Combining a sensitivity to sight with an elemental feel for materials and an affinity for people, Peter Bohlin has created a body of work grounded in the principles of enduring architecture.
Peter Q. Bohlin was born in 1937 in New York. This American architect is the winner of the 2010 Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA)and a founding principal of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, established originally in 1965 as Bohlin Powell in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
The firm, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson has five offices in Wilkes-Barre, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Seattle and San Francisco. In 1994, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson was honored with the Firm Award presented by the American Institute of Architects. Peter has been a guest design critic and a visiting professor at architecture schools. He received his Bachelor of Architecture from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and his Master of Architecture degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art.
Peter is the famed architect behind Apple’s epic glass cube for the Fifth Avenue store in New York. As his partner Bernard puts it, "Peter is a total computer illiterate”. He still sketches on paper rather than by computer and prefers talking in person to text messages.
Yet Bohlin interpreted Apple head honcho Steve Jobs’ wish to create a kind of “clubhouse” for Apple fans so well that the Cube has become one of New York’s most-photographed landmarks. Even though he’d never designed a retail space, Jobs chose Bohlin to design this Manhattan magnet for Apple lovers based on his work for the new Pixar headquarters and studios in Emeryville, California. Steve “didn’t care” about that handicap, said Karl Backus, the principal in BCJ’s San Francisco office who manages the firm’s Apple projects. That’s because Jobs thought of the stores not as retail spaces but as social spaces. Steve believed it was more important for the stores to offer a unique and compelling experience, in much the way that a Frank Gehry-designed museum does. Otherwise, why would people bother to make a special trip to buy a product they could order more easily on the Web?
During his first meeting with Jobs to discuss the Apple Cube, Jobs talked about a store that would serve as a sort of clubhouse for Apple’s loyal followers. While Jobs spoke, Bohlin drew the rough outlines of a cube in front of the General Motors tower. “The best thing about that building is its narrow profile. So I thought, ‘What is the inevitable shape to contrast that?’ ” Bohlin said. And voilà: the Cube, which currently ranks number five in New York landmarks, according to a Cornell University study of 35 million Flickr photos. Bohlin’s work for Apple helped earn him the 2010 gold medal from the American Institute of Architects, where his use of for his versatile, contextual use of materials was praised. In July, another Apple store of Bohlin’s design will open in Philadelphia.
A measure of fame has come to BCJ only in the last decade, as its high-profile stores for Apple have become landmarks in cities across the globe, but the scale of its work still varies widely. In Seattle, where BCJ opened an office in 1997, the firm recently designed the new city hall, a green-roofed branch library, and a charming three-unit row house faced in red-and-blue HardiePanel siding. Bohlin is committed to maintaining that range, even though his firm has 12 partners and five offices on both coasts. From the beginning, he says, “We worked hard to seem like we weren’t working too hard. My practice sprung from a modest place, and I had to prove myself by doing modest things.”