2018 Circle of Excellence: Architect Kyle Webb
Founder, K.H. Webb Architects, Vail
This year’s Circle of Excellence recipients continue to elevate our landscape and enhance their legacies. Here, learn about winning architect Kyle Webb.
Of course he was a childhood Lego junkie and woodshop groupie. But it wasn’t until one of his high school teachers posed the “what do you want to pursue as a career” question that Kyle Webb put the pieces together. “The answer just rolled off my tongue,” he recalls. “ ‘I’m going to be an architect.’ ”
Thus driven, he earned two architectural degrees, one from The Catholic University of America and one from North Carolina State University, before his 1991 graduation led the newly minted architect into an economic recession. “I probably sent out 150 resumes, mostly to firms in Denver and Chicago. And the only interview I got was with a firm in North Dakota designing sewage treatment plants.”
Portrait by Jennifer Olson
Instead, he moved to Vail, where he’d interned during two summers in college. “I thought I’d hang out for a year or two,” he says. Nine months of freelance piecework doing drawings and models led to a job with Morter Architects, the only local firm designing contemporary mountain homes. Webb stayed for eight years. “Jim Morter was a great mentor who taught me how to convey your ideas to your clients.”
Webb set up shop on his own in 1999. His first project—the total redesign of the 10,000-square-foot Larkspur restaurant in Vail—is still thriving. Within six months, his practice had grown into a four-person team primarily dedicated to designing houses.
“I’ve kept my firm small,” he says (it numbers just nine employees), “so I can stay involved in everything. We try to make our relationships and designs very personal and get to know our clients really well. I know what side of the bed people sleep on, what they put in their nightstands, how they like to cook, where and how they spend their leisure time. We’re making a house their home, so we aren’t just doing the same thing we’ve done 50 times before.”
Mountain Star, Avon [Photo by Kimberly Gavin]
MATERIALS GUY: "I love to travel and look for great architecture, both historical and new. Whenever a great building opens somewhere, I have to go see it. I’m especially fascinated with materials and I’m always looking to figure out how to incorporate new things into my projects. I’ve always loved playing with wood and metals, and in my later years, if I stop building homes. I think I’d aspire to be a furniture maker or an artist.”
DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT: “I’m an early riser, up between 4 and 5 a.m. That’s when I like to think and get work done. I spend so much of my days in meetings, and those quiet early hours are my productivity time.”
Mountain Beach House, Vail [Photo by Kimberly Gavin]
A LONG AND WINDING BUILD: “I don’t think most people understand how long and complicated the path is to produce our projects. From start
to finish—initial design process to move-in—a home generally takes two to four years. We had one project, a ranch and 40,000-square-foot main house, that took almost nine years.”
IT’S THE VIEW: “We may live in a state with millions of acres of open space, but we’re often designing for crazy-difficult properties with geotechnical issues. The challenge of these sites is to maximize the views, because the more you take advantage of the vistas, the more beautiful the house will be and the more it will generally be worth.”
BUILDING FOR CHAMPIONS: “We’re blessed to be working at the highest levels of residential architecture. And we truly appreciate the opportunity to give back. Right now, we’ve taken on the pro bono project of designing the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s new clubhouse. That’s the nonprofit that helped Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin rise up through the ranks to become gold medal-winning Olympic champions."