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Fish mural painting

Forty Years of Fishing


By Zachary Benedict, AIA, LEED AP

When thinking about the culture of MKM, or the mission and motivations of our team, I always think of fish. A few years ago, it began to bother me how well biologists could articulate (and even romanticize) the innerworkings of different groups of animals (a swarm of bees, a pack of dogs, a herd of elephants, etc.). But as architects, our profession often seemed uninterested in understanding the human species – or how the built environment impacts it in any significant way. And the more we thought about it, the more obsessed we became with learning more.

If a biologist could understand the inner-workings of a school of fish – we, as architects, should be able to foster an understanding of the optimal structure for a neighborhood of people – and the things they need to thrive. So, we got to work reading, writing, and doodling – referring to these activities as “fishing for answers.” It was shorthand for this arduous journey aimed at understanding the connection between people and places.

So when we started inviting friends to the office to have more philosophical discussions about effective placemaking, its seemed appropriate to call the events “Fishbowls” – both as a nod to the fish analogy as well as the Socratic Method. Now, with the upcoming move to East Central, we are presented with a wonderfully interesting opportunity to transition our office into an incubator – a testing lab for ideas and strategies focused on understanding how design can impact the health and well-being of a neighborhood and the people it serves. It’s a culmination of a 40-year journey for MKM – a long and wondering search for answers, one that has had us working in places all over the Midwest drinking coffee with strangers, championing librarians, designing hospitals, and wrestling hogs, in hopes of better understanding the human condition. That’s our story. And like all good fishing stories, it’s been an unbelievable experience.

MKM architecture + design commissioned local artist, Theoplis Smith, also known as Phresh Laundry, to create a mural for MKM architecture + design’s new office in downtown Fort Wayne. The fish are representative of how we as architects work cooperatively to foster optimal environments for communities to not just work, but thrive.

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