Published on April 21st, 2016 | by UC&D Magazine0
Two Prominent Utah Architects Announce Retirement
They say to teach is to touch the future. Tony Wegener’s high school art teacher proved this sentiment true. By encouraging Wegener’s talent at a young age, his teacher influenced his choice to pursue architecture instead of medicine, ultimately leading to a remarkable 50-year career at Logan-based Design West Architects.
Though still an employee of the firm, Wegener transitioned his ownership in Design West in January 2016, a milestone representing symbolic retirement. In reflecting on his years as an architect, Wegener said, “I love it all, meaning that I have loved marketing, managing, designing, documenting, even writing specifications. How great is it to get up in the morning and really want to go to work?”
A native of Perth, Australia, Wegener moved to his wife’s hometown of Logan in 1965. It was there that his training in Australia opened the door to his first job with Schaub, Haycock & Associates.
“The firm had just been awarded the design of the new Utah State University football stadium,” Wegener said. “Since I had experience with off-form concrete structures, I was invited to work on this $1 million project.”
Soon after, in 1971, Wegener became a founding principal of Architectural Design West Inc. when Schaub, Haycock & Associates underwent a reorganization and subsequent name change.
From early on, Wegener was influenced by Richard L. Crowther, the father of holistic, sustainable architecture and Wegener’s favorite architect of all time. “He suggested architects return to basic principles and smart design, instead of overcoming the environment with technology,” Wegener said.
Design West started implementing passive solar design principles well before most firms, focusing on the building’s orientation to maximize natural light and optimize temperature control. “We won multiple state and even national awards for energy conservation and innovation in public architecture,” said Wegener.
Even today, Wegener’s favorite building — Utah State University’s Widtsoe Chemistry Building and Eccles Science Learning Center—is the most energy efficient building on campus.
Though his first decades at Design West focused on healthcare facility design and K-12 projects, Wegener’s career turned to housing and student housing in the mid- 1990’s. This shift positioned the firm to become the master architects for the 2002 Winter Olympic Village, which included the rehabilitation of University of Utah’s Officers Circle and several other buildings.
Blake Wright, President of Design West, attributes this achievement to Wegener’s ability to assemble quality teams. “He has put together some great A&E teams over the years that have been successful in getting us major projects,” said Wright.
Indeed, it is Wegener’s focus on forging strong relationships that many colleagues recognize as one of the greatest assets he brought to the firm.
“His keen intellect, his sense of design thinking, his concern for people, and the building of friendships has been the key for much of the success of Design West,” said Scott Theobald, Senior Vice President at the firm.
“Tony is the type of person who can talk to anybody about anything. He has a story for anything and everything, and I mean great stories!” said Scott Olcott, Vice President and Managing Principal of Design West’s Salt Lake City office. “He has deep, personal relationships with people all over the place.”
Indeed, the importance of focusing on strong relationships is a lesson Wegener would offer anyone new to the field. “I hope that young practitioners will discover quickly that our profession is about people before products,” he said. “Communication skills and positive human relations represent the path to true success.”
In 2000, this focus on communication and collaboration allowed Design West to set a vision for the new century. Throughout the year, Wegener traveled to the firm’s various offices to engage employees and synthesize a set of guiding values for the company.
During this process they also set a series of big, hairy, audacious goals, an idea conceptualized in the book Built to Last. As Wegener reflects on the process, he marvels that the firm has since achieved all of the goals set that year. His fellow leaders share this sense of pride.
They noted that one of the greatest accomplishments from this process was securing work to design military housing with the federal government as a new client. “It was a remarkable achievement in that this type of work wasn’t in our view when the visioning process was taking place,” said Wright.
With an extraordinary portfolio of achievements accomplished over the course of his career, Wegener intends to stay the course. Now that his role at Design West has shifted, he is able to teach a weekly three-hour course at Colorado Mesa University on design thinking.
If his career was inspired by a teacher, Wegener is now paying it forward by inspiring his own students.
“The class is the brainchild of the University President Tim Foster, who requested that I coach his students through learning-by-doing design exercises,” Wegener said. “Life does not get much better than that for an old architect.”
Brunjes Thrived in Healthcare Market, After a career spanning nearly four decades, Peter Brunjes, a long-time Principal with Salt Lake-based VCBO Architecture, said the time was right to transition out of a full-time design career and pursue other interests.
“It just seemed like an opportune time,” said Brunjes. “It’s not going to be easy, but the plusses will outweigh the difference of
going to work every day.”
Brunjes was born in Connecticut and at age 6 his parents moved to Puerto Rico so his father, also an architect by trade, could study concrete structures. After nine years in Puerto Rico, the family moved to Chicago. Brunjes developed a passion for skiing during high school, and moved to Utah in 1971 to ski and go to college. He credits his father for influencing his architectural career.
“He was really devoted to the profession, and coming out of Yale was also very talented and disciplined,” said Brunjes. “The whole design process was magical to me.”
Brunjes completed a Fine Arts degree at the University of Utah, and he and his family moved back east when his wife was accepted to Harvard and he spent time in graduate studies at Boston Architecture Center. Ultimately, the family felt like Utah would be the ideal place to work and raise a family, with Brunjes landing a job in 1978 as a draftsman for Holland and Pasker Architects in Salt Lake.
He credits both Cecil Holland and Art Pasker for helping him learn the tricks of the trade.
“I learned a lot in terms of production and in client relations/service from Art,” Brunjes said. “It’s about shaking hands and getting to know people and developing relationships.”
In 1982, Brunjes left Holland and Pasker and went to work for Ron Molen of Molen Associates of Salt Lake, a firm that did a lot of work in the resort/hospitality market. In 1985 Brunjes went to work as a Project Manager for VCBO and was named a Principal by 1990. His background as a sculptor made him invaluable to the firm, according to Principal Sean Onyon.
“What we appreciated about Peter was that he was a sculptor by nature and he brought an artistic flair to the office that was a great asset,” said Onyon. “He’s also a humanitarian and is truly interested in the welfare of people. Working in healthcare was an extension of his personality, so it was a good mix.”
Brunjes has been involved in literally dozens of healthcare-related projects over the years, including buildings for Intermountain Healthcare, the University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics, and Brigham Young University. He appreciates having been able to work with many bright, highly intelligent healthcare professionals.
“You’re working with really smart people who are demanding by nature,” he said. “Their expectations are very high…I enjoy the complexity of programs and systems in healthcare projects. These are people who are at the top of their fields. You have to be a really good listener and be responsive to their needs.”
Onyon said Brunjes’ presence will certainly be missed.
“It’s a bittersweet relationship with (retirement),” Onyon said. “You miss that daily interaction. But Peter showed me his bucket list and it gives you a grasp of hisinterests. Knowing that he’s off on new adventures is reassuring. We have our next generation of leaders in place and it gives you peace of mind that the firm is in good hands.”