Stephen Kuhnen is a principal and director of design at Bray. He is primarily involved in early design work, including conceptual design and visualization, space programming, and master planning.
“I help clients get their projects off the ground,” he says.
As Stephen puts it, “I came into architecture through the back door.” After graduating from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in landscape architecture, he started working for an architecture firm and soon joined their design team.
Later, he moved to California where he took additional structural and building design courses. He’s been with Bray since returning to Wisconsin in the early 1990s.
His background in landscape architecture continues to influence his approach to designing buildings today. “I believe that you can’t design a building if you don’t know what the site is because you pull from the site,” he says. “That’s critical to good building design. At Bray, we’re making buildings for communities, so they need to respond to their surroundings.”
One of Stephen’s favorite parts of his job is to sit down with a blank piece of paper or computer screen and sketch design concepts. He also loves the process of taking those early concepts and merging them with the constraints of a project to make it all work. “It’s like putting a puzzle together,” he says.
The hard work pays off. Stephen says it’s rewarding to see the clients, especially the students, enjoy their new spaces. At a recent ribbon-cutting event, he asked a student how she liked her new school, and she was very excited to tell him how much she loved it.
“That’s really gratifying, and hopefully that excitement is reflected in the students’ learning,” he says.
Outside of the office, Stephen enjoys skiing, sailing, and gardening. He has also taken up golf recently and looks forward to getting back on the course as the weather warms.