Kevin Connors has always been a Buffalonian and has always found his way back to Buffalo through his experiences. He is an architect and engineer that has worked with many local nonprofits and has been a part of many large projects. He has always been inspired by his surroundings growing up in Parkside in the 1960s. Growing up, he played in Delaware Park daily and loved the landscape architecture. He had a friend who lived in the Darwin Martin House, and when he was in 5th grade, he and his friend worked on a school solar system project there. The friends spent time on the porch and walked on the railings. Connors’ friend’s father was an architect and had a studio in the basement. It was the first time Connors saw a blueprint. From then on, his fate was sealed.
Years later as a high school student, Connors’ interest in architecture resurfaced. After his guidance counselor encouraged him to pursue architecture in college, he began his collegiate journey at SUNY Oswego and studied and a year later he transferred to the University at Buffalo. Connors was interested in learning about wood products and how structures work in engineering. He wanted to learn about what structures meant, especially the shapes and wondered why pyramids and arches were shaped the way they were shaped and what their purpose was. Those studies earned him a degree in civil engineering, but worked hand-in-hand with what he would later study in his Master of Architecture program. Through all his education and work, Connors has earned the prominent titles of Professional Engineer and a registered architect as part of the American Institute of Architects.
eco_logic STUDIO started as Kevin Connors & Associates in January of 1998. This architecture firm has always been about sustainability, and Connors was passionate about natural building, which is building structures with clay, stone, straw, and earth – all materials with low embodied energy, and with local and recycled materials. However, Connors realized that his company’s name didn’t say what the company was about. At a Natural Building Colloquium in 2004, he saw fellow builders create projects for longevity and care about the frame and structure on the floors and ceilings as well, and that’s what he wanted to do. He changed the name to eco_logic STUDIO in 2006, which embodied that style his work represents.
In addition to his work, he was also a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Architecture at UB and taught sustainability design electives which helped him learn more about Buffalo. Through his teaching and working with students, he launched a connection with Massachusetts Avenue Project, an organization that promotes local economic opportunities with access to affordable nutritious food, and social change education.
Connors’ firm is part of the revitalization of Buffalo and is the mastermind behind the new building for MAP to operate in, the new Farmhouse and Community Food Training Center (above, and lead image). The 13-year project began in 2006 when Connors worked on it with his students, and the ribbon cutting for the project took place in December of 2018. Some of the features of The Farmhouse include an outdoor classroom, deck on the second floor, and two apartments on the third floor.
Sustainability has always been the top priority for anything Connors created and continues to create. As such, this building was designed to be a net-zero energy building, meaning that the energy use of the building annually is equal to the amount of renewable energy created on-site.
“I’ve always grown up feeling privileged and have always been cognizant of the fact that a lot of people are suffering in the world,” said Connors. “It didn’t seem right to be careless about energy.”
Connors also took part in the WASH (Westside Art Strategy Happenings) Project in 2013, which was originally also located on Massachusetts Avenue. The WASH Project consists of an existing laundry building combined with a community center for art programming after school for children. People would come to the facility to wash clothes but also participate in art programs. The building contained one accessible unit on the first floor, and Connors added an activity room in the back, designed the renovation for apartments, and expanded to make project room.
“Nature and context inspire me, but mostly program,” Connors said. “We do a lot of nonprofit work and that’s because the mission is really rich. It’s fulfilling a need or dealing with marginalized populations of people, so it’s the missions that are the strongest determiner.”
The largest project Connors has worked on was the Hospice Buffalo Mitchell Campus in Cheektowaga. This was a meaningful project and was all his initiative. There was only one Hospice facility built from the ground up, and he didn’t know what the ideal Hospice building was supposed to look like. Through thousands of hours of planning, sketching and thinking, he had designed a 58,000-square foot facility, containing two buildings with a residential feel.
Connors was also the Master Planning Architect at Cradle Beach Camp, a summer camp that provides programming for children with special needs and children who are economically disadvantaged. He designed the Jim Kelly House there, which features a dining hall, a recreation hall, a library, dormitory rooms, and corporate offices. He most recently designed The GEICO Woodland Lodge, which contains 20 bedrooms, an event hall, and kitchen, and the New Era Performing Arts Center, where campers partake in the performing arts.
Connors has always wanted to stay in Buffalo and has always loved the parks here. He made his dream a reality.
“I just love being part of Buffalo picking itself up by the bootstraps,” Connors said. “We’ve worked with a lot of grassroots groups and people are just trying to make a difference, gathering together with an initiative and doing it, and that’s what I like working on. It’s gratifying.”
More information about eco_logic STUDIO: www.eco-logicstudio.com