PB native begins work on Robinson Center

LITTLE ROCK — Just before New York-based architect Kevin McClurkan stepped behind the podium at the Arkansas Arts Center Lecture Hall, he was greeted by several people who were not just colleagues, but former classmates. They had come to listen to his lecture.

“The Clinton Library is what brought him back home,” Steve Kinzler, president of Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects, said about McClurkan’s return to Arkansas work on the project in Little Rock.

Although his work as project manager on Little Rock’s William J. Clinton Presidential Center 14 years ago didn’t keep him here for the long term, McClurkan is rooted deeply in his home state. He will be returning soon to begin work collaborating with Polk Stanley Wilcox to redesign Little Rock’s Robinson Center Music Hall auditorium, and he said he believes in social responsibility.

“Buildings are built by man, and they are invasive on the land, and they mean something,” McClurkan told the crowd as a slide show of some of his projects played on a large screen.

McClurkan graduated from Pine Bluff High School and then earned his Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 1983.

“This is a story about the firm … not me, or my partners,” McClurkan said as he told a brief history of his architecture firm in New York.

In 1963 Jim Polshek started the firm that is now called Ennead, meaning a group of nine. One of Polshek’s first projects was a community center in Harlem and public housing. One of McClurkan’s first projects after he joined the firm 30 years ago was a 17-story building.

“This building is 17 stories,” he said as he pointed to a slide of a building. “It was my first project with the firm. I’d only done three stories before that.”

McClurkan said he believes in sustainability and taking the surroundings of a new structure into consideration when designing.

“Modesty and stewardship and taking a back seat to the architecture that already exists,” he said about his project at Yale University, where the three existing buildings were built in the early 1900s, 1920s and 1960s.

That will also be a factor in the Robinson Auditorium renovation. Robinson has been a cultural institution in Arkansas for 75 years.

“After 75 years, it’s time to clean the windows and take down the dusty drapes,” he said.

McClurkan has earned many awards for his work. Some of the noteworthy projects include, New York’s University Tisch School of the Arts, Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law, converting the Ed Sullivan Theater into the Late Night with David Letterman set and the Newseum/Freedom Forum Foundation World Headquarters in Washington, D.C. He is also a member of the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture’s Professional Advisory Board, an Advisory Board member for the University of North Texas, Sub-Antarctic Biocultural Conservation Program, and he is a member of the American Institute of Architects and a LEED Accredited Professional.

To see more of McClurkan’s projects, visit Ennead Architects website at www.ennead.com