Many of his Roeland Park constituents know Mayor Joel Marquardt is an architect and some know he is an artist as well. But they may not know how public his work is or how deep his artistic talent runs – or the life challenges that have shaped him.
Marquardt stuttered as a child, but overcame that and now presides over public meetings. He is a college athlete and a cancer survivor — the same type of cancer that killed an older brother —who believes risks need to be taken because life can be too short. He is an artist who explores different ideas and techniques and has it displayed in public. He is a traveler, who has given up employment to explore the world and its art and architecture in long stretches, including trips to India, Nepal, China and Europe.
“People see me as not the typical architect,” Marquardt says of his work. Every time you see the wheat design on the Kansas City Board of Trade building near the plaza or drive I-35 at 87th Street, you will get a glimpse of Marquardt’s public work that blends art and architecture.
“There is a certain magic in being able to do art,” Marquardt feels. His drawings started as a child when, as the youngest of four brothers in Topeka, he would find a place to hole up and draw more as a way of escape. Now, he tries to infuse his art into architecture and engineering.
“Something I always hoped for,” he says, “ …was to do design for people who can’t afford art.” Having his work available and visible to the public is important to him. From his Art in the Park in Roeland Park to the 87th Street truss seen by a million people each week, he feels “very lucky” to be bringing that to places where people can see it. “I thought I could affect more people (in public works),” he says.
When Marquardt was a freshman in high school, his brother died of cancer, Ten years ago, Marquardt himself survived the same type of cancer. It was his brother’s death that may have been the turning point where he decided “if there is something you want to do in life, (you need to do it now).”
His artistic architecture is now prevalent enough, he says, that clients trust him more with the vision. He works for the firm of Gastinger Walker Hardin + Bee Triplett Buck. A dam he designed for Black Hoof Park in Lenexa that was built by Black and Veatch is another example of art and community function brought to an engineering project. It is now visible in a fly-over video.
His 30 to 40 sketch books each hold 100 pages of drawings that he has worked on over the years often trying new forms. He has taken other artistic risks as well, being transformed to character to model for a Color and Couture Bartle Hall fundraiser or in a designer’s clothes at the West 18th Street Fashion Show, a side of the mayor not usually seen at city hall.
Here is a sampling of the art and architecture of Joel Marquardt: