The History of KA, Inc.
How do you start an architectural practice? Get fired! KA Architecture was founded in 1960 after Keeva J. Kekst left a comfortable position as a draftsman at a big company to pursue an opportunity that would end up leading to one of the nation’s top architectural firms.
Kekst was just five years out of college when a speculative developer approached him about a major new project that would require a draftsman to produce drawings at his own risk. Kekst’s boss declined the offer, leading Kekst to leave the company and start out on his own.
The Start of Keeva J. Kekst, Architects
Before KA Inc. was born, the firm was known as Keeva J. Kekst Architects. After moving on from his previous employer, Kekst started his company under the roof of his own home with just $200 and a little credit at the supermarket.
In addition to the original proposition, Kekst grew the company by cultivating relationships with local home builders. Due to his experience as a draftsman and a journeyman carpenter, the builders entrusted Kekst Architects with their house plans and business began to prosper.
After six months of new projects, the business moved out of sloped roofline attic of the Kekst residence and into an office in downtown Cleveland. Business grew steadily as the firm had begun to handle more residential development work, including multi-family walk-up apartments. It wasn’t too long before the original proposition that helped start the business turned into a 13-story, 254-suite Apartment complex in East Cleveland. It ended up being the single largest apartment building between New York and Chicago at that time.
A Growing Architectural Firm
In just a few years, Keeva J. Kekst Architects started to expand. The firm added commercial renovations and store projects to its services. Kekst’s former superior John Woyma at his previous company would join the new firm, starting a relationship that lasted until Woyma’s retirement in 1988.
In 1964, a major opportunity helped shape the future of the practice. Through a connection, Kekst Architects began working with the Edward J. DeBartolo Co., the country’s largest mall developer. Kekst was awarded the complete architectural and structural commission for the Richmond Mall Shopping Center, one of the largest malls being developed in the United States at the time.
Over the next few years, more mall and commercial real estate development projects were awarded. The Firm continued to grow, leading to a move into a bigger office in 1966. Kekst Architects stayed on top of trends and high profile projects over the next decade, with everything from big bowling alleys to multiple tenant flexible space industrial buildings.
By the time the ‘80s arrived, Kekst Architects was in position to provided services for developers taking advantage of the real estate boom. The firm stretched out past Northeast Ohio and became registered in 44 different states.
While Kekst Architects designed many building types by the end of the ‘80s, the firm by and large served commercial real estate developers. When commercial real estate development business slowed by the early ‘90s, the firm began to diversify.
Kekst Architects added a focus on other building types, including corporate buildings and health care facilities. The firm also started an interior architecture and interior design group and a land planning/landscape architecture studio to further serve clients.
From Kekst to KA, Inc. Architecture to KA, a NELSON Brand
As the company was changing in the ‘90s, so was the name of the firm. After decades of being known as Keeva J. Kekst Architects, the firm became KA, Inc. Soon after, founder Keeva Kekst retired, leaving behind a company that he had grown from a small operation in his home to a national powerhouse for architecture.
On June 1, 2017, KA merged operations with Cope Linder Architects and NELSON Worldwide to create a true full-service architecture and design firm. NELSON is a global architecture, interior design, engineering, and consulting services firm and through various acquisitions, NELSON has positioned itself as a global architecture powerhouse. KA, a NELSON Brand, will continue to provide clients with premier architectural and planning services thanks to talented designers, creative solutions, and a drive to satisfy the ongoing client needs.