The Land: The Man with The Plan

  • Share
  • Read Later

(6 of 9)

Assignments began to pour in as soon as he and his wife settled in Los Angeles in 1938. One of the first was to design a new studio for Paramount. In preparation for it, Pereira characteristically learned so much about the movies that he became Paramount's art director—and won a 1942 Oscar for his trick photography in Cecil B. De Mille's Reap the Wild Wind. Later, as a full-fledged producer, he made two successful films for R.K.O.

Even the war helped Bill Pereira along. He became a civilian camouflage expert for the Army, and again and again he flew up and down the coast from Canada to Mexico. "I got a view then of the tragedies of helter-skelter planning, of the impossible traffic, the sprawling disorganization," he says. The plans of the cities were turned over to him, and "suddenly there I was staring at the veins and arteries of our cities, looking for the flaws, counting the mistakes."

Life with Chuck. After the war, Pereira signed on as professor of architecture at the University of Southern California but went on designing—department stores, medical and research centers, the aircraft test site at Edwards Air Force Base. Busy Bill Pereira was doing well enough.

In 1950 he thought he saw a way to do better still. Hearing that his University of Illinois classmate, Charles Luckman, had been fired from his $300,000-a-year job as president of the U.S. branch of Lever Bros., Pereira could not resist the chance to recruit an old pal. Off went a letter to Chuck, accompanied by a package containing the plans Luckman had made as his final school project—for a monastery. "For 20 years I've had my eye on this guy," wrote Pereira to Luckman. "That's why I've saved this. I think he's mature enough to return to the fold. How about it?"

Chuck Luckman turned out to be just as good at selling architecture as he had been at selling soap. Within five years, the firm of Pereira & Luckman exploded from an office with a dozen architects and a $15 million volume of business to a firm with about 400 employees and more than $500 million worth of work on the boards. Together they worked on Cape Canaveral's rocket-shooting complex and the breathtaking Los Angeles International Airport, and designed the CBS Television City in Hollywood.

Like a Factory. But eight years after the partnership began, Bill Pereira abruptly broke it up. Given the differences between the two, it is surprising that the association lasted as long as it did. Though trained as an architect, Luckman was a slick businessman with a flair for supersalesmanship; to Pereira, on the other hand, architecture was simply a profession. "The businessman who hires us," he once said, "doesn't need another businessman to do the work—he needs an architect."

Said Pereira after he left the firm:

"It was like working in a factory. Everybody was standing in line with projects for us to do, like a line of railroad cars waiting to unload. I don't say we were doing inferior work; I just know I wasn't doing my best."

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9