Peter Q. Bohlin's Impressive Career Includes Work For Bill Gates And Steve Jobs

Collaborating around a table is something Bohlin loves to do at the firm’s offices in San Francisco, Seattle, New York, and Pittsburgh as well as Philadelphia. He’s based in Wilkes-Barre, where he co- founded Bohlin & Powell in 1965. He had moved there as a boy before his father became president of Eberhard Faber—partly explaining the younger Bohlin’s pencil connoisseurship. He went on to earn degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where he was influenced by Eero Saarinen, Charles and Ray Eames, and Florence Knoll.

At 80, Bohlin is neither rumpled nor slick: gray flannels, a white button-down over an ocher T-shirt, a hardwood-root walking stick. A hand-tooled leather pocket protector holds a bouquet of colored pencils, a nerd accessory carried off with panache. He’s still sketching, still making his mark with strokes at once bold and nuanced, as ideas flow from eye to paper. He’s happiest holding a red graphite pencil, ordered by the gross from Ito-Ya.

In Moose, Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park’s Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center, 2007. Photography by Edward Riddell.

Principal Ray Calabro recalls the snowy afternoon in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park when he and Bohlin scouted the site for what became their Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center, then sketched on the hood of their car: “A lot of inspiration comes from noticing where the sun is, what the views are, where the wind blows.” Bohlin himself adds, “You have to listen hard, not just with your ears but with all your senses.”

Depth is a word that comes up often when people talk about him. But defining it is elusive, a task that requires hovering over every detail of his vast, diverse oeuvre. It might be faster to read his lyrical essay “Nature of Circumstance.” He writes, “I have always been intrigued by how places are revealed as we move from here to there—how a changing point of view can titillate and compel, how we are drawn from place to place. Our architecture is enriched by a fascination with the potency of beginnings and endings, whether of a journey or an object—the foot of a column, the end of a beam, or the edge of a wall that reveals its construction.” Wherever the journey takes him, Bohlin is in the details.

> See more from the December 2017 issue of Interior Design

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Peter Q. Bohlin's Impressive Career Includes Work for Bill Gates and Steve Jobs
PRINCETON DAY SCHOOL Fall 2012