One-man architectural firm in Wichita now a two-man operation

Michael Cathcart opened his architecture firm so he could serve clients in any way possible.

Currently, that includes designing a second-story expansion for one downtown business that comes with a playground slide as well as stairs.

"You don't see that in an office very often," Cathcart said. "It ought to be a lot of fun."

Cathcart, who has operated Cathcart Architects as a one-man firm since 2006, figures to have even more fun — and business — since he added a second architect, Chris Kliewer.

Kliewer is a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified architect who was involved in rebuilding Greensburg as a green community after its devastating tornado.

"We've known each other a long time," Kliewer said of Cathcart.

"We have different skills sets. Michael is a strong designer. I'm probably more interested in the technical side of things, working out the details and the sustainability of things."

Cathcart started Cathcart Architects in Derby in 2006, after graduating from the University of Kansas and working for several local firms. One of his most visible projects is the Verus Bank building at Rock and Madison in Derby, with its atrium and deep overhangs.

"The client was just a lot of fun," he said. "They wanted to let the community know they were Derby's bank.

"They were interested in natural materials. We used a lot of limestone. We were able to give it a warm feeling but in a contemporary style.

"You go into their lobby and you don't have to have the lights on, even on a cloudy day," he added.

He also did the Global Trends building on Carriage Parkway and, since moving to Old Town in 2008, renovations to nearby Hana Cafe that helped transform it into a sleek, stylish destination. He worked with the Howerton+White advertising agency and Farha Construction on the latter project.

"We tried to take them from what they were, which was kind of a daytime cafe with not a whole lot of design to their space, and really infuse it with some higher-quality finishes and a more enhanced atmosphere," Cathcart said.

Cathcart said his client base had grown enough by this spring that he began thinking about adding another architect. He chose a fellow KU grad in Kliewer.

Much of Kliewer's recent work has been for the Sedgwick County Zoo and other zoos around the country, although he's done general work as well during his career.

Of his work on green buildings, Kliewer said, "It seems like there are more and more clients who are looking for that (LEED) certification on their buildings."

Cathcart said the best architecture has a two-fold purpose — serving the client and enhancing the community.

"We're looking for clients who know a building is going to help them, whether it helps their bottom line, home life or church," Cathcart said. "A good building can enhance that."