meet modus: jason wright

Dec 11, 2018

It takes a wide-ranging cast of characters to run a successful architecture firm with its own fabrication shop, and modus studio partner, Jason Wright, has arguably one of the most valuable sets of design skills here. His analytical nature combined with a child-like sense of wonder give him the mental tools to effectively guide our talented crew of designers and makers. Jason is not only one of the most detail-oriented architectural designers, but is a superstar fabricator who led our efforts to build and install multiple components of the recently completed Evans Tree House at Garvan Woodland Gardens. Architectural designer, hunter, fisherman, Jeep mechanic, beer brewer, welder, building code guru, and father of twins … J-Dub is one versatile dude.

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Manassas, Virginia, a suburb of D.C. From there we moved to New Orleans, and then to Leawood, Kansas, where I spent most of my upbringing before I ended up attending University of Arkansas at Fayetteville mostly because of family history. My father, father’s father, mother, and uncle, all went to UA.

When did you first become interested in architecture?

High school. I enjoyed designing, building, and drafting things, and when it came time to move on to college and figure out what I could pursue that would be a decent-paying job afterwards using the skills I had at the time, architecture checked all those boxes. I also did the Lego thing as a Gen X-er and was into the tools and toys that were available to me as a boy. My dad was a Marine and worked for the Federal Government for the Treasury Department which had nothing to do with building, however, both my grandfathers were into building things. My dad was and still is an excellent artist, my mom, too, she’s a great artist. My crafty side is tied directly to growing up in my house and seeing my mom and dad craft together. They had a wood carving business. My dad would carve these duck decoys and my mom would paint them. They are like these life-like gems; they’re beautiful. The making things, whether it’s buildings, furniture, machine parts, etc., the maker DNA goes back two generations for me.

Where did architecture take you after college?

I had nine victory laps in college and moved to Colorado for a year and a half to decompress after architecture school. My folks were really supportive of me coming back home to hang out and help them finish building their house that I designed for them there. While in Colorado, I made stuff for other people and designed and built on a small scale as a gun-for-hire type deal. Then I got my first real architecture job, so I moved to Kansas City and started working for el dorado inc.

How/when did you come to be on board with modus?

SFS Architecture Inc. in Kansas City is where I got corporate architecture experience. It was there that I gained quite a few tools with respect to all facets of architecture and practice. I was able to bring that experience down to share with Chris and Josh at modus. Why did it make sense to come down to modus? It was one part friendship, familiarity, excitement, and joining a new firm that had just started, but then I also had a certain set of skills and experiences working in a different firm type than those two had worked in which was arguably a little closer to the scale of practice that modus was getting into at the time. It just made sense. They needed help, I wanted to come back to Fayetteville, we were friends, and I could add to the mission statement through making.

What is your role at modus?

I’m a partner and my role is to manage the shop, and to also manage projects. I feel like I’m a technical resource for the office.

Favorite modus project you’ve worked on? Why?

The Evans Tree House at Garvan Woodland Gardens. It’s a great design, it’s a cool site, and it’s not something you do every day. I mean, it’s a tree house, right? It's cool and a good break from the monotony of heated and cooled space. Also it was a project that both had fun, interesting architectural ideas, but also it was intellectually and physically challenging from a fabrication perspective. We got to cash in on our strengths on both our design and build side of things.

This last year you and wife Gretchen had a shift in lifestyle. How has your job changed since having kids, specifically twins?

My work hours have changed, fewer nights and more focused daytime hours. I'm not so cavalier with my time during the day anymore, and I really try to reserve evenings and weekends for family.

Favorite architect?

Carlo Scarpa. He’s an Italian modernist. His designs respond to the elements. His designs also sort of engage people kinetically and emotionally. He’s honest and true with his material selection, and his designs interact with nature.

How would you describe your signature style?

Functional, minimalist, detail-forward, and tactile.

Hidden talent?

I’ve got a lot of hobbies. I’m considered a fusion personality, and I’d say that each of my personality strengths has a hobby. I like to brew beer at home, play drums, make things, hunt, fish, and generally spend time in the outdoors. However, my most recent addiction is machining.

It’s twenty years from now and your kids are young adults. What project built or not-yet-built would you want to take your kids to see that modus’ fingerprints are on or a part of?

I’d like to take them to a museum or gallery because you get to appreciate the art as well as the qualities of space that are good enough to house said art. What makes a great space good enough to house priceless pieces of human culture? Pick your cliche, but I feel like the world is our oyster.

first photo credit: Keely Montoya  |  third photo credit: Meredith Mashburn

all other photos courtesy of Jason Wright