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Home | AUSTIN | Spotlight | Spotlight - Girard Kinney, Owner, Kinney & Associates, Austin, TX

Spotlight - Girard Kinney, Owner, Kinney & Associates, Austin, TX

image Girard Kinney, owner of Kinney & Associates.

AUSTIN - Behind the curtains he would build props for plays. A knack for building and drawing brought him to where he is today. He is a true Austinite and what he loves most about Austin is the change.






Where were you born?
    I was born at the Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington D.C, because my mother and father had been transferred there during the war. I was 3 years old when we came back to Austin. My family is a fifth or sixth generation Austin family.

What part of Austin were you from?

    I was from south Austin. In south Austin there is a street called Kinney Avenue which was named after my grandfather. I have this sort of heritage with south Austin.

How did your parents meet?
    My mother ended up getting a master’s in English at the University of Texas where she met my father. She’s actually from West Virginia. He was an undergraduate and she was a graduate student. My dad was an amateur actor and my mother directed plays; my mother having directed him in a play is how they got together.

What did you enjoy playing as a child?
    My dad was a big hunter and fisherman. We didn’t have any money, so we spent a whole lot of our childhood simply hunting and fishing for food. We also had a big vegetable garden that supplied the entire neighborhood and ourselves. There was a lot of hunting, fishing and gardening done in my youth. Since my parents were into theater I was often back stage and I would help build props for plays.

Do you have any siblings?

    One of my brothers, my sister, and I became known as the Kinney Kids. We had an act that we did on stage at the Old Skyline Club. My mom was so into theater she just had to get us out there. That got me interested in theater and designing for theaters early on in my life.

Where did you attend college?

    I attended college at the University of Texas. I do have a graphics degree from the University of Guadalajara, Mexico. My primary degree is in architecture from UT.

Are you married?

    I am. I’m married to Leyla Cohlmia.

Is your wife in the same industry as you?

    No. Leyla retired three years ago from Austin High School. She was the chairman of the science department. Today, Austin High School has the chemistry wing named after her. She was a loved and respected teacher for 35 years at the school.

What do you and your wife do during your free time?
    We enjoy gardening, household projects, reading, TV, movies and cooking. I like to build things, fix things, go fishing and whitewater canoeing.

Do you have any children?
    We have no children together. I do have one daughter from my first marriage. Her name is Genevieve. She has two kids, both of whom are in show business.
How old are your grandchildren?
    Ellar is 23 and Evelyn is 12 now. My grandson Ellar was the star of the movie Boyhood. It’s the Richard Linklater film about a boy. It was filmed once a year every year for 12 years. I got to see my grandson grow up both in real life and also on screen from the time he was six to the time he was 18.

What’s the history of your profession?

    I went to UT in the ‘60s, but didn’t get out until 1978. We didn’t have any money, so I had to work my way through school. I had three jobs while I was going to the university. It also took a long time to get my degree because, in 1969, I dropped out of school. It was because of a protest against the school. At that time Alan Taniguchi, the dean of the school of architecture, was a partner in a firm in Austin. He asked me to join that firm, so I went from school without a degree to work for an architectural firm where I became a partner. From there I went to another firm and in 1978 I started my own firm with another fellow. He and I had actually planned that firm from the time we were in our first design class at UT together in 1961. That really became the predecessor to the firm that I have now. We will be 40 years old this year.

What set off your passion for architecture?

    In junior high they had a career day event and we were all suppose to write an essay on what we wanted to be. I told my parents I didn’t know what I wanted to be; they said start with what you are good at. Well I could draw and I was also very good at math. Drawing wasn’t likely going to allow me to make a living, but I realized with architecture both math and drawing were useful skills. I like to build stuff, so it was at that point in the 9th grade that I decided I wanted to be an architect.

Do you have any mentors?
    There are several in my life. Several teachers, including both my physics and geometry teachers at Travis High School and Alan Taniguchi both at UT and as a principal at his architectural firm.

In your 40-year career what are some things that have changed since starting in this business?

     The things that have changed that have affected the business have had a lot to do with the changes in Austin, with the sort of densification of Austin and the growth.

Are there any challenges you’ve encountered in the construction industry?
    So many that I cannot possibly list them.

How did you overcome them?
    Short answer: hard work.

What K&A commercial projects are most memorable to you?

    South Park Cinema; it was the first commercial theater in the world to incorporate THX sound. It also marked the beginning of a relationship with theaters in the US and abroad and was the first of many movie theaters we designed in Texas, Florida and other states. Another being Zachary Scott Theatre; my father was a fellow actor with Zach Scott, so designing what is now named the Whisenhunt Theatre at Zach was an important return to my roots in live theater. I conceived of the gargoyles at Zach, which raised $75K toward the cost of the building. There is also Drake Bridge pedestrian walkways and Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge. I have always striven to build connections north to south across Town Lake (now Ladybird Lake) and east to west across IH35.

How long have you been a part of the American Institute of Architects (AIA)?

    To be a member you have to be a registered architect. I got my degree and I became registered in late 1978 or 79. I had always been kind of anti-establishment, so it took some convincing for me to join the AIA, but once I got involved in it I came to really respect and believe in it.

Are you a part of any other organizations or committees?
    My current memberships are with the Austin Chapter AIA Urban Design Committee, Scenic Austin and Scenic Texas, Austin Pedestrian Advisory Council and its technical committee,
Cherrywood Land Use and Transportation Committee, Mueller Transpiration Group, Berkman Working Group, Congress for New Urbanism, Friends of Austin Neighborhoods, Reconnect Austin, Alliance for Public Transportation and Environmental Democrats.

What do you do during your free time?
    The problem with that question is I have never been able to draw any lines between my private and public life. In general my friends and family are my clients. If I go visit with family I am always the one fixing the door or designing or building something for somebody. I spend a lot of my holiday and vacation times doing stuff like that. It’s what I enjoy. I think about everything through the lens of an architect and hopefully the betterment of the physical environment.

What is the future plan for K&A?

    I am ardently trying to figure out a successful way to transit ownership of the firm, so that my colleague Doug Powell becomes a co-owner of the new corporation and carries the kind of heritage of the firm forward. Over the years the goal has always been to have a balance of work among residential, commercial and institutional work. In the future my colleague’s hope is to develop models where we would actually have plans and people would be able to adapt them to different sizes. We can do a much higher volume of those kinds of works, probably in partnership with one or two builders. That’s part of the future that Doug sees and I am supportive of that. Also, I hope we can keep our place in the urban design area. I hope that through design, urban planning, retrofitting buildings and community involvement, the firm can remain a positive force in the community. –lv

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Lexie Velasquez lexie@constructionnews.net