The “Multigenerational Office” is having a moment. Thousands of articles have been devoted to this relatively recent phenomenon, with workplace specialists delving into the impact that employees of differing generations are having on typical organizational structures. Kamus + Keller is one such workplace, with staff ages spanning a dramatic six decades. And within the walls of our Westlake Village office a friendship has emerged between one of our youngest and oldest team members, a relationship that defies stereotypical professional roles and inspires our firm to think and design differently every day.
“It is not very seldom in this day of high tech workplaces for a co-working team spanning four generations to connect and coexist as professionals.” ~ John Kamus
We’ve all heard the terms “Millennial”, “Gen X”, “Boomer”, and perhaps to a lesser extent “Traditionalist”. But what do they mean in the context of the workplace, and how workers of varying ages conventionally approach their professional environment?
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” ~ Albert Einstein
At 82, Bill Lund, a.k.a. “Mr. Bill”, has been in the design industry since 1958. Having worked for iconic architecture firms like SOM in New York and Welton Beckett in Los Angeles, this former Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student vividly remembers the Mad Men-esque era as “office[s] full of all men, and smoke…so thick you could cut it with a knife.” Having tackled design projects in virtually every field – commercial, residential, hospitality, education, aviation, healthcare – Bill lends his comprehensive expertise as Technical Support to our Architecture Studio. Despite the prevalence of 3D software and modeling, Bill continues to hand-draw his plans. “When I started in the industry, everything was drawn by hand…to establish vanishing points and perspectives,” he recalls. “Now it is all done in a computer, and it’s almost like MAGIC!”
“If we could do anything, what would we really do? That’s exactly what architecture should be all about…to try to make the world a little bit more like our dreams.” ~ Bjarke Ingels
26 year-old Designer Andi Laska has two years of experience under his belt, having graduated Cal Poly SLO in 2014. Influenced by the new wave of Nordic architecture and design from the likes of Bjarke Ingels, Snøhetta, and 3XN, Andi is passionate about the relationship of architecture to culture and identity, and utilizes the latest design programs when creating a space. This native Albanian has lived in the starkly diverse cities of Copenhagen and Detroit, and has a love of modern technology that extends outside his professional life, including video editing, music production and photography.
“It is one of nature’s ways that we often feel closer to distant generations than to the generation immediately preceding us.” ~ Igor Stravinsky
Despite their 56-year age difference, Bill and Andi became fast friends, initially bonding over their shared Alma Mater. Trading stories and discussing the changes that have taken place at the school they both love, as well as the evolution of Postmodernist architecture, the two marvel at the other’s contrasting skillsets. “Mr. Bill’s hand drawings are a treasure that my generation of designers may never get to experience,” Andi says. Bill expands: “I always learn something new when I am working with Andi.”
And their relationship has transcended professional camaraderie, blossoming into genuine friendship. Andi’s love of soccer (go Bayern Munich!) has created an appreciation for the sport within Bill, who in turn has shared his love and knowledge of aeronautics (and with well over 2,000 flight hours logged, this private pilot knows what he’s talking about). “We have a really good time together” muses Bill. “Andi listens to my stories and laughs at my jokes, and I don’t even get that from my kids anymore!” Andi credits his mentor’s positive energy and supportive personality in clearing away any of the challenges that so often pop up between the generations, sharing that “[Bill] makes me truly feel worthy regardless of age, culture or years of experience.”
Differing professional styles and personal interests aside, the working relationship between the two has inspired the Architectural Team. “The connection Bill has with those he mentors is phenomenal magic,” shares Architectural Director Cory Anttila, who’s known Bill for over a decade. “He imparts a certain wisdom while constantly continuing to learn from those he teaches.” Firm namesake and Principal Architect John Kamus most admires their “honest, mutual respect for each other’s interests and experiences.”
Older generations are often described as dismissive of their younger counterparts, and the millennials entitled and narcissistic. Not so much here. Bill and Andi have learned to leverage one another’s strengths, successfully working through project after project while reaffirming their devotion to their chosen profession. “When helping [Andi] solve a problem” says Bill, “I can see it from a different perspective and through different eyes.” Andi acknowledges that “[Bill] has taught me that this career I have chosen can last a lifetime”.
So what’s the secret sauce that makes this bond so extraordinary? “We balance each other out,” Bill says. “Although there is this…age difference, it’s like it doesn’t even exist!”