In 1992 Gene Kohn, Chairman and Founder of Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF) spoke at my architecture school. I was a 22-year-old architecture student and a born entrepreneur.
Gene inspired me that day. He changed my life as an architect and indirectly impacted an entire generation of architect business owners through EntreArchitect.
At his talk, Gene explained how important it was to focus on the business of architecture before all else, how finding the right partners with focused strengths, greater than his own was critical to his success, and how growing his network by establishing real honest authentic relationships with people led to the first project for KPF and every project since.
That talk motivated me to focus on business fundamentals when launching my own architecture firm in 1999, which soon led to the creation of The EntreArchitect Community and its impact on the architecture profession for small firm architects worldwide.
In December of 2019, twenty-seven years after his visit to my architecture school, I invited Gene to be my guest for Episode 300 at EntreArchitect Podcast. I was so excited to finally speak with him one-on-one, and this time, as a fellow architect.
Then in March 2022, Gene accepted a second invitation. This time to speak as our closing keynote at The EntreArchitect Community Annual Meeting, our organization’s first in-person business conference dedicated to the worldwide community of small firm architects.
A few weeks before the November event, Gene called, very disappointed, and explained that his doctors advised him to not travel to Austin during his ongoing treatment and battle with cancer. He canceled the presentation and our community missed an opportunity to hear his story.
Before we ended the call, I promised that we would find another way for him to engage with our community.
So on January 13, 2023, Gene Kohn joined the EntreArchitect Community at the EntreArchitect Network Business Summit, our first 1-day online speakers event for members of EntreArchitect Network. He shared the story of his iconic architecture firm, how he grew KPF from a small firm of 3 partners to an international firm of more than 700, and the critical importance of focusing on the business of architecture for all architecture firms, large and small. Just like that evening in 1992, Gene was inspiring, motivational, and charismatic as he presented his slides and spent additional time answering our many questions.
Yesterday, on Thursday, March 9, 2023, A. Eugene Kohn, FAIA, RIBA, JIA died.
Gene was my architect superhero.
As a high school student determined to become an architect, during my college education at Roger Williams University where I first spoke with Gene very briefly following his talk, and throughout my entire career as an entrepreneur architect business owner, Gene was my inspiration.
I am honored and happy to have had the opportunity to engage with Gene and share the impact that he had on my life, as well as the lives of thousands more architects who connect, love, learn and share with one another at EntreArchitect.
Gene Kohn was an entrepreneur architect. He shifted the world through the business that he and his partners built, through the architecture that the firm continues to create, and through the legacy he leaves behind.
With this post, I am sending my condolences to Gene’s family, friends, and colleagues. Gene was a special man and I am honored to have had the opportunity to learn from him.
May God bless A. Eugene Kohn and may he rest in peace.
Below is the talk Gene presented at the EntreArchitect Business Summit for our community of small firm architects.
Establishing an Architecture Firm
The Story of KPF Architects: Real-Life Lessons for Your Architecture Firm, Large or Small