NORMAN — As I continue the series of articles on the aging process and how it influences creative people in Norman, I elected to interview, not only my first architecture employer, yet the most influential individual in my life when it came to the development of my approach to the practice of architecture — Ben Graves.
Our relationship began while I was a junior in the architecture school at OU, almost 40 years ago. I was enrolled in the preceptorship program, designed to place students in architecture firms, allowing the student a broad-based work experience while in school.
Ben had just opened his architecture practice not more than two years before he hired me; I was in fact, his first employee. He had rented space on Campus Corner with the vision of his firm becoming a highly successful entity in school design and development in Norman.
At the time I came to work, Ben was already building houses in various subdivisions around town. He also had started limited residential development projects. I spent time sweeping floor slabs at construction projects learning the ropes on the construction process, which I applied later in undertaking design/build myself.
My education focus incorporated an excessive amount of time going to school board meetings across the state. At the time, I considered Ben extremely competent, self-assured and personable on one hand, yet extremely egotistical and abrasive on the other hand. He was not tolerant of people he perceived as having little or no ambition. There were few people that I knew who had his level of passion for perfection, looking back; I can say I still haven’t met many with his drive. He took a no-holds-barred approach to life and work and did not allow anyone to get in the way of pursuing and completing a project, when he thought we were the only ones that could do a competent job. This was 100 percent of the time. In order to arrive to the school board meetings on time (often two to three a day), he sped through life in his Porsche 911 Targa Carrera.