C R O S S R O A D S: A Conversation with Founders Michael Friebele and Kyle Jeffery

Clare Sausen September 29, 2020

Crossroads (n.): A point at which a crucial decision must be made that will have far-reaching impact, a new series and partnership from CRTKL

We are witnessing a rapid change in our society like never before in human history. As a result of dire consequences to many, times like these drive humanity to evolve. It enables us to be more resilient if we are willing to capture this opportunity to pivot the way we think in order to improve human lives through creative leadership.

Crossroads, a series of conversations hosted by CRTKL, is a time to celebrate thinkers and their transformational ideas that impact our daily lives and the world as we know it. We will also dive deep into how thinking has shifted as change fuels creative and innovative responses to a new frontier. We open each session for everyone to ask questions and seek further meaning.

Q: What inspired you to create the Crossroads series?

Kyle Jeffery: The circumstances are certainly unfortunate, but what really sparked it was the pandemic making us rethink how things are done at a base level. Challenges, by nature, push you to generate new solutions. Michael and I have worked together for a while and are fairly like-minded, so when we started talking about how much we missed the community and socialization of creative thinkers in a remote environment, we knew we needed to start collaborating again.

These conversations, fundamentally, are about change– and celebrating that, finding new ways to do things. Change is an interesting topic; some people instinctually steer away from it while others lean in.

Michael Friebele: I think it was less of COVID-19 itself sparking this series, but it was the things happening in succession as a result of that. From there, we’re taking the people who see these things as opportunities and ways to connect further. We’ve hosted talks like these in the past, but this series has really focused on altering your path—whether you’ve done it or if it’s out of your control. That can take a diverse range of thought from something like: “how can you make a road trip fun again?” to “how has retail shifted towards small business principles?” I think the most interesting thing is the virus isn’t the center of most of these conversations– we’ve all come to learn how we’ll take it forward.

Q: What conversation has been most illuminating to you thus far?

MF: I really enjoyed the conversation with the Better Block Foundation. In that one, we spoke to Jason Roberts (the Founding Director of Better Block) about things like making spaces that people enjoy and take ownership in. They’re treating the spaces they create like a living thing– the common thread is that people are part of the discussion and we’re continuing to find that throughout our talks.

KJ: For me, it’s more about the thread that ties it all together than one particular session. Throughout these, I’ve seen that humans are very resilient, and they will always find a way to survive and make the world better.

Q: Do you see new disciples emerging in the design world as a result of these intersections? How are your existing practice areas transforming due to the pandemic?

MF: I think we’re starting to rise to the occasion that this idea of disciplines or practice areas– which comes out of a business structure—is not really the reality of what we see in architecture today. Because of our clients, we’re starting to think more inclusively. Partnerships are emerging, but it’s not necessarily just one discipline and another– sometimes it’s public and private partnerships, sometimes it’s designers with leaders of cultural institutions. I think of it as a team coming together to meet a common goal.

KJ: I think that the introduction of these topics like blurring the lines between sectors and breaking out of silos will change the way we talk about everything. The word “expert,” for example, is a bit antiquated in some ways– it makes you seem like you only know a lot about one thing. I’ve noticed that young designers, especially, don’t want that—they’re hungry to do a huge variety of different things. From the perspective of Crossroads, we’ve invited so many different walks of life and they all express the position that everyone is capable of a great idea.

Q: How have these conversations shaped your own perspective about the importance of creativity in a difficult time?

MF: In a situation where we thought we’d be disconnected, we’re actually more connected than ever before. We just cold-called all our speakers and just asked if they were interested. It’s made me more comfortable reaching out and just giving something a shot in general. Personally, I’ve been met with a lot of kindness. A lot of us are likeminded and want to make the world a better place.

KJ: I’ve also seen so much human kindness and trying to improve how we live and how we work and our wellbeing. It’s more about stepping back and getting back to human kindness in design and how we impact our society.

Q: How do you think the series will change once you’re able to have some of these conversations in person?

KJ: I think being in a room together and being able to have an audience will only continue to encourage the collaboration we’re already seeing. Overall, we want Crossroads to help people think less competitively and more collaboratively. There are so many elements to design—psychology, policy, etc.—and I think fully acknowledging that changes the landscape of the profession. While we’re excited to get back together in person, being at home has really given us the opportunity to connect with people all around the world which we probably wouldn’t have if this didn’t happen. It’s a great equalizer: you can blur the lines of “professional communication” and just talk to people about your similar passions.

MF: I agree, I think having conversations in person will allow us to get even more personal and hopefully affect people more deeply.  Like Kyle said, teaching things like social innovation in conjunction with architecture will hopefully make students, and people more broadly, more connected to architecture than ever before. Even some of our business “competitors” are on these calls and helping generate solutions– we all need to work together to make the world a better place instead of focusing on who wins what. You gain project work by showing people how much you care, and success will always follow that—however you define it. Be passionate about what you do and that will resonate.

Find out more about C R O S S R O A D S at https://www.dallasadex.org/introducing-c-r-o-s-s-r-o-a-d-s/

About the Founders

Kyle Jeffery Kyle Jeffery is a vice president in CallisonRTKL’s Dallas office. With more than 30 years of diverse experience in retail and commercial interiors, Kyle is a leader in both creative direction and design management. His experience in multiple creative disciplines gives him a clear grasp of key financial drivers and enables him to create environments with an emotional and positive impact. Kyle’s deep knowledge of the design process, from strategy to ideation, manufacturing to merchandising and design to implementation, inform his designs. Kyle’s design portfolio includes clients such as Neiman Marcus, Hudson’s Bay, Yum Brands, Stanley Korshak, Shinsegae and 7-Eleven. In addition, Kyle is the co-founder of CROSSROADS, a new series and partnership hosted by CRTKL, as a means to celebrate thinkers and their transformational ideas that will impact our lives and the world as we know it. The series dives deeply into how thinking has shifted as change fuels creative and innovative responses to a new frontier.

Michael Friebele Michael is a Senior Associate with CallisonRTKL. A native of Saint Louis, Missouri, Michael has channeled his professional and personal experiences as a critical medium throughout his work in architectural design, involvement in the community, and experience in journalism. After receiving his Master in Architecture from Kansas State University, Michael located to Dallas where he has spent seven years working in markets across the globe. Michael’s work focuses on connections, from physical to historical, as a means of informing performance-driven and client-centered design. In addition to his work in architecture, Michael is a self-taught writer, having contributed to such publications as Texas Architect, The Architects Newspaper, and D Magazine. Within the community, Michael served on the Board of Directors for AIA Dallas in 2017, is a member of the Texas Architect Publications Committee, and has volunteered with the Dallas Festival of Ideas, Design Future Dallas, and Life in Deep Ellum. Michael was recognized with the 2017 Associate Award from the American Institute of Architects and the 2016 Associate of the Year from AIA Dallas.

Author Spotlight

Clare Sausen
Clare Sausen is a Content Writer for CallisonRTKL. Based in Washington, D.C., she leverages her personal and professional experience in journalism, radio, and nonprofit communication to serve as a valuable member of the global firmwide team. Since attaining her Bachelor of Arts degree from George Washington University in Communication and American Studies, she has honed her craft of architectural storytelling across multiple platforms.