Kevin Kappes: one intelligent 11 yr old


In April the San Diego Architectural Foundation was contacted by a gentleman named Steve Kappes regarding his 11 year old son Kevin’s interest in architecture. The enthusiastic father reached out to SDAF to obtain some guidance on how to enhance Kevin’s knowledge of the profession & to see if there were any local programs that Kevin could participate in. Luckily for Steve, SDAF Executive Director Leslee Schaffer responded to his request informing him of the upcoming La Jolla Historical Society‘s Young Architects Summer Camp in July of this year. Knowing that I am assisting La Jolla Architect Laura DuCharme-Conboy with the planning of the Summer Camp, Leslee cc’d me on her response to Steve regarding the program so I could field any additional questions he may have.

I decided also to follow up with Steve to let him know that in case he could not afford the $600 cost of the summer camp, that DBRDS would like to offer his son a day in our office to see what kind of work we do & to answer any questions he may have. Steve & I decided that with the summer school holidays approaching, perhaps a day in June was best & so, earlier this week 11 year old Kevin Kappes turned up in our office, massive bag in tow, wide-eyed & ready to talk design. Seeing the excitement on Kevin’s face we knew this was going to be a fun day.


As Steve & I introduced each other, Kevin set about unpacking his bag, placing on our meeting desk a laptop computer, 2 books & a notebook…the little fella was ready. As Steve left, assuring me Kevin’s mom would collect him at 3pm, Kevin & I got right into it. He told me he loved the formality of Roman & Greek architecture. He said he liked hotels, they seemed like fun to design. He was well versed on structure & form, on what he liked & what got him excited, but most of all, Kevin was a fully fledged 3D model maker using both ‘plank’ style building blocks to make real structures, as well as using a program by Lego called ‘Digital Designer’, a program with infinite block pieces & shapes. He showed us over 10 different designs he had worked on from a Gothic Hotel, to a Mega Mall, a Police Station & a house. All I could think was ‘slow down Kevin, I cant keep up!’. It was certainly eye-opening for Ivan & I to see this 11 year old elementary school student confidently producing & understanding the process of creating 3D spaces a good 15 years before we even started…this little guy was amazing.


Kevin told me he wanted to learn about the daily work for an Architect (which, yes, I tell everyone as I did Young Kevin that we are NOT architects, we are designers…standard legal disclaimer). He was not bothered, excited only about seeing some of our sketches, we decided that we would give him a complete task to work on, something that he could understand all the way from hand sketch to presentation image. So, we printed off one of our designs for a house in La Jolla & we tasked Kevin with taking the print to some trace paper & slowly, steadily tracing it by hand. Next, we asked him to color it using some markers, thinking about the color selections for the spaces of the house, he launched right into it.

Finally, We had him start to model the house in his Lego program, so he could now think about how it might look on the outside, all the while he was asking great questions about the layout, the function, the reason for the planning & how it related to the yard space.




We really enjoyed having Kevin in our office for the day. He brought an authentic enthusiasm for the design profession that sometimes gets lost amongst the daily grind of deadlines & paperwork…we can only hope that Kevin got as much out of the experience as we did. We strongly believe that education is a critical part of our profession. We are constantly educating friends & clients as to principals of sustainability through good design, or the value of the design process as a tool to improve how we live & connect, but also in the next generation. If you know a youngster who is passionate about any profession, find someone that they can shadow for a day, let them ask questions, encourage their curiosity…its so amazing to see how a young mind will inquisitively explore their passions in a way we often over look, or in a way that the ‘real world’ no longer allows you to see.

3 days after Kevin spent the day with us, we received an awesome package in the mail from him. Inside we found the following letter from Kevin which absolutely was the highlight of our week. He also sent us the final renderings of his Lego model which is very, very cool. Next lesson with Kevin we might teach him about the beauty of ‘flat roofs’. 🙂






  1. Pauly:
    You and Ivan are good men! To make such a positive impact on a burgeoning young man, such as Kevin, is more important than all the buildings your will ever design and see built. A part of our profession is to create models of our work. You and Ivan created the best model for your work that is possible. You created a role model for an enthusiastic future Architect that will affect him for the rest of his life more than you will ever know. I’m sure you’ll treasure that letter more than any award or recognition you’ll ever receive in your future. My admiration to both of you.

  2. Michelle Tello

    Impressive!! What a great way to involve your work with the community & generations to come, keep up the good work!

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