October 21, 2019
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Jack H. Kinkel

Jack H. Kinkel stands in front of the building he designed for Traylor Bros. on Evansville’s East Side.

Hometown: Evansville

Job: Architect, Jack R. Kinkel & Son Architects, PC

Education: Business degree from Evansville College (now University of Evansville), 1962; completed architecture studies at University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, in 1964; and became licensed in 1969.

Resume: Kinkel’s designs include National Guard Armory in Evansville; Powell Residence Hall (designed and constructed in 90 days), Schroeder Residence Hall, and Bower-Suhrheinrich Library at the University of Evansville; The Recreation, Fitness, and Wellness Center at the University of Southern Indiana; multiple buildings at Oakland City University, Oakland City, Indiana; Holy Rosary, Good Shepherd, and Holy Redeemer Catholic churches in Evansville; three additions to Traylor Bros.’s office building; and D-Patrick’s Nissan, Ford, and Motoplex.

Family: Wife Linda; three children, Amy Adams, Susan Schweir, and Jack (J.T.) Kinkel; and 11 grandchildren

After 53 years in the architecture business, Jack H. Kinkel is nowhere near ready to retire. In 1964, he began working for his dad and the company’s namesake, Jack R. Kinkel. He has transitioned to working for his son J.T., an engineer. The 76-year-old loves his career — what he calls “constant problem-solving” — designing efficient, structurally sound, and eye-catching buildings.

What is it like to work with your son?
About what it was to work with my dad. My dad and I worked together for 35 years, in the same room. I think we only had three arguments in 35 years. Now working for my son, it couldn’t get much better.

How has technology changed?
The computer changed everything. (He purchased his first computer for drafting work in 1992.) We used to draw everything by hand and try to find ways to take shortcuts to be able to complete the drawings faster. A lot of firms would have to hire a lot of people to do a lot of drafting work for a big job. Today, with a computer a small firm is all of a sudden on equal basis with a large firm. In some respects, a small firm is superior, because in the large firm its principals don’t really understand what’s happening down in the trenches. Back when you were drawing by hand, the drawings were on boards, and at midnight the boss could come into the office and inspect your work. Now it’s in a computer. As my dad used to say, “I can’t stand that thing. I can’t see what’s going on. I don’t like it. Why are we using it?” My response was, “The clients demand it.”

What design trend has had the greatest influence on buildings today?
Lightweight materials like exterior insulation finish systems and aluminum composite panels. They are lightweight and allow high cornices on buildings without too much worry about the added weight to the building. Years ago those elements were made with terracotta and stone, and that’s really heavy. Now it’s like fluffy pillows up there. We have to use the modern materials or we can’t keep up with cost. If you try to build the buildings today like you did 100 years ago, it would be very expensive and not many people could afford them.

If you were given a quarter-acre of land in the middle of nowhere and told to design a home for you and Linda, what would you build?
We tried that. Linda couldn’t understand plans. We were going to build a house so we started designing around three lots. I had five houses designed to fit on them but we couldn’t agree on the design so we bought an existing house that she loves.

Do you ever revisit your buildings?
I just drive by them. My dad said you know you’re getting old when you see your designs being torn down. I designed a building for an accounting firm, and that got torn down. I designed a building for a bank on Burkhardt and Vogel roads, and that got torn down; I thought those were nice buildings. 

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