50 / BUILDING DIALOGUE / JUNE 2024 Kephart at 50 The enduring legacy of “architecture for the people” W hen you walk into Kephart’s stylish RiNo office, to the right of the reception desk you’ll find The Crash, a large communi- ty room now home to a museum-quality 50th anniversary exhibit that celebrates the firm's storied history of creativity, re- liability, innovation and grace. Five decades and a half-million homes after Mike Keph- art first hung his shingle, Kephart has grown to more than 70 employees collaborating with hundreds of clients from their offices in Denver and Phoenix. It has made an indeli- ble mark on the built environment, and it all still happens under Mike’s mantra: Everyone deserves a well-designed place to live, work and play. The Birth of a Better Way It’s 1974. “The Towering Inferno” and “Blazing Saddles” are playing at the drive-in. The “Way We Were” drifts out of the radio as Mike Keph- art sits at his desk and realizes that his stint at Denver’s O’Rourke Architects has run its course. Already disillusioned with how poorly the staff was treated, his bosses were now placing his biggest client, Carmel Development and Man- agement Co., on the chopping block. Mike knew he had a better way, it was time to prove it. So, at 34 years old, Mike opened Kephart Associates in a small office on Lincoln Street in Denver. “He founded the firm with a few reasons in mind,” says Bryce Hall, Kephart’s current president. “One was what he described as ‘architecture for the people,’ meaning every- thing we do should be focused on the folks who are going to live in our buildings and the community we serve. The other reason was he wanted to create a work environment that was meaningful for the employees.” Of course, having a vision means little without a client. Luckily, Kal Zeff and the rest of Carmel Development and Management Co. followed Mike out the door, and thus be- gan a client relationship that remains to this very day. Rendezvous Center Riata