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The stuff of legend
Warren Thompson works his architecture like a problem solver. He takes his design sketches, those very first ideas, and lets them spin around some in that head of his. Then, he goes to bed.
“At about two in the morning, the answer comes to me,” says Thompson, a featured panelist at next week's Archop — that's 7 p.m. April 3 at SoHo, 1432 Fulton St. The panel brings together several of Fresno's senior (that's not an age thing) architects, the guys who have been designing in the Central Valley for decades.
Thompson, who runs T Squared Architects with his daughter Cheryl Haskell, sure fits the title. He started teaching himself the trade after he graduated from Fresno State in 1956 and has been working in town since 1970.
He could have a job teaching drafting. But he'd rather draw.
“I've been drawing all my life.”
Over the years, he has drawn plans for 400,000 or so apartment units, dozens of hotels and the Fresno County Jail — “the largest hotel I ever designed,” he says.
He's seen attitudes about architecture change, especially the past 20 years. People are now looking for more and better design, and using materials with long life spans. The corporate office he created for the McCaffrey Group is made of brick and cast stone. It will look the same in a decade as it does now.
And the need for architecture, good architecture is going to grow, Thompson says, as more builders look toward sustainability — just look at the Fresno Green program.
It can already be seen in his current projects, which run throughout downtown, including Reza Assemi's Fulton Plaza project, the Legacy Project near the convention center and a reconstruction of the St. Center Warehouse on R Street near the Train Depot. Those locations have special meaning for Thompson. He kept an office in the Patterson Building for several years. His first job out of college was in a house right on the corner where the Fulton Plaza project will go.
And yes, his work has garnered its share of awards. There's a small stack of them sitting on the counter in his office — not exactly hidden, not on full display, either. But then, awards were never his main concern. He just wanted to invent. Even in school, in wood shop or metal shop, he wasn't content to build the old standbys. He wanted to design something of his own.
“I was never happy to just build stuff,” he says.
Not everyone has that in them, he says. And architecture can have its share of drudgery. So you've got to have it in your blood, he says.
It's in his. It's the only thing he's ever wanted to do. It keeps him going.
Well, that and his granddaughter, whose picture he keeps tucked in his wallet, ready to show off. He is a grandpa, after all.
And she does some drawing of her own — with some help from mom and grandpa, of course.
He may not have gone into teaching, and they don't teach drafting in school anymore anyway, but he loves having that influence on a child.
“You should see her draw.”