As Peter Pran teaches students atop Mount Oread, two towers he helped create are creeping skyward on the waterfront of an island nation more than 9,000 miles away.
Pran is a Kansas University professor and design principal with NBBJ, one of the largest architecture and design firms in the world. His latest project, which he co-designed with fellow NBBJ principal Timothy Johnson, is two residential towers overlooking the bay in Singapore.
It is one of the largest design projects to be built for the man who passionately balances the career of a global architect and a full-time university professor.
"I never want to retire," he said. "I always want to work."
The project is under construction. Named "The Sail @ Marina Bay," the towers will soar over the Singapore skyline. At 800 feet, the taller of the two is the 10th tallest residential building in the world and the tallest in Singapore, according to its designers.
Slim and glassy, the towers fit their name.
"It looks like a sailboat that has come in and permanently anchored in the harbor," Pran said. "It's kind of a new shape that I think will give a new identity to Singapore."
Inside some apartments, there will be pools that seem edgeless, he said. Where the pool stops, the view of the bay begins. Apartments walled with windows line the nose of the structures.
"When you are inside the building higher up, one can sense that one is floating in space, taking in the panorama of the city," Pran said.
The going rate for apartments ranges from $313,000 to several million dollars, according to a story on the project in the International Herald Tribune.
Pran, a native of Norway, met John Gaunt, dean of the School of Architecture, when both worked for the architecture firm Ellerbe Becket. Gaunt was the firm's chief executive officer. Pran led the firm's New York office.
Gaunt invited Pran to KU, where Pran has been on the faculty full time for three years.
Gaunt said Pran brought a unique perspective and style to the school that is known for welcoming a variety of different philosophies.
"It's a terrific influence for our students," Gaunt said.
Academia is not new to Pran. He's been on the faculty at the University of Illinois-Chicago and several other institutions.
"I learn a lot from students," he said. "It's an incredible dialogue between them and faculty."
For Pran, the pleasure of his work is seeing projects built and embraced by the community.
"It can't look alien," he said. "It has to look like it really belongs in Singapore."
He is pleased with the reception so far.
"To be able to do a landmark in a major city is a great honor," he said.
Pran and Johnson, a partner in NBBJ's New York office, visit Singapore every three months to check on the construction.
Pran has had success since the mid-1990s as he's worked on several high-profile projects that have been built, Gaunt said.
With Ellerbe Becket, Pran was the lead design principal on the Deloitte and Touche headquarters in Wilton, Conn., and the New York Psychiatric Institute in New York City. With NBBJ, he is the lead design principal for 505 Union Station in Seattle, Paul Allen's Vulcan Northwest asset management headquarters; the Seoul Dome in South Korea; and the Telenor Headquarters in Oslo, Norway.
For the Telenor Headquarters, Pran and a design team of three firms received a 2004 American Institute of Architects Design Honor Award.
Peter "does live it," Gaunt said. "It's not a job. It's the whole thing for him. It's life. He's very passionately committed to it."
"You leave behind something of importance," Pran said.