July 2014 Luncheon – Noel Whorton ’91 of NBBJ

Noel Whorton '91 presentation to the graduate chapter's July Luncheon
Noel Whorton ’91 presentation to the graduate chapter’s July Luncheon

Noel Whorton ’91 shared his path from his UW business major to becoming a licensed architect through years of practice. Like many who have benefited from a fellow Fiji, Noel was steered to an opportunity via Kelly Price ’91. Seventeen years later, Noel is a Principal and leads the cost management group at the highly reputable firm of NBBJ.

Noel was introduced by his classmate and former luncheon speaker, Mike Burns ’91 (First Choice Health Network). And other classmates attending were Greg Bjarnason ’91 (Molly Brown Temp Agency), and Andy Sprague ’93 (JR Abbott Construction).

NBBJ played a lead budgeting/cost management role in the redesign/remodel of UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion. In his presentation, Noel reviewed some of the architectural goals and budget elements for this complex, renovation of an iconic building. Through careful budgeting, as well as beneficial market timing, the project bid significantly under budget.

Noel Whorton '91 and 3 tower design for Amazon
Noel Whorton ’91 and 3 tower design for Amazon

But the centerpiece of Noel’s presentation was NBBJ’s 3-building project designed for Amazon in the Denny Triangle. The back story to NBBJ being tasked with this project was a story in itself. Amazon approached NBBJ because of a relationship started with a project from 30 +/- years ago. They asked if they would be willing to do some preliminary design sketches for a project that had less than a 1% likelihood of going anywhere. A designer within Noel’s studio (within NBBJ) executed the initial sketches and did much of the initial conceptual exploration.

From these modest expectations the project, codenamed “Rufus”, gained attention and embracement as requests and needs began to fall into place and a more formal project began to emerge. One of the early requests was for an interior green space somewhat similar to the observatories of earlier times. This opportunity to blaze a new trail for design resulted in some very clever and unique design factors. As the ideas grew closer to becoming plans, the project was growing to a three block project centered by the eye-catching glass spheres.

The story was interesting, the backstory of the design was interesting, and Noel’s sharing of the NBBJ path from sketches to being the lead design for 3 mid-rises and more than 3 million square feet was even more interesting. Thanks Noel for a great luncheon presentation.

July Luncheon 1