An Interview with Bill Browning, Architect

Bill Browning designed distinctive downtown corporate offices for JC Penney, Steiner, and HK, along with innovative schools. Bim Oliver:  This is an interview with Bill Browning on November 19th, 2012. I’m going to start by asking you about your education and training and if there was any that was specific to modern design. Bill Browning:  I went to the University of Utah and I got a BFA.  That’s the four-year degree, not the five-year degree.  I can go into some detail on that.  It’s fairly humorous, but I won’t unless asked.  I got that degree in 1957. Bim Oliver:  And what were you going to do?  At that point were you going to be an artist of some type? Bill Browning:   No.  Oh, no.  This was all definitely architecture. Bim Oliver:  At a certain level, it was kind of a pre-architecture degree, among other things? Bill Browning:  Well no.  I actually started college in 1949, and I was in pre-law.  Then I went into the army.  I changed my mind while I was in the army.  I decided I was not going to make a very good lawyer to begin with and got very, very interested in architecture. I came back, and I think I was in the second or third class Roger Bailey had at the University of Utah [School of Architecture].  My partner Will Louie was in, I believe, the first class. Bim Oliver:  Yes he was. Bill Browning:  It took me a long time to get through college, because, quite honestly, every summer I took off and did other things.  But some, some of those things lasted well into September when I was due back.  So I was put back – just because of design itself – oh, I guess, just one time, possibly two.  But I can’t really remember.  But anyway, I didn’t graduate until ’57.  I should have been graduated in law or with a Bachelors degree probably in about ’53.  But it took until ’57 to get out. I had no further training.  Went right – in fact, in my last year in college I was already working on a part-time basis for the firm of Scott and Beecher.  That’s where I met Will Louie, as a matter of fact, and my other partner Walt Scott.  They were part of Scott and Beecher.  I believe Will was an associate at that time and Walt was a partner. Then from Scott and Beecher, I went to work for about one year with Don Panushka.  Then I went back to what had then become Scott and Louie and worked with them for, oh, two or three years, I guess.  I don’t know exactly when I became partner, but then it became Scott, Louie and Browning. Bim Oliver:  When you finished your schooling, as an architect, did you consider yourself falling into a particular style of architecture or a period of architecture?   In other words, when you left architecture school, were you saying to yourself, “I’m going to go out and design as many Modern buildings as I can” or “I’m a Period Revival guy”? Bill Browning:  Let me think about that a moment.  I would say that, since I was already working part-time in a firm in downtown Salt Lake, I already had a pretty good idea of what I was going to be doing.  I wanted of course to design. Having taken a four-year degree instead of the five-year, I had to work for an architectural firm for five years before I could take the exam (as opposed to three years if I had a five-year degree – Masters degree).  So I pretty well had planned to work that five years.  I was fortunate in that I got along very nicely with Will Louie and Walt Scott, so we actually had our partnership before I got my license. As for my approach, neither Roger Bailey nor Bob Bliss was pushing a school or an approach to architecture.  They wanted us to do that.  Of course we were keenly interested in the International school and some of the world-famous architects of that period. Bim Oliver:  Why were you “keenly interested” in them?  Was that something that you inherently became interested in or was it something that the School of Architecture was promoting, if you will, or emphasizing? Bill Browning:  Let’s say they were emphasizing a modern approach to architecture. But not specifically – not a specific approach.  But yes, they were definitely of the Modern school, if you want to expand it to that extent. We of course took a great deal of history – architectural history.  But that was as an adjunct, as a backup program for our own architecture.  But it was stressed to us clear back at the beginning that we should be striving for our own approach to architecture, whatever that may be. I would say that our entire class at that point – when we were in school and recent graduates – was definitely with modern architecture – using that in its overall aspect, not specifically.  But then there were a few who were very definite advocates and actually wanted to practice very specifically in some specific approaches to Modern architecture.  Like people wanted to follow IM Pei and even Paul Rudolph in Florida. My own favorite (if you want to pick a favorite) whom I didn’t necessarily follow but appreciated his architecture was Louis Kahn.  I always in the back of my mind had this kind of an approach, but I was not able, really – because of the local environment – not able to really practice a Louis Kahn approach.  But his was a very specific and, in many respects, a very limited approach to architecture.  He almost needed a countrywide market to prevail or to have his architecture, his own personal architecture, prevail. Here we were in a community where we were not – we had to work within the framework of Utah – or, let’s say the Intermountain West.  Locally, there were three or four architects that were very specifically oriented towards one approach or another, but generally speaking the firms themselves were pretty general in their approach to architecture. Bim Oliver:  Who or what were your primary design influences?  They could include other architects.  You mentioned Louie Kahn.  Even though you may not have adopted his style directly, he probably influenced you to some extent. Bill Browning:  No.  I could not adopt his style.  I wouldn’t have gotten any work [laughs]. Bim Oliver:  Were there any other designers or even journals or professors that you were – What were the influences on you when you started to go out and do your own work?  What were the influences on your work? Bill Browning:  I would have to say a general influence – Like all of the young architects, I read every single architectural magazine and a great many books. I would say that most of us who stayed in Utah – Of course, some left, could hardly wait to leave as soon as they graduated.  They wanted nothing to do with the local approach to architecture of the existing local firms.  They left.  Charlie Moore is one. So staying here, we pretty much had to adapt to the local expression of architectural firms getting work in Utah.  From there, we were able to expand in any direction we wanted.  Some got more work than others that went through that process. Bim Oliver:  What types or styles of buildings were you drawn to?  You mentioned Louis Kahn’s style. Bill Browning:  Locally? Bim Oliver:     Yes. Bill Browning:  Not much at all. Bim Oliver:  Okay.  Why is that? Bill Browning:  Because I had personal preferences that were starting to develop that really had almost no association with local architects.  If someone did, for instance, a school, I would approach their solution as how well they solved the problem and if I had other opinions on an approach – not style but approach – to design.  I felt very much it was necessary that I express them and found that it was not difficult to do locally. The local field of architecture was really wide open, as a matter of fact.  There were half a dozen firms that had been working for many years, right through that whole period from 1900 on.  In fact, my boss when I went to work at Scott and Beecher, was Carl Scott.  He started clear back in the early 1900’s, and he was a very creative and inventive architect. My goodness, he instilled in all of us that worked for him that this business of architecture is not just a building that you look at but that there are things like electrical systems and mechanical systems and structural systems that are vital to your understanding of how you are going to design a building.  And he got that into our brains very early that that was an approach that was vital to knowing anything about architecture. You couldn’t just do a façade.  You couldn’t just do a floor plan.  No matter how much you might want to do that, although in some ways the structural systems lent themselves eventually to doing just that. I would say nine out of ten buildings that were done in the last five or ten years in Utah have been nothing but the simplest steel structures – very simplest – with no structural integrity.  Just put up a steel stud façade and then do whatever you want with that façade.  You can use stucco, you can use brick, anything you want, but it has no relationship to the base structure of the building.  In fact, there are architects who have come along and – and some very successfully – who don’t give a hoot about the structure of the building or the mechanical or the electrical.  Those are other people’s lines of work.  You hire them – firms – to do that. Whereas back in Carl Scott’s day, he tried to instill in us – those of us who worked for him – that it’s the whole package and if you don’t know what that mechanical or structural system is, you don’t know much about the building you’re designing.  So that became integral to my approach and, I think, Will Louie’s approach – that you didn’t just do the form. And in a way, that was the International school – form follows function – that sort of thing.  And it was an offshoot – Carl Scott actually was into that long before that expression or that influence even came along.  But it did and that just followed, as far as we were concerned.  That’s true.  And so that’s the way I and the rest of our firm really approached architecture. Bim Oliver:     Okay, thank you. You’ve talked to this question a little bit already, but could you provide a brief history of the firms with which you were associated?  You started with Carl Scott, didn’t you? Bill Browning:  Scott and Beecher and then Don Panushka for a year and then back to Scott Louie and then eventually Scott, Louie and Browning.  There isn’t a great deal of variety there, as a matter of fact. Bim Oliver: Scott, Louie and Browning is the longest tenure, is that right? Bill Browning:  Yes.  That went from the late fifties on up to when I retired in ’93. Bim Oliver:     Great, thank you. Could you provide a list of addresses of modern buildings that you designed?  It doesn’t have to be exhaustive.  And I would combine this with the next question, which is: Which modern buildings would you characterize as your best work? Bill Browning:  That’s a tough one. Bim Oliver:     Are there buildings that you drive by that you just want to stop and gaze at and say, “Yeah that was…” East Elementary - TooeleBill Browning:  Well, okay, I’ll give it a shot.  One of the early ones is actually what affected me so much.  We were hired to do a little elementary school out in Tooele, Utah.  And it was [based on] an entirely new method of teaching. It was called the “classless” approach to elementary and eventually even high school teaching.  And an architect in northern Utah – Lyon, I believe, was his name – had done one, which was an open plan.  But we were hired to follow that new theory – “classless”. And so we did a little round school out there, which turned out to be quite an influence.  It got AIA awards.  But more than that it became a school that was published all over the world, really, because it was a new approach to teaching and it had an extremely unusual shape.  It made for good publishing in that when they said, “new form of teaching,” “it’s a whole new form of architecture” helped.  Well that brought us a number of schools and even a high school. We did a high school.  It’s here in Salt Lake, but I don’t mean to use it as an example in that, after we finished this high school (and it was all open school, no classes), the whole system kind of fell apart – internationally, I would say. Bim Oliver:  The idea of a classless school? Bill Browning:  Yeah.  Because it just boiled down to one simple – Teachers would not teach in schools of that sort.  It had nothing to do with the students. They just refused.  They liked their own thirty students and that was it.  And that’s the way they taught.  That’s the way that they were taught to teach.  And so that died.  And so that high school – even though it’s still there and in fact had one of the best football teams this year – they had to close it up into classrooms. Well, gee, that was hard.  So a lot of the classrooms in that high school are now closed in.  They have no windows.  They’re all interior classrooms.  So I wouldn’t want to use that as an example.  But the little round school is one of my very, very favorites of course. Bim Oliver:     Why is that?  What, what is it about that project that appeals to you? Bill Browning:  Working with the superintendent of that school district was a delight.  It was just wonderful.  It was all new ground.  And we just had a wonderful time doing it.  And he isn’t the one that said I want a round school.  It’s just that as we talked it became round.  That’s all.  And so I enjoyed that relationship with the superintendent and with the teachers at that time.  They thought that was a great idea too.  That was in Tooele, Utah. Penney BuildingAnother building would have to be the JC Penney building downtown.  In that, I worked mostly with Zions Bank Corporation and the president of the bank.  And it was just a delightful experience and allowed me a lot of freedom.  I did not have to follow – I always remember this, because no one ever said, “We like the such and such building.  How about having it look like that?”  That never came up. And as we talked and as we had one meeting after another, why it soon became apparent that they had different requirements anyway.  We had to conform to JC Penney and their absolutely rigid architectural – or, let’s say working for JC Penney was an experience all by itself. Not only were you in an office of exact dimensions, it had to do with how many pictures – family pictures – you could have on a desk, etc.  As I recall you could have two.  (Well, this was all dependent on what level you were.)  And you couldn’t have an original painting.  No, no.  That was only for grade five.  (I’ve forgotten the grades.) And you had to wear a tie.  You could wear a colored shirt and a sport coat, but you couldn’t wear a suit.  And it went on up to the point where a vice president – and I met with the vice presidents – could wear a dark suit and a white (always a white) shirt and a monotone kind of tie.  And he was allowed one – or maybe he was allowed two original paintings in his office.  And he could have, oh, four or five or six family photographs on his back credenza. I got very much accustomed to that.  Our building – because of the way that we designed it – didn’t conform worth a nickel to that kind of a breakdown.  But because it was in Salt Lake City, it was okay.  We could break down the barriers a bit in Salt Lake. For instance, a vice president of JC Penney was not allowed a corner office.  Well, he got a corner office in our building.  But it was too big.  It was almost the size of JC Penney’s – his own office – a little bit smaller, because we had to cut some corners here. But anyway, it was a delightful experience, and I loved going back to New York and coming back out and trying in a way to adapt.  But there were certain things that they did finally did insist upon.  I was never allowed to do the exterior blinds the way I wanted to do on that façade.  It had to be a JC Penney type of Venetian blind.  That they finally insisted upon.  So there were little things like that, but generally speaking it was a delightful experience. Steiner/ALSCO BuildingAnother one was, of course, the office building headquarters for Steiner.  Dick Steiner and I worked very carefully together on that.  We talked.   Well, we had a number of – a lot of meetings.  Then finally I came up with a design and drew it up and presented it, and he said, “That’s fine.”  He accepted it totally as is. And he said, “What’s your cost estimate?”  And I told him.  He said, “Do you feel good about that?”  And I said, “Yes, that’s our cost estimate, yes.”  And he said, “Okay, that’s your budget.” All the way through to completion, it went through.   And we had to finish exactly on that dollar and no more.  And we did.  But we had to make a few alterations here and there when a couple of things got too expensive.  There was some cast stone that got to be too expensive, so we did poured-in-place concrete instead.  So that was a marvelous building. Wilde Wood Tower - EatonThen of course I have to say that my favorite building is – well, we called it Eaton Tower. That one down there [points out his window].  The one that shows almost no glass. Bim Oliver:  Yes. It has a very narrow band on it. Bill Browning:  Some horizontal on the right and then a stair tower on the end. And it’s rounded.  That was our second building.  It was a spec building for the Utah Retirement Board.  We had already done their headquarter building on Fourth South.  And it turned out to be a very, very successful building, as a matter of fact. Bim Oliver:  When you say “successful,” what do you mean? Bill Browning:   Well it worked beautifully for them, and it got a lot of notice when it was done, which made them very happy.  I enjoyed it from the standpoint of our firm in that it was a building that we all joined in on. But in the actual design, we had another design going, and it was going along pretty well.  And it was my idea that we try putting an L on top of an L in opposite directions and using those as upper-floor walkouts and gardens. And there was a young guy in our firm named Ken Lambert.  And I said, “I’m still on this one.  Why don’t you give that a go?”  And he did, and that’s what that building turned out to be.  It’s a wonderful building. Bim Oliver:  What’s the approximate address of that building? Bill Browning:  It’s on Second South and Fifth East. Then just up the street is the building which we call the Eaton building.  (It’s had a bunch of other names.)  Of course we never would have allowed that sign to sit up on the point of it.  I made a lot of noise in the earlier days about getting rid of that and putting the sign back where Eaton had it, which was the proper place.  I’m not a lover of big signs on buildings anyway. Of course, now they can do anything they want with it.  The Dan Jones outfit is only a couple of floors or something, and Utah Human Services and so forth are in the bulk of the building. But outside of that it’s in shape and okay.  And it has all kinds of things that we were really quite proud of.  The entire water system – heating system – for the building goes underground and goes down and picks up the temperature of the subsurface water and brings it up as warm water.  It heats the building up.  Things of that sort. And it was computerized back when it took a computer room a lot bigger than this to run.  The computers nowadays probably would be one of those [points at his computer], just a simple… But anyway, that’s one of my very favorites, and that one allowed me to do what I really always wanted.  I have some others, but those are ones that I like a lot. But Eaton did one thing. I was hoping clear back when I was first designing buildings for Scott and Louie – I really had a great personal desire to keep a masonry heritage that Utah had.  We had three of the finest brick manufacturing companies in the country and a fourth one in Ogden.  And there were even a couple in Denver. As I looked at the historical architecture of Utah, masonry had a huge impact on Utah architecture.  And I thought, “What’s more natural, since we don’t have a huge skyline of big buildings?  Why don’t we pursue that, because there is so much you can do with masonry in architecture?” That was kind of my background a little, in liking Louis Kahn so much.  I think he was the one who said, “I asked the brick what it likes, and it likes an arch.”  That’s one of his quotes. And so as a kind of a background I thought, “My gosh, if Utah would maintain, as no other growing city in America will do, an architectural heritage based mainly on a masonry approach, downtown Salt Lake City would be like no other city in the world…”  Well, not in the world.  Certainly other cities around the world do that and have done that.  But not in America. And it went nowhere. As soon as steel and glass and curtain wall came out, that was the end of it.  So that went nowhere. [laughs] Bim Oliver:  So what partnerships did you develop in designing modern buildings?  They could be institutional, with other architecture firms, government, contractors, developers.  What were some of the more important relationships that you developed as an architect? Bill Browning:  That’s a good question.  Originally we established all our relationships with the client.  I will have to say that in my whole life as an architect, I’ve done very, very little residential.  A couple of houses for favorite friends and that sort of thing and that’s about all.  And our firm – almost none.   We did a couple of houses for clients themselves or friends.  But that’s all.  So I can’t speak residentially at all about the history of Utah architecture and what became of it or what didn’t. As I say, when I first went to work for the firm Scott and Beecher and Scott and Louie, we were already very much in commercial work – office buildings, schools, industrial buildings.  We did a number of warehousing sort of things also. We did do industrial work.  We did manufacturing.  We did some manufacturing plants.  We picked up practically anything that we could get.  I think every firm in Salt Lake did the same.  Very few, I guess, were specialized.  And we ended up doing quite a few institutional buildings – courthouses, office buildings – well, let’s just say a lot of commercial and institutional work. And Will Louie being a very good architect as far as his religious architecture, he associated very much with his Catholic religion.  But outside of Will, we didn’t do any religious buildings of any kind.  I worked quite a bit with the Presbyterian Church, usually in places like Wasatch Academy in Mt. Pleasant – stuff like that.  So we did work of that sort.  But as to religious work, we didn’t really do churches except for Will.  He did. And so I would say, as far as most of our work, it did end up kind of institutional in approach.  The building in back of the capitol and so forth, which Will did.  That was about the time I went to work for Scott and Beecher. Bim Oliver:  You’ve kind of answered this question already, but what’s the general breakdown of your work among various uses which would include commercial, residential, civic, religious, and so forth? Bill Browning:  From a gross square footage standpoint, I would say probably educational, school work.  Second to that would be office buildings.  And the third would be the institutional – courthouses, etc. Bim Oliver:  Did you find that there was a certain type of view that lent itself more readily to modern design principles, if you will?  For instance, if you were designing a school would you say, “Well, given what we’re trying to work with here, what modern concepts will we apply here?”  Or did it really matter? Bill Browning:  That’s an interesting question in that with schools, for instance, you couldn’t really sell a thin-shelled concrete concept, because they would say, “Why do we want to fiddle with that?  Can’t we just do a school with conventional structural systems?”  So we’d say, “Of course. Yes.”  And so that’s what we would do. So I still would say from a school standpoint, our structural work had to be clean and precise.  But it was not revolutionary.  It was not your latest stuff as examples.  We didn’t play much with cantilevers or needless exposed structural elements. Bim Oliver:  Were corporate clients more inclined to go in that direction? Bill Browning:  Yeah.  A little more.  But in Salt Lake (and I know this sounds like probably a copout, if you want to approach it that way), we never had the budgets for some of our buildings that they had, say, in the East. I mean when, when Lever Brothers wanted to do a building, boy they wanted to do a building.  They hired the very best architect in the world, the best firms to do their work.  And they paid for it.  They expected that they would have to pay a lot per square foot for those buildings.  We didn’t have that kind of an array of clients in Utah. Bim Oliver:  Two questions that are related to each other, so I’ll ask them together: What materials did you utilize in designing the modern buildings?  At the time would any have been considered innovative or at least relatively new to Utah?  And the same question would have applied to technologies as well. Bill Browning:  As far as technologies by today’s standards, no. Bim Oliver:  But by contemporary – Bill Browning:  But contemporary, yes.  In fact, we bought a computer for our own firm, a graphic computer for our own firm.  Lost money on it.  We were too early.  So we lost money on it and that didn’t help. But we had a number of innovative approaches.  Because of Carl Scott’s background, we cared a lot about structural, mechanical, and air systems.  And so we incorporated them from day one in our designs. We also had – I mean we didn’t do it in house – we also hired mechanical and electrical firms to work with us.  But when they would recommend something that was unusual (for instance, the Eaton Building using ground water and so forth), we incorporated that into our original design. It didn’t make much of a dent as far as what anybody cared to read about in articles in the paper or anything else.  Or for that matter, even when we went after AIA awards – both local and regional – that was never really a big feature.  It was too early for that sort of stuff. As far as structure, I can’t say that we were revolutionary in anything.  We did a number of, we did – well, okay.  To one extent, yeah, we did in that I kind of fell in love with reinforced concrete.  And I did a couple of buildings that had no brick.  In fact, I was quite proud of the fact that some buildings only had two materials inside and out.  And that was concrete and glass. Bim Oliver:  What building is that? Salt Lake Courts BuildingBill Browning:  It’s gone now.  The courts building downtown.  I can show you pictures of it.  I designed a number of them.  Maybe I’ll show you a couple that we didn’t get built.  Harrah’s headquarters in Reno (Harrah Corporation).  And let’s see.  I think there were.  Well, at least that one.  It was also done in concrete and at that time I was really quite infatuated with being able to do a building with just two materials. Bim Oliver:  There wasn’t a lot of concrete being used at the time in Utah, I guess. Bill Browning:  Exposed? Bim Oliver:  Yes. Bill Browning:  No, no.  But Eaton, for instance, is only a concrete building, but it’s veneered with brick.  And so you can say, “Well, that isn’t a true masonry building.  Now it’s a brick veneer building.”  But you really couldn’t have done that as a brick veneer building.  You couldn’t have gotten those forms if it hadn’t have been for concrete as a base structure. Bim Oliver:  So. I want to take your answers that you just gave me and use them as a preface, I guess, for the next question, which is – and I want to thrown in a couple of terms that you threw out earlier.  The question is: How would you characterize the acceptance or application of mid-century design in Utah compared with that in similar states or other areas of the country? And I wanted to jog your memory a little bit.  Earlier you mentioned, used the term the “local environment”. Bill Browning:  That’s Utah. Bim Oliver:  The local approach to architecture.  And what I think you were saying is that those were sort of limiting factors if you will. Bill Browning:  Yes. Bim Oliver:  So, with all of that, tell me a little bit about how these design principles, modern design principles, were reacted to by residents and business owners and so forth. Bill Browning:  In Utah? Bim Oliver:  Yes, in Utah. Bill Browning:  Well none of, none of my work and none of Will’s work or, let’s say, our firm’s work was unusual enough to look at that it would raise questions.  For instance, we didn’t do a lot of cantilevered stuff.  We didn’t do thin-shelled concrete.  We wanted to, but we never had a client that would do it. Bim Oliver:  If you don’t mind my interrupting you.  You said you have never had a client and I think you mentioned earlier that you had sort of proposed this to a client, this thin-shelled concrete, and they said, “But that is not going to work.” Bill Browning:  Oh I used that more as an example.  Rather than a specific. But yes.  A number of times we ran into that as to an initial approach to design.  And if the client was absolutely, “Oh no, no, no, no,” we had to back off.  If we ever got any inkling of, “Let’s give this a try,” we would give it a try.  But that’s all. Bim Oliver:  But if you had been practicing in another state, let’s say, do you feel that those proposals – whatever they were – that were rejected would have been accepted in other places? Bill Browning:  Oh yes.  Oh yes. Bim Oliver:  So why do you think that is?  What was going on? Bill Browning:  Well, we saw it monthly in magazines.  We could see what others were actually building in other parts of the country.  And it would be amazing sometimes.  It all ceased some time back. But we could see a lot of really original work being done in various fields or various aspects of architecture and not just structure but in the general form, the general approach. Bim Oliver:  And this is what you are seeing in other parts of the country. Bill Browning:  Yeah.  For instance, there were a couple of buildings where somebody said, “Oh, we can go four, we can go four or five stories.”  And they would have this magnificent site and a use that did not even ask for vertical massing or form or function. And we would say, “Well, you know, you have such a great site here,” especially out in some other parts of Utah.  Not urban stuff but something fairly rural.  Beautiful mountain range or, you know, just a beautiful site where you could easily see just a one or two-story building just beautifully done there.  We would have to sell that, rather than going four floors, which they had fixed in their minds before we started. And so it wasn’t necessarily going to some kind of an extreme in design approach.  But we saw far more, let’s say, of an “I’ve seen this in Utah and I like it” approach here in Utah than elsewhere. Bim Oliver:  You’re saying the architecture market here at the time was “traditional” in a sense? Bill Browning:  Oh yes.  Oh yes.  And not only, I could even say, you know, I can’t say “anti.”  It was never anything “anti.”  But there was a reluctance to do anything that was unusual.  Just in general.  I probably would get a lot of argument with that from other firms. Bim Oliver:  I think one of the constants, if you will, coming out of my discussions with you and other architects is that there was a reluctance to accept these design principles here in Utah.  We don’t need to go too deeply into why that was. But my wife was an artist for a while.  She worked with glass.  It was very hard to sell glass art here in Utah, because I think because it was a material that people don’t customarily see.  They were accustomed to seeing paintings, you know, landscape paintings – more traditional art forms, I would say. So, I think that’s probably analogous to what you were running into as an architect: “We know what we’ve seen.  We like what we’ve seen.”  Which is fine but it also makes it more difficult to bring something more innovative, I suppose.  Is that right? Bill Browning:  Yeah.  I can’t help but think, in many respects, that that attitude has changed completely yet. Bim Oliver:  Well, I appreciate that. The last question that I have is: Are there characteristics of mid-century modern design in Utah that are peculiar or unique to Utah?  Were you or other architects taking these concepts that you’d seen playing out in other parts of the country?  Were you somehow adapting them here?  Or is what you were doing here to some extent basically along the lines of what you would have seen elsewhere? Bill Browning:  Well, I think you have to kind of break that down into a “some firms yes, some firms no” sort of approach, in that we liked to believe that our firm paid no attention to that.  We just did our work.  We just did it from our own approach. And from examples I’ve seen of other firms that were practicing at the same time, I would say they were the same.  They liked very much and pushed very hard to do their form of architecture.  And I can go into specific designers that worked or were partners or worked with specific firms that were very definitely in that category.  Just offhand, I would say Neil Astle and Frank Ferguson were a couple of guys that – oh, and Jim Christopher – were very definitely saying, “I’m going to do my building, and I’ll push it as hard as I can.” And then there were other firms that (and some have become quite large and have quite a lot of work but really couldn’t care less) bring in their big-boy partners and the big-boy partners do all the design work.  That’s their work.  And the local firms just do the local part of that project and that’s that. And Salt Lake being a very small market has attracted a good deal of attention recently from the larger firms in the country.  And they have a number of designers – good designers – that don’t get that much work. So they enjoy having a project in Salt Lake.  We may think of it as a huge project, you know, fifty, seventy-five million bucks.  We still think those are pretty good sized projects.  To them that’s just standard stuff.  But they always have someone who is a good designer – will design a good project.  And the result will be fine.

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