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College of Design

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tom Clark

Hello Class of '66!

Regrets. Kit and I won't be able to be in the Midwest in October. Sounds like fun! Sorry to miss it. Would love to see everybody again and catch up a bit on the last half century.


I still have this recurring dream in which I'm back in the design studio. Everybody is working hard on their quarter-long project and the jury is going to start in a few minutes. Only one of the projects is going to pass and the rest are all going to have to be re-designed next quarter. I'm not worried though because somehow in the dream I seem to realize I've got about 50 years of experience as a lead designer, so I am confident I can do this school project.

In the dream, all the models are on display in a big glass enclosure built in the middle of the architecture court. The students are outside the enclosure waiting to receive the news as to which of us will have to re-design and which one of us will pass and graduate. Rapson comes out of the glass door to the enclosure carrying an envelope. He opens it and reads the name of the architect whose project wins the award and graduates. "The winner is..."

...Francis Bulbulian!" The crowd cheers and gathers around Fran to congratulate him. Even after 50 years, and in my OWN dreams, Francis always does an outstanding job! Next time I have this dream, I'm going to try to install my own brother on the Jury. Hopefully that will give me more favorable result!


I had a chance to read some of the other memories posted at this site. It's fun to see what people remember about Minnesota. In a word, the experience was INTENSE. Here's a bit more information just to add some context to that recurring dream I described above:

Fran and I went through the architectural curriculum at the same time. We were two of less than a dozen students in our class that did it in the catalog-prescribed time frame. Both of us roomed in an old house about two blocks from the Architecture building. John Scott, John Sheehy, Mark Merrill, Scott Berry, and a couple other architecture students shared those beat-up facilities.

I remember the common bathroom in that old house had a shower with a shower curtain. Behind that curtain, lived some sort of moldy living "organism" that we all assumed covered the entire interior of the shower stall and might very well have been the same species as the carnivorous plant in the play, "Little Shop of Horrors." I use the term, "assumed" because nobody ever actually dared to fully open that shower curtain, let alone risk taking a shower in there.

Not surprisingly, my wife Kit, who knew us all, says what she remembers most about the architecture lab was the pervasive "aroma" of unwashed architecture students that apparently permeated the concrete and masonry so that it never quite dissipated.

Kit and I knew Fran's wife Barb from before she and Fran started dating. We've all tried to stay in touch over the years. Francis was in my wedding and I considered him my closest friend in architecture school. My earliest recollection of a specific conversation with Fran was in Jim Stageberg's design studio. It was very late one night, right before our project was due. Fran was walking past my desk, I stopped him to ask his frank opinion of my project, which I was just finishing. I said something like, "...Well, what do you think of it?"

His response was, as always, honest and fairly typical of the way we all often talked to each other. He paused; looked over the drawing taped to my drawing board, thought about it for a few seconds and then replied, "I don't think I could EVER do anything that BAD!!"

That phrase often comes to mind, when anybody asks, "Well, what do you think of it? (a design idea)?" it still makes me laugh, even after more than 50 years.

My general impression of the architectural curriculum is mixed. Generally, I loved the experience enough to spend the rest of my life in this business. But, at first, it was something of a cold bath, after a rather warm and fuzzy but undemanding high school education. It's where I first was required to actually systematically THINK critically.

And, of course, like many students, I quickly found that the highest standard for graphic excellence that I had previously encountered wasn't even at the bottom of the scale when one was comparing one's drawings to those of Rapson, Gebhart, Vitolis, Larson, and so many other talents.

The major career impact of my experiences at Minnesota was to set my personal standard for design excellence continually beyond my reach. The result has been a career that has never been boring, always exciting, and always challenging.

Best regards to all,

Tom Clark


Tom Clark, CSI, Principal


5820 York Rd; Baltimore, MD 21212

410 539 6830

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