el dorado



El dorado was conceived in Kansas City as a proudly scrappy alliance of makers and creators, growing quickly into an established architectural practice that integrates architecture, fabrication, and installation-based artwork. Building on several years of excellence and visibility—with a regular presence in design magazines and at awards ceremonies—the firm entered its third decade in 2016 with a need to answer some critical questions: could it take on large-scale projects while maintaining its trademark attention to detail? How could the firm continue to scale purposefully and intentionally? In the fall of 2016, we forged a collaboration with the firm and aligned on a charge: it was time for el dorado to redefine its core values and its ambitious new goals.


Through a series of work sessions with the partners, we shared our analysis and emerging implications around how they could move into the future, working together to lend shape and specificity to a set of recommendations that would serve as a roadmap for el dorado to guide all firm activity. The firm’s leadership was ready for the challenging work of self-evaluation and were energized to help close the gap between where el dorado was, and where it could go moving forward. We dove into a rigorous audit of el dorado’s projects, proposals, press, and brand, and conducted external stakeholder interviews. Our research and conversations uncovered that the firm embodied many nuanced, and usually contradictory, qualities: it infused high-end developments with the poetics of public art and lent affordable housing an unexpected beauty. The firm had a unique sense of wit and approachability that permeated all aspects of its work.


Our recommendations provided direction regarding the firm’s unique personality, relationship to Kansas City and the Midwest, design and making capabilities, areas of opportunity and improvement, and geographical expansion. LaPlaca Cohen conducted an implementation phase, which incorporated staff presentations and workshops designed to align firm culture and internal processes with its new vision and generate support, feedback, and passion from its team for the el dorado of the future.


Discovery Work Session
Stakeholder Interviews
Strategy Work Session
Strategic Recommendations Report
Implementation: Staff Presentation
Implementation: Staff Workshops
Implementation: Staff Workshops Report

Images courtesy of el dorado