Clifford B. Dobson

Dobson, Clifford B.

(1923 – 2015)

Born July 3, 1923, Clifford Benjamin Dobson, grew up in Utah. In 1941 he began his university studies as a business major at Branch Agricultural College (Southern Utah State University) in Cedar City, Utah. However, World War 2 interrupted his studies. After being honorably discharged from the US Army (1944) he transferred to University of California Berkeley to study architecture. Disillusioned with the formal Beaux Arts training at the University, Dobson began to look for other options. Through a friend he met architect. Bruce Goff, who had an office in Berkeley at the time. The meeting shifted the course of his studies when Goff asked the young Dobson to help him open an architectural practice in Oklahoma.

While Goff served as director of the School of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma, Dobson ran his local firm in Norman, Oklahoma. While there, Dobson gained valuable real-life experience working for Goff and served as an on-site supervisor for the construction of Goff’s ‘Ledbetter House’ (1947) featured in ‘Life’ magazine. Wanting to obtain a formal degree in architecture, Dobson left the firm to attend the University of Oklahoma full time, graduating with a degree in architectural engineering in 1952. He passed the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards examination, January 23, 1957 and was certified to practice architecture in all States.

After working for a variety of architects in Oklahoma, at the advice of his doctor, Dobson moved with his wife and son to the state of Washington (1954) to relieve his severe allergy problems. Upon his arrival he went to work for the firm of Harmon, Pray & Dietrich. While there, he received his Washington architectural license (#831) by reciprocity on October 15, 1954. One year later (1955), he opened his own independent practice in Seattle.

Dobson’s work in Washington State reflects a unique design aesthetic. Heavily inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright and Goff, many of his designs reflect an ‘organic’ or ‘Wrightian’ design philosophy using complex geometric abstraction as expressed in the plans, sections and elevations of his projects. Among his more unusual designs was a home for Edward J. Riley, President of Simpson Timber Company. The house (1964) was solely designed using a 60 degree angle. The Riley house was featured in the Sunday, July 19, 1964 issue of the Seattle Post Intelligencer. It was, also, featured in the Seattle New Homes Guide (1965).

A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Dobson designed several Church buildings across the Pacific Northwest. While many of the designs were considered ‘starter plans’, notable projects include the Seattle Stake Center (1959) in Burien; the Seattle Second Ward (1959) in West Seattle; the Magnolia Ward (1963); the Bellevue Ward (1962); the University of Washington Institute of Religion of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1961).

In 1967, Dobson moved to Portland, Oregon where he was elected ‘premises officer’ for the Bank of California. He was in charge of all building and construction for bank facilities in Washington, Oregon and California. After a few years, Dobson missed the challenge of his creative abilities and returned to the private practice of architecture in Portland and throughout the state of Oregon.

Dobson retired to Lake Oswego, OR in 1984 and passed away on June 15, 2015.

– Michael C Houser

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