Leo A Daly hires hospitality-design veteran to lead its Dallas office

Ken Martin views this sector as an incubator of innovation.

September 13, 2017 |

The Marriott Downtown in Omaha, Neb.'s Capitol District is one of Leo A Daly's recent hospitality projects. Its new managing principal Ken Martin foresees hospitality seeping into the firm's other practices. Image: Courtesy Leo A Daly

Ken Martin, AIA, NCARB, has joined Leo A Daly to lead its Dallas office as Vice President and Managing Partner.

Most of Martin’s 25-plus-year career in design, planning, and management has focused on hospitality, which happens to be the Dallas office’s largest market. He joins Leo A Daly from DLR Group, where he was that firm’s hospitality and convention center expert. He reports to COO John Kraskiewicz.  

Martin assumes his new post at a time when Leo A Daly has several large-scale hospitality-design projects in the works or just completed. These include the five-star 285-room Hotel Talisa in Vail, Colo.; the 582-room Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes in Florida; and the 12-story 333-room Marriott Downtown Omaha in Nebraska, which opened last month as the first phase of that city’s entertainment Capitol District.

“Hospitality, I would argue, leads a lot of innovation,” says Martin in a video that Leo A Daly released to announce his hiring. “You cannot be reactive in this business.”

He praises his new employer as “one of the preeminent design firms in the hospitality industry,” and talks about the importance of sustainability and meeting guest expectations in hospitality design.

In a recent article he wrote for Hotel Business Review, Martin shared his thoughts about adaptive reuse as “a key piece of many [hotel] brands’ strategy,” and how authenticity in the redesign of existing buildings is “something of the Holy Grail.” On such projects, Martin said he asks the following questions to guide his teams’ designs: “What has that neighborhood been? Where is it going? Culturally, what are the drivers, and who are our local patrons going to be? What do they value? Who are the guests, why are they traveling to this city (or this neighborhood), and what are they looking for? That is to say: How do you integrate?”


Ken Martin was considering his professional legacy when, at 50, he switched firms. Image: Leo A Daly

Martin began his career as a museum exhibit designer for University of New Mexico, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture. He spent nearly 27 years with DLR Group, rising to the level of Principal and National Hospitality Leader. One of the projects he was working on for DLR before he left was the renovation of the 16-story, 250-room Laylow Hotel by Marriott Autograph in Waikiki, Hawaii.

The 50-year-old Martin tells BD+C that several factors drove his decision to switch firms. For one thing, he and his wife are recent empty nesters, which gave them flexibility to relocate.

Martin was also giving more thought to his professional legacy. “I know there are is a finite number of projects I’ll get to do. So you start to ask yourself—blue sky—how can I make the biggest impact?”

He became aware that Leo A Daly was looking for a managing principal as Patricia Miller, its corporate director of hospitality, was moving into a global practice leader role for the firm. During the interview process, Martin was impressed with the projects that Leo A Daly was working on “that hint at a new level of design for the firm. This is a place where I can do signature work.”

He says that he brings a different approach to architectural programming and design, having been on the front end of DLR’s large conference center/hotel projects.

Leo A Daly is strong in the civic market. And there are other specialties across its 30 offices “that are begging to be infused with hospitality design and energy,” says Martin. The convention center/hotel sector is one of these; global healthcare and aviation are two others.

“Enlisting the strength of our hospitality teams in those projects and pursuits is a great avenue to doing great work,” says Martin.  

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