Top Architects and Engineers of the Century logo

John Skilling

John Skilling
John Skilling

In 1947, a bright young engineer named John Skilling graduated from the University of Washington and went to work for the small engineering firm of W.H. Witt Co. Almost 50 years later, John retired from the firm, now known as Skilling Ward Magnusson Barkshire Inc., leaving a legacy of landmark structures throughout the Pacific Northwest and around the world.

Born in Los Angeles, in 1921, John moved to Seattle to attend the U.W. He never left, although he traveled extensively both for business and pleasure.

John married young and had three children, two girls and a boy. His enthusiasm for how things work spilled over from his business side into his personal life. While most fathers teach their children to build a model airplane or car, John helped his son make a fully working television set.

John quickly advanced to principal and, together with his talented co-workers, set out to show the world what engineering could be. In the 1960's, the firm competed with prominent East Coast companies to win the structural design of the twin towers of the New York World Trade Centerthe tallest towers ever at the time.

The project catapulted John and the firm into international recognition.

John gained a reputation for his lightening-quick mind, his ability to "think like an architect," and his refusal to admit that something couldn't be done.

In 1983, John became Chairman of the firm and led its growth in the local, national, and international markets.

Prominent Northwest projects designed under his leadership include Rainier Bank Tower, the Seafirst Building and Seafirst Fifth Avenue Tower, Century Square, the 76-story Columbia Seafirst Center, and the freeway-spanning Washington State Convention and Trade Center.