ARCHITECT EXPANDS HIS ALMA MATER

February 01, 2003 12:00 am
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Pilot story

and photos by Susan Schell

When Tony Baron strolls about the local school grounds, he can not help notice a few changes. The 1987 Brookings-Harbor High School graduate gazes at formidable concrete buildings that dominate chunks of land that were once nothing but dirt.

These buildings have a special significance for this alumnus. He helped design them.

Baron works for WBGS, the architectural firm hired by the school district to design the new buildings financed by the school bond.

The fact that Baron went to school in Brookings has turned out to be a huge asset to the firm.

"I know which way the wind blows and how the rain falls. That overhang is there for a reason," he said, pointing to the front of the nearly completed Azalea cafeteria.

He makes a sweeping motion between the new cafeteria and the old school building.

"There will be a covered walkway connecting these two buildings. That way the kids can walk from one to the other without getting wet on rainy days," he said.

The coupling of Baron with WBGS was purely serendipitous. After receiving his master's degree in architecture at the University of Oregon, Baron went to interview for a part-time job with an architectural firm in downtown Eugene.

"I was in a large conference room. On the table was the bond measure proposal for the Brookings-Harbor School District," he recalls.

"They asked me where I was from. From then on, it turned from an interview process into a discussion about Brookings."

The next day he got a phone call. The job was his.

Baron literally walked into the project just as the school bond was being approved. The timing placed him right at the front door of the biggest construction project his alma mater has seen in years.

The designer said there was a big celebration when the school bond passed.

"Our firm had a big hand in making that happen," he said.

"There have been other bonds set before the board, but were rejected. They'd get these elaborate designs that didn't really explain much.

"We came up with such a concise plan, everything bare bones and functional. We gave them something so detailed the voters could see everything. Those were the plans Larry Anderson brought before the board."

Baron immediately began working on structural designs under head architect Dick Bryant. He was one of three designers on all of the new school buildings and the primary designer on the high school cafeteria.

Physically, Baron said his old school doesn't seem much different, but the logistics of how it operates have changed. The increase in the student population is a surprise.

"My graduating class had about 96 to 98 people," he said.

"The population has grown by two-thirds. When I walked through the hall at the high school, I literally couldn't get through there."

The buildings that have sprung from Baron's drawings will house future generations and help alleviate the crowding.

Baron, who currently resides in Springfield, plans to move back to Brookings in the future. When he does, he will return to his home town a success.