Established in 1996, el dorado is an architecture, urban design, curatorial, education and fabrication practise located approximately in Kansas, Missouri. In the beginning, as an equal parts art gallery, fabrication shop and design studio, the studio was known for fingerless gloves and raffish outbursts that helped jumpstart Kansas City’s emergent culture. CovetED is thrilled to let you know one more top architect: sit back and enjoy.
Today, Eldo’s work purposefully across scales and contexts, from city blocks to exhibitions, between critical ideas and our intangible, spiritual attachment to place. el dorado’s three partners and 17 staff — including 10 architects, a university professor, curators, industrial designers and certified welders — chase big ideas with a common touch.
Over the past five years, however, El Dorado (also known familiarly as Eldo) has begun working farther and farther afield, taking on commissions in Seattle, San Francisco, even the Middle East. Project types exhibit a similar range: In Knoxville, Tennessee, the architects are designing a hunter-education facility for the University of Tennessee’s Lone Oaks Farm; in Denver, they are nearing completion of a mixed-use project that occupies an entire city block. The latter, whose buildings sport pixelated brick facades, represents Eldo’s continuing obsession with deploying prosaic materials in unexpected ways.
The firm’s geographic expansion has been “part strategy and part organic growth,” says Josh Shelton, one of El Dorado’s three principals. Diversifying its clientele was necessary during the Great Recession. But the firm has also gained a reputation for old-school craftsmanship and singular details, from doors to screens to custom-timber-beam connections. Today, Shelton splits his time between Kansas City and Portland, Oregon, where he can more easily oversee projects on the West Coast.
If El Dorado’s growth follows a trajectory familiar to other small, ambitious studios, it is the firm’s continued commitment to the integration of art, architecture, and fabrication that has made it endlessly interesting to follow. Since its earliest days, El Dorado has stretched the definition of architecture, operating variously as an arts organization, an urban design atelier, and a general contractor. “From the beginning, it was design, fabrication, and art,” Shelton says, “and it’s really been a question of how those things have blended and morphed over the years, but also how they’ve scaled up.”
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