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ON ARCHITECTURE, SAILING, CIVIC PRIDE, AND R&T’S HOME IN 1968

BILL FICKER was the architect of R&T’s 1499 Monrovia Avenue offices, Newport Beach, California. But he was also a victorious America’s Cup skipper, a civic leader, and an articulate spokesman for design. Today, I share some tidbits about the man; tomorrow, we’ll celebrate R&T’s “new home” in 1968.

William P. Ficker, 1928–2017, American architect, winner America’s Cup skipper, 1970. This and the following image from The Orange County Register, August 12, 2013.

Bill Ficker’s sailboat prowess goes back a long way: In 1958, he was a Star Class world champion. In 1970, at the helm of Intrepid, he won the America’s Cup. In 1974, he won the Congressional Cup. The America’s Cup Hall of Fame honored him with induction in 1993. In 2016, the year before his death, he was inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame.

Bill Ficker and the 1970 America’s Cup-winning Intrepid.

Bill’s architecture offices were in Newport Beach, a southern California community in which he had an active interest in planning and design.

On Newport Beach’s New Civic Center. The Orange County Register, August 12, 2013, quoted Bill on Newport Beach civic aesthetics: “The water makes us and defines us in powerful ways that a building never will.”

Newport Beach Civic Center’s Bunny Rabbits, with its building in the background. Image from ochistorical.blogspot.com.

What about the Civic Center’s whimsical bunnies? “I happen to like the Bunny Rabbits nearby,” Ficker said. “The landscape artists were very talented. They got people talking about them. That’s good.”

On Catamarans in the America’s Cup. Sailing was Ficker’s first love, and he had an opinion on yacht racing’s transition from single hulls to catamarans: “In years past, the race was about speed and tactics. The sailboats … essentially went at the same speed. So tactics became more important. Things like how you adjusted to ever-shifting wind. The giant catamarans are strictly about speed. It’s like drag racing. A very different thing. They are flat-out dangerous.”

On Efficiency and Aesthetics. Back in January 2003, R&T interviewed Ficker on design: “Maybe it comes from my architectural background, but also from sailboats and aircraft—you know, I started out of college as an engineer in the aircraft industry. But with racing boats and airplanes, there’s no aesthetics ever discussed, yet they turn out to be the most gorgeous objects.”

On Design versus Ornamentation. “When I design something, I design it for a use…. From the outside, a building should express what’s going on inside. When you look at it, it has a life to it.”

Architect’s rendering of new offices of Bond Publications Company, Newport Beach, California. Scheduled for completion in March 1968. William P. Ficker AIA.

Certainly the building at 1499 Monrovia Avenue, Newport Beach, California, had life to it. Tomorrow, we’ll celebrate its opening in 1968 and cite its non-R&T afterlife. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2018

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