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Principal Spotlight: Kevin Barden

Where are you from?  Where did you grow up?

Minnetonka, Minnesota!  The home of Tonka Trucks, Minnetonka Moccasins, and Lake Minnetonka, for all the Prince fans out there!

What led you to Architecture?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in building things, drawing, and dreaming.  Before my brother and I were born, my parents built a geodesic dome in the woods (where my mom still lives).  Growing up there had a tremendous impact in helping me become aware of the potential space, light, sound, beauty, function, and utility can have at a residential scale. Plus, endless games of tag with my brother (in the dome) gave a great foundation for my understanding of circulation.

Kevin’s childhood dome home, 2013.

Did your path take any turns? 

Definitely, however, I always had the goal in mind of someday teaching and opening a practice. Early on, I was lucky to have parents who did everything they could to help their children realize their dreams; often with an attitude of, “Hey, are you interested in that?!  Well, let’s go check it out!” 

In college, I followed bread crumbs through Minnesota, Italy, Arizona and Wisconsin (where I met Joe), back to Minnesota, then off to Switzerland and finally Germany.  All in all, five different schools for two degrees in the span of eight years.

After college, the bread crumbs continued with opportunities to work with Atelier Peter Zumthor in Switzerland, Olson Kundig Architects in Seattle, Feldman Architecture in San Francisco, and finally Dillon Kyle Architects here in Houston before opening Rivers Barden Architects with Joe in 2016.

Here in Houston, I met the love of life, Sarah from south Louisiana.  We have two incredible kids now, Ira (3) and Annika (8 months).   

Kevin and Sarah outside of Ifjord, Norway, 2018.

Who is your favorite architect?

Hands down, Fay Jones; not only for the buildings he designed, but for the person he was too.  When Joe and I were apprentices at Taliesin West (The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture), we had the chance to take a long weekend trip to Fayetteville, Arkansas.  After visiting a few of Fay Jones’ buildings and chapels in the area, we spent an afternoon and evening with him and his wife, Gus at their home.  Fay’s openness, hospitality, and attitude as well as the experience of visiting Thorncrown Chapel has always stuck with me.

What are some of your creative outlets?

Growing up, my main creative outlet was playing music.  Through high school, I was a percussionist, sang in choir, and took piano lessons.  In college, I managed to always find a group of friends to play music with. It was a wonderful outlet from all things architecture and something I need to get back into!

The Fibs with Kevin on piano, 2009.

What is your design philosophy?


Listening to clients, listening to the site, listening to existing conditions, listening to colleagues and consultants.  There are times for speaking, but only after listening has occurred in some capacity.  Listening inherently involves collaboration, trust, and an awareness of diverse viewpoints.  Altogether, it is one of the things that makes the work we pursue at Rivers Barden Architects unique and opens doors to a great variety of conversations, project sizes, and project types.

The Tree Farm Golf Clubhouse Process Model, 2021.

Fast Round

Favorite city/country to visit? Bergen, Norway.

Next place on your bucket list? Kyoto, Japan.

Pen, pencil or maker? What’s your go-to for doodling? 6B pencil.

What are your top 3 restaurants in Houston? Lupe Tortilla for their fajitas; Truluck’s in the Galleria for their chocolate cake; and Mandola’s Deli near my house for their Italian sausage and spaghetti.


The Tree Farm Golf Club

Located on an ideal site featuring sandy soils and rolling topography near Aiken, South Carolina, The Tree Farm seeks to bring to life a transcendent modern golf experience that respects, amplifies, and blends in with the natural landscape. In line with this vision, there will be no flashy buildings driven by a desire for luxurious experiences. Instead, the master plan and buildings for the project all work toward creating simple, thoughtful spaces that are rooted in and responsive to the place, climate, culture, and rich history of the game of golf.

Natalie Lin Douglas

Music and Performance

In this episode, our resident architects Joe Rivers and Kevin Barden visit with Natalie Lin, a violinist from Houston, Texas. Natalie is a violinist and founder of KINETIC, a conductor-less ensemble from Houston, Texas. Joe and Kevin sat down with Natalie to discuss her upbringing in music and how her ensemble is forging a new path for classical musicians.

Principal Spotlight: Joe Rivers


Meet one of our Principals, Joe Rivers! Joe approaches architecture from the bottom up, and is an expert negotiator between details, constructibility and the larger vision of each project. He enjoys cooking and canoeing in his spare time.