vacant lot on Paul Robeson Place in Princeton Borough with the assistance of eleven teams of architects, authors and builders. Kevin managed the collaboration structure with artists, academics, builders, landscapers and enthusiasts of all persuasions who wanted to showcase the beautiful and lasting accomplishments of the greater Princeton Community. Writers Block set a high standard for Town and Gown collaboration in Princeton. Princeton Occasions next garden event, entitled Quark Park, will focus the same strategy on Science and Art; this garden will open in late Summer 2006.

Kevin also devotes time to various civic and political groups in the Princeton; he serves as the Corresponding Secretary for the Princeton Community Democratic Organization, he serves on the Site Plan Advisory Review Board committee of the Planning Board, he works with the Princeton Parks Alliance as the coordinator of their project to light the Princeton Battle Monument in front of Princeton Borough Hall and is a member of the Witherspoon Jackson Neighborhood Association.

Kevin Wilkes won the 2004 American Institute of Architects/NJ Chapter Honor Award for Built Projects and the 2005 Smart Growth Architecture Award for Creative Initiative from the NJ Office of Smart Growth for Writers Block. He was awarded a “Best of The Best” Excellence Award in 2000 from Downtown New Jersey, Inc. for his designs at the Frog and the Peach Restaurant in New Brunswick. In addition to Architectural Digest, his designs have been featured in magazines such as Architectural Record, Landscape Architecture, Planning Magazine, Fine Homebuilding and Design NJ. In 2003 his work was included in a book published by Taunton Press, The Best of Fine Homebuilding.

 

 

Quark Park is being developed by Kevin Wilkes, AIA; Peter Soderman; and Alan Goodheart, ASLA.
The World Hope Foundation has joined forces with this team to be the fiscal agent for the project. The World Hope Foundation mission supports self-determination in communities by bringing resources to community members and educational experts that are willing to step forward and enhance the lives of their children and elders. The Foundation is a qualified as a Federal
501 (c)(3) charitable organization and as such is eligible to solicit and support charitable causes.
Web design and photos by Cie Stroud are © 2006

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