Keynote Speaker

2019 Keynote Presenter: BLAIR PAYSON, AIA, LEED® AP, Principal at Olson Kundig



Blair Payson delivered a moving and informative keynote presentation at ALA's 2019 Midwest Architecture Conference, held Oct. 29th.

Blair Payson joined Olson Kundig in 2004 and has worked on both architectural and exhibit design projects, including the Century Project for the Space Needle, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center, and [storefront] Olson Kundig, as well as several residential projects across the Western United States and Mexico. Blair’s current work includes a new art park at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, two new museum projects in Hawaii and London, and a collaboration with Recompose, a Washington state organization advocating for an alternative approach for burying the dead. Blair regularly lectures and organizes conferences across the U.S. – most recently, he chaired the 2018 Architects Newspaper Conference in Seattle, and he delivered a lecture entitled “Cognitive Kinetics: Poetics of Participation and Passive Design” for the 2019 Facades+ Conference in New York City.
A maker at heart, Blair is an architect who revels in the details. From large cultural projects to temporary design interventions, Blair is able to distill large, complex projects into distinct culminating moments. Lately, Blair’s research has taken him on site visits to a subterranean cavern deep underground in one week, to hundreds of feet above an urban landscape the next. This demonstrates not only the range of Blair’s interests, but also his proclivity towards risk and experimentation. Blair holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Rice University, and he is the recipient of several design awards for his work on the Gates Foundation Visitor Center and the Century Project for the Space Needle, among other projects.

Blair's keynote presentation "Olson Kundig and the Generalist Practice: how culture and cross disciplinary experiments inform design" delivered an overview of the firm's philosophy and how it has evolved into an international firm of five partners with a wide variety of project types. Their philosophy - that buildings can serve as a bridge between nature, culture, histories, and people, and that inspiring surroundings have a positive effect on people’s lives - continues to apply to each new undertaking.

Through four case studies, Blair showed how Olson Kundig celebrates unusual partnerships and how they affect the office’s work. 

  • Sawmill Canyon – the client as partner and collaborator
  • 242 State Street – the introduction of a kinetic façade that invites the community into the space
  • Recompose – an alternative to conventional human burial
  • The Century Project – the renovation of the Seattle’s Space Needle