Tag Archives: Andrew Conzett

Bringing Meaningful Design Conversations to Omaha

August 13, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Architecture as an intellectual endeavor extends far beyond brick-and-mortar structures. For designer Andrew Conzett, architecture is a form of problem-solving and way to rewrite immediate questions about the built environment through a culturally sensitive lens. Early in his career, he positioned his curiosity at one of Omaha’s most creatively focused firms, developed numerous discipline-blurring projects, and helped curate a robust series of lectures with the Omaha chapter of the American Institute of Architects. This fusion of localized projects and international discourse is one that not only pushes his own practice forward, but also challenges existing norms and perceptions of regional architecture.

Conzett grew up in Omaha. Since a young age, he was inspired by his father, a civil engineer at a large international firm, and his mother, who was consistently involved with social service and nonprofit organizations. As a soon-to-be licensed architect, Conzett is a cocktail of both. He has always been keenly interested in art and landscape, both of which were influential in his childhood years and helped to inform his atypical response to the “I-always-wanted-to-be-an-architect” story ubiquitous amongst peers (many say it was from building with LEGO bricks as a child). During high school, a design competition piqued his interest. This community-focused extracurricular project, which combined multi-disciplinary teamwork and a design-based approach, prompted him to apply to the College of Design at Iowa State University.

While at Iowa State, his intense studio assignments were mixed with conversations and projects with artists and creative thinkers. Working alongside a diversity of artistic studies pushed him to see the multiplicity of architecture. During his final year in the architecture program, one of Conzett’s classmates responded to his non-binary projects by asking, “Do you want to be an installation artist or architect?” Conzett did not know how to respond; however, this prompt of either/or has now become a defining feature of his practice.

While studying, Conzett diversified his architectural coursework with internships at the Omaha Public Library and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, where he interned with artist Sean Ward and curator Hesse McGraw. After graduating in 2010, he moved to Omaha and was soon commissioned to design an office pod installation at the headquarters of Bozell. The project resulted in a spatial intervention that was recognized by the AIA Central States Region’s Excellence in Design Awards for “Detail Honor and the Interior Design Best of Year Award for Budget Interiors.”

His interests in a diverse range of project types brought him to his current position at Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture in 2011. At the collaborative open studio in north downtown where architects work alongside interior designers, graphic designers, artists, and engineers, Conzett is staying busy outside the office as well.

His CV for research-based and experimental projects is dense. Stepping one foot outside the firm, Conzett has worked collaboratively on award-winning projects with Emerging Terrain, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Council Bluffs Park System, including River’s Edge Park. Each project allows him to intensely research form, material, and site. They also provide an instant design-to-built-project process that allows ideas to come to fruition faster than with traditional design-bid-build projects, which often take years to complete. These research-based projects also speak to his interest in architecture as built form that has the ability to blur lines between disciplines and methodologies.

For Conzett, “contemporary architecture practice requires thinking about new methods and materials, and thus inspires me to seek out unique project types as a way to expand my knowledge of design and the built environment.”

His most recent endeavor, the AIA Omaha lecture series, conflates his efforts in community activities and intellectual pursuits. Organized in collaboration with Ross Miller and other AIA Omaha members, the 2017 lecture series is a thought-provoking forum for design thinking. Bringing in award-winning international and national architects, such as Mike Nesbit of Morphosis in Los Angeles and Kai-Uwe Bergmann of Bjarke Ingles Group in Copenhagen, the role of these lectures are two-fold. First, they are an opportunity for professional architects and the general public to participate in architectural discourse. Secondly, the lectures provide a voice for a range of architectural practices that are advancing disciplinary boundaries.

While the series may seem hyper-niche, the visiting lecturers produce a diverse range of project types. These architects discuss the scholarly and tactile impact of design beyond simply making buildings. As award-winning content creators, the lecturers stimulate the public and challenge architects to aim their work to an elevated level of design excellence.

“It is always good to hear professionals talk about their design process and work,” says Emily Andersen, owner of DeOld Andersen Architecture. “But it is even more important to have lecturers come to Omaha that are truly challenging assumptions. The lectures bring the potential of a meaningful conversation that allows us to see into the creative process of other design professionals. And so I really appreciate the work that AIA does, as well as Design Alliance Omaha to help bring that discourse here.”

In all of his work, Conzett is running against the boundaries of the discipline with a keen understanding that traditional definitions of architecture and the built environment deserve to be challenged and pushed forward. “Opportunities such as professional work with [Alley Poyner], design-build exhibition and installation commissions, and the AIA Omaha lecture series are all ways for me to continue to experiment with and better understand the practice of architecture,” he says.

Visit aiaomaha.org/lecture-series for more information.

This article was printed in the Summer 2017 edition of B2B.


September 27, 2014 by and
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

We all do it. See someone and come to snap judgments about who they are. It might be because they’re dressed a certain way, talk a certain way, or come from a certain neighborhood. Typically, these judgments are negative and divide communities instead of uniting them.

Enter TypecastRecast, a public art project spearheaded by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which addresses bias and bigotry in the community, subtle and otherwise.

Alan Potash, director of the regional office located in Omaha, talks about the project’s genesis in 2012. “Our board went through a strategic planning process with the goal to create a signature event to bring attention to the ADL and bring a dialogue to the community to combat bigotry through a variety of processes.”

Several board members had experience with public art projects in cities like Kansas City and St. Louis, and Potash himself has an art background. For that reason, public art seemed ideally suited to combat stereotypes. “When you’re dealing with bigotry,” notes the director, “art starts those conversations.”

ADL partnered with the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and issued a call for regional artists to submit proposals that would initiate dialogues. Over 50 artists responded, and 12 made it through the jury process. By the time the final selection process was finished in 2013, six artists were chosen, with one chosen at a sold out “People’s Choice” event at the Holland Center for Performing Arts.  The artists included the two-man team Andrew Conzett and Ryan Fisher, Jarrod Beck, Charley Friedman, Jamie Burmeister, Avery Mazor, and Paige Reitz.

Reitz, program coordinator at the Union for Contemporary Arts and a social practice artist, built upon the People’s Choir, a monthly community sing-along event she had helped pioneer in Portland, Ore. For TypecastRecast she envisioned providing an outdoor place for community members to gather and sing. “When the call came out,” Reitz says, “I thought of the People’s Choir and how I could reimagine it in a public space with more presence.”

Her installation “The Risers” features a semi-circle of tiered risers, and sing-alongs include familiar pop songs—such as the Beatles and John Denver—that are in the public consciousness and most people tend to know, many by heart.

The installation is situated along Cass Street between 12th and 13th streets in NoDo
and runs through November.

While the art is temporary, the ADL hopes to make a long-lasting impact on how people interact and treat one another. “Our goal,” says Potash, “is to help individuals understand and conquer their uneasiness. Our goal is for them to go beyond their feelings and change their behavior to be more respectful; and to change their perceptions.”

For more information visit typecastrecast.org.