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C. William Brubaker (1926-2002)

Dates of Interview:

September 28, 29, 30; October 5, 6, 1999

Location of Interview:

The Art Institute of Chicago


Betty J. Blum

Length of Transcript:

149 pages
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Biographical Summary

C. William Brubaker was born in 1926 in South Bend, Indiana, and studied architecture at the University of Texas, at Austin. After interning at Perkins & Will in Chicago, he was offered a full-time job there in 1950. Brubaker became a partner in the firm in 1958, specializing in school design. He was the author of many books and articles on the subject of school design and urban planning and was received numerous civic and professional awards. He was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects in 1968. Brubaker died in Evanston, Illinois, in 2002.

Interview Highlights

Brubaker speaks about his family background; study at the University of Texas at Austin; joining Perkins & Will; Perkins & Will diversifies; writing and sketching; Jones Commercial High School, Chicago; how the office worked; E. Todd Wheeler and the hospital field; New Trier West and Evanston High Schools expansions; First National Bank and Plaza, Chicago, with C.F. Murphy Associates; collaborating with other firms; the Amoco building, Chicago; international commissions; Brubaker's own house; reflections.

Preliminary studies for First National Bank, Chicago: view down LaSalle Street from Chestnut Street, 1964.
C. William Brubaker, delineator, for C. F. Murphy Associates and the Perkins & Will Partnership.
Department of Architecture, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Interview Excerpt

"[The plaza at First National Bank is not at street level] because we had as one of our consultants to the project, the guy who takes pictures of people in plazas, William Whyte. All of his research pointed out-he used Rockefeller Center as the most successful example-that an elevated plaza doesn't get used because you can't see it if you're walking by or passing in a taxi. You have a vague idea that something's there, but an elevated plaza is a bad idea. A street level plaza is better and a submerged plaza is the best. If you like that idea then go see Rockefeller Center. It's just about as simple as that and the argument didn't last any longer than that; we all rallied around that. We were exploring other ideas and at a certain point we had to say 'enough exploring, we've got to get on with construction.'" (p. 83)

Additional Resources

Finding Aid to C. William Brubaker papers, 1948-1999
View selected images from this collection
Related archival materials in the R&B Archives

Funding for this oral history was provided by Perkins & Will.
Funding for the electronic presentation of this transcript was provided by a grant from the Illinois Humanities Council.