Meet eight visionaries who push the limits of their professions and set new tastes in the fields of architecture and design, sculpture, events and floral design, and commercial photography.
Modern architecture and fabrication
Co-founders and married couple Matthew and Jesse Hufft, of Hufft Projects, are fond of quoting Winston Churchill: “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.” In a part of the country that often favors the traditional, they have pushed the envelope with their sophisticated, clean-lined, light-filled and visually arresting residences and commercial designs, including the swanky Standard Style boutique on the Plaza. And a bevy of awards and national press attention has followed from Dwell magazine, Architectural Record, Details, Metropolitan Home and Interior Design magazine, as well as prestigious AIA Awards.
With cool names like Merge Residence, Tatami House (Japanese- inspired), Baulinder Haus (just down the street from the modernist Bauhaus gem by Marcel Breuer in Mission Hills), Heavy Metal, and Bent/Sliced House, Hufft’s residential projects are diverse in inspiration but unified in their spare, modern elegance. From a futuristic Shed and modern update of a Chicago townhouse to the cantilevered Artery Residence designed as a showcase for a local couple’s contemporary art collection, Hufft’s commissions are singular. In a feature produced by Curbed.com last December, Matthew Hufft stated, “We are always stripping down a design to its bare essentials to ensure every decision, every angle, is there for a reason.”
Hufft Projects bills itself as a “diverse design collective” that embraces not only architecture and the handmade, but also state-of-the- art digital technology, and in-studio workshops for woodworking, metal fabrications, cabinetry and furniture design. They also keep an eye on the environment with several LEED-rated projects and LEED-accredited designers. Last year, the firm, which started out in New York as a husband-and-wife endeavor celebrated its 10-year anniversary and 50th employee hire. They also moved their offices/design labs into the former Wolferman’s warehouse, which they renovated into hip office space and studio lofts, branded the Grocer’s Warehouse. The amount of creative talent under this one roof is inspiring and it continues to grow. Up next for the star firm: Woodside Village mixed-use project, a proposed 13-story glass retail/hotel/apartment space on the Country Club Plaza, and the pending renovation of the historic Savoy Hotel and Grill into a boutique 21c Museum Hotel. hufft.com
Event and floral designer
Dan Meiners is not on the party circuit; he is the party circuit. As a premier event planner and floral designer, Meiners has stage-managed many of the city’s grandest occasions at iconic venues such as the Nelson-Atkins Museum, Union Station and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. He is also a go-to for exquisite custom weddings, from an all-white outdoors occasion with breezy tents and chic lounge arrangements to lavish black-tie affairs spilling with florals and candlelight. With an in-house floral studio at his command, Meiners can whip up an elegant bouquet or an entire wall of flowers. His combination events space, floral studio and chic boutique acts as a living laboratory for exploring creative ideas and the latest event trends. The carefully curated boutique is one of the most stylish gifts, floral and home decor sources in town, while the 8,000-square-foot Pennway Place within Studio Dan Meiners serves as a flexible space for everything from wedding receptions to swanky cocktail parties.
In fact, a year ago, 435 Magazine asked Meiners to create an exotic Chinese New Year tableau for an entertaining story in the space. Meiners transformed Pennway Place into a bold red-and-gold vision with clusters of oversize red paper lanterns and swathes of red drapery, while the elegant tabletop was decorated with Cartier dishes, black- lacquer-painted chopsticks, pots of red ginger, and scattered chocolates resembling gold Chinese coins. Chinese paper fans, spray-painted red and marked with calligraphy designating the Year of the Goat, adorned the backs of each gold ballroom chair. These, and myriad other custom details led to a cumulative grand effect that is signature Meiners.
More recently, Meiners and his team managed to suspend countless fluttering red banners from the glass ceiling of the Kauffman Center’s grand hall for a gala celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Harriman-Jewell Concert Series. The graphic effect of the red banners in the lofty white architectural space was stunning. From elegant weddings and Chinese New Years to modernistic art galas, Meiners leaves his inimitable stamp on KC’s chicest soirees. danmeiners.com
The Wade Brothers
Commercial Photography and Film
No matter what kinds of pots you are stirring, we can guarantee you that the Wade Brothers are having more fun than you. Their Facebook postings document their globetrotting “Where’s the Wade Brothers?” escapades from Alaska, Shanghai and Austin’s SxSW, to Portugal, Panama and a Missouri horse ranch — all in the name of creating sizzling, eyeball-catching, hyperreal ad campaigns for national and international brands like Oakley, Nike, Bacardi, Gatorade, Red Bull, Pepsi, Reebok and DirecTV. The congenial, bearded, Royals-cap-wearing and tatted-up brothers, who are so close in their personal and professional life that they have become one entity, “The Wade Brothers,” were born and raised in KC and still maintain a creative studio in the Crossroads, in addition to their L.A., New York and London outposts.
The duo are known for their bold, edgy, slightly off-kilter ad campaigns and visuals in the vein of David LaChapelle. Lyndon and Lindsey Wade have created award-winning campaigns like Captain Obvious for Hotels.com and single-handedly made-under Sports Illustrated supermodels Chrissy Teigen, Hannah Davis and Nina Agdal into a dumpy housewife, crazy cat lady and menacing cafeteria lady, respectively, for tongue-in-cheek DirecTV ads. They’ve also shot killer portraits of athletes (Christiano Ronaldo, Dwayne Wade, Ryan Lochte), Paralympic athletes, actors (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Oscar Isaac) and musicians (Kings of Leon, The Black Keys, Kris Kristofferson, Eminem, Wyclef Jean).
Recently, they photographed surfers in below-zero temperatures amid Alaskan icebergs for a global rebrand of Oakley. What do these brothers do to unwind? They started an outlaw go-kart league and filled their KC studio with skateboard ramps, motorcycles, go-karts, and vintage cars — as well as a bar. They say KC is key to their creativity —giving them the space and freedom to birth original ideas and daring visuals. thewadebrothers.com
Artist, wood sculptor, furniture maker
Christopher Kurtz with Singularity sculpture
Though he currently resides in Hudson, New York, artist Christopher Kurtz was born in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, and attended the Kansas City Art Institute in the mid-1990s. Post-art school, he honed his skills by working with one of America’s foremost wood sculptors, Martin Puryear, subject of a 2007-08 MoMA show. More recently, Kurtz has received his own accolades, including the prestigious Louis Comfort Tiffany Award and a New York Foundation for the Arts Award. This past fall/winter he enjoyed a bit of a KC homecoming with a one-man show of his wood sculptures and handcrafted furniture at the Belger Crane Yard Gallery at Red Star Studios in the Crossroads. On display was a spindly, large scale, sculptural piece aptly called “Singularity.” The magnificent pick-up-sticks-like structure resembled something organic — a large bird’s skeleton with graceful extended wings and beak — or maybe a pair of abstracted creatures, stags with pointed horns — heading through a forest. Kurtz’s poetic works inspire these kinds of analogies. Even his more abstract sculptures — gracefully curving, swooping ribbons of wood — connote the movement of dance, spiritual or emotional reach, or the elegant curls of calligraphy, of which Kurtz’s father was a master. Wit and playful humor also play into his pieces. His iconic (A)Typical Windsor Form depicts two classic Windsor chairs as if warped and melted together, sharing twisty, looped, interconnected chair backs and fit for Wonderland. Another of his Windsor chair designs resembles a birdcage.
Choosing to focus solely on wood, with all its sturdy, partly resistant and partly malleable qualities, Kurtz explores its possibilities with technical and artistic virtuosity. And his creative circumstances couldn’t be more ideal. Kurtz resides in a 300-year-old farmhouse with his glass-artist wife, while a converted barn serves as his studio and woodshop. Though he sometimes resorts to production tools like a computer numeric router, each of his pieces is handmade, hand-lathed, hand-carved and hand-planed, working the wood into sublime artistic expression. In a review in Art Forum in 2012, writer Allese Thomson marveled at Kurtz’s magician-like way with wood and “the stunning levels of patience and attention required to make wood appear weightless.” For more info visit redstarstudios.org and firstname.lastname@example.org
A. Zahner Co.
Engineering and metal fabrication
Just call them alchemists of metal. A. Zahner Co. has been a successful KC-based family business for 118 years. However, it was the evolution of modern architecture from boxes to complex curvilinear shapes, designed digitally, and often clad in metal, that catapulted Zahner to a global engineering powerhouse. Architect Frank Gehry popularized this new style with the titanium curves of his landmark Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, (1997) and took Zahner along for the ride as the fabricator of choice for his signature curves. Gehry and Zahner have since collaborated on several projects, including the Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park in Chicago (2004) and the Experience Music Project Museum in Seattle (2000).
Indeed, as The New York Times observes, nearly every contemporary “starchitect” has Zahner on speed dial, including Zaha Hadid, Tadao Ando, Daniel Libeskind, Herzog & de Meuron, SANAA, and Thom Mayne of Morphosis. A slew of AIA design awards have followed, and last fall, The Atlantic penned a glowing feature about how “America’s most interesting buildings” are born in KC at Zahner’s innovative materials lab.
What is the secret of this fourth-generation company run by brothers L. William Zahner (CEO/President) and Robert Zahner (Senior VP)? Well, for starters, they offer 200 skilled metal fabricators, craftsmen and engineers; a patented process that reduces sophisticated designs to individual parts for rapid manufacturing with maximum precision; state-of-the-art metals (stainless steel, aluminum, copper, zinc, titanium); and treatments that range from their proprietary Angel Hair texturing to their Inverted Seam technique for flawless, mirror-like facades. For an art project in Doha, Qatar, the company cut metal to resemble an intricate lace doily. For the 2015 renovation of Petersen Automotive Museum in L.A., Zahner created 308 custom “ribbons” of metal, no two alike, for the wavy facade.
And Zahner has not neglected their own backyard. The company collaborated with Moshe Safdie on the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and with Populous on the 2009 renovation of Kauffman Stadium. However, the expansion of their own corporate HQ at 9th Street and Paseo perhaps represents the best visual advertisement for the company. Known as the “Cloud Wall,” the groovy, undulating facade not only reveals the engineering skeleton of the building, but also showcases Zahner’s astonishing magic with metal — to make it appear as light and pliable as taffy. For more info visit azahner.com.