Blunden Barclay, Architects
1985 CLEVELAND ARTS PRIZE FOR ARCHITECTURE
The firm known as Blunden Barclay made architecture
for hospitals, homeowners, universities, school districts, library systems, municipal
governments and religious organizations. Although many of their clients
represented large institutions, much of their work exemplifies what
Cleveland architecture critic James M. Wood called “a commendable
ability to think small.”
1974 until 2006, principals William A. Blunden and Robert A.
Barclay worked together in a harmonious partnership and established
lasting relationships with numerous clients. After building a $4,000
staircase for Allen Memorial Medical Library at Case Western Reserve
University in the 1970s, the firm spent the next 20 years completing
various renovations within the historic building designed in 1926 by
Cleveland’s premiere Beaux Arts architects, Walker and Weeks. Blunden
Barclay also completed multiple projects for John Carroll University,
Laurel School, Cleveland Public Library, University Hospitals and the
Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
The partners met while working for 1970 Cleveland Arts Prize winner Don Hisaka.
Blunden, the team’s principal designer (born in 1934), who would in time be named
a fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA), earned an
in architecture at Ohio State University. After military service in Amy
Intelligence, he completed graduate studies at Cornell University and
began his career in New York City with renowned modern architect Edward
Durrell Stone. A position with the engineering firm, Dalton Dalton,
brought him to Cleveland.
the firm’s construction/technical director and business partner (born in 1936), did
his undergraduate work at Case Western Reserve University. He served in
the Navy, then returned home to work as a draftsman for
who valued lightness, openness, clarity and attention to detail, the
architects achieved exceptional purity in their design of Z
Contemporary Cuisine. Located on the ground floor of the Shaker Heights
office tower designed by Bauhaus master Walter Gropius, the restaurant
created a serene environment that chef Zachary Bruell found “almost
firm’s award-winning renovation of the Cleveland Public Library’s
Jefferson Branch also created a clean, contemporary space within a
previously dark and cluttered 1918 Carnegie library. The uplifting
interior, painted white and flooded with natural light from skylights
that had previously been blacked out, typifies Blunden Barclay’s
modern Blunden Barclay fire station in Oberlin led to commissions for
the award-winning Oberlin City Hall, a bridge over Plum Creek and the
renovation of Finney Chapel, the 1908 Cass Gilbert landmark at Oberlin
College. The firm received dozens of additional awards, and its
work was featured in many publications.
the partners preferred to design contemporary buildings, they showed
deep respect for historic styles in renovation projects and also in
commissions from traditional Western Reserve communities. The Village
Hall and Hunt Club in Hunting Valley and a civic/commercial complex in
Gates Mills stayed true to principles of Greek revival architecture. In
2005, the firm received a national AIA award for the
liturgical/interior design of Unity Spiritual Center in Westlake, Ohio.
The architects’ thoughtful transformation of a plain rectangular room
into a glowing, intimate sanctuary was completed on a modest $68,000
budget, published in Faith & Form magazine and featured in Michael J. Crosbie’s book, Houses of God: Religious Architecture for a New Millennium.
and budget have nothing to do with what you make as an architect,”
William Blunden said. “It’s how you use what you have.”