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June 10, 2019

Bill Bain Jr., the ‘heart and soul’ of NBBJ, dies at 88


Bill Bain Jr., a longtime leader at NBBJ and the son of founding co-partner William Bain Sr., died Saturday at age 88.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our dear friend and colleague Bill Bain Jr.” — the “heart and soul” of NBBJ, the firm said in a statement.

Bain was described by those who knew him as “Mr. Seattle.” His devotion to architecture and city building has had a significant impact on Seattle, NBBJ said, noting that he was a leader in enhancing the city’s urban character — allowing it to be “owned” by its citizens.

He led or designed many of NBBJ’s most acclaimed projects, and helped shape it into the international firm it is today, NBBJ said. Those projects include Seattle’s Two Union Square high-rise, Pacific Place — the centerpiece of downtown Seattle’s retail revitalization — and the U.S. Federal Courthouse.

Bain’s work covered a range of building types including the United States Pavilion at Expo ’74, Guam Judicial Center, Cordiner Hall at Whitman College, the Design Disciplines Building and Physical Sciences Building at Washington State University, and master planning and building design for the University of Washington South Campus and the Downtown Metropolitan Tract.

That range also included the Honolulu Municipal Office Building; Unigard Insurance Co. corporate headquarters; Bagley Wright Theatre; Market Place Tower mixed-use development; demonstration housing in Saitama, Japan; the restorations of the Paramount Theatre and Fairmont Olympic Hotel; and seven projects for the Battelle Memorial Institute. Among his most recent work was an office building; a hotel and condominium mixed-use development; and a research center for mind, brain and learning.

Bain joined NBBJ in 1955 after graduating from Cornell University and serving in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He spent 64 years at the firm, holding numerous leadership positions, most recently consulting partner.

He was awarded the American Institute of Architects Seattle Chapter Medal of Honor in recognition of his remarkable career achievements. He also received the AIA Northwest and Pacific Region Medal of Honor, and the Robert Filley Jr. Award for Excellence by the honorary land-economics society Lambda Alpha International.

Bain was past president of both the Seattle Chapter and the Washington State Council of the American Institute of Architects.

At Cornell University he studied under Philip Johnson, Buckminster Fuller, Paul Rudolph and Aldo Giurgola. As a student there he also won the York Prize and Charles Goodwin Sands Memorial Medal.

He lectured or taught design at Cornell, New York University, Harvard University, University of Washington, Washington State University, and the Technology Transfer Institute of Japan, and was an adviser to the College of Architecture, Art and Planning at Cornell.

NBBJ said Bain was committed to the community. He was a former president of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, past chairman of the Downtown Seattle Association and a Most Distinguished Alumnus of the Lakeside School.

The firm said “his spirit and legacy lives on through our work, and will continue to shape a world that is dynamic, beautiful and relevant to the needs of our clients and society.”

Bain is survived by his wife Nancy Bain, and his sons David Hunter Bain, John Worthington Bain, Mark Sanford Bain (Anuschka Blommers); and two grandchildren, Tesla Bain and Atom Bain.

There are no plans for a memorial service at this time.

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