Frank Welch is one of the country’s leading architects. Though he lives in Dallas, he spent 25 years living in Midland, Texas with his family. Frank Welch loves Midland and everything about it. We had lunch with him not too long ago to ask him about his best Midland memories. Frank’s eyes just glimmered when he said, “everything plus the terrain.”
Frank’s memoir, On Becoming an Architect, was published in March by TCU Press. The Sherman-born architect’s book chronicles some of his early professional ventures in Midland, where Frank Welch first established his architecture practice:
A vivid memory and sharp focus on sensory detail—particularly sights, sounds, emotions—enable Frank Welch to narrate the extraordinary story of his life with great richness and insight. From his boyhood in Sherman, Texas, through his education at Texas A&M in the 1950s and his first professional ventures, Welch’s story is a remarkable memoir of how he became one of the Southwest’s most important architects.
Mentored by Harry Ransom, Welch and his fellow architecture students, traveling in two-door sedans stenciled “Property of Texas A&M College,” made pilgrimages around the country to tour important architectural sites and meet many of the nation’s most prominent architects. Among them were Frank Lloyd Wright, whom the group met in Arizona at Taleisin West. In Chicago, Welch and his classmates met Mies van der Rohe. And on the coast, Charles Eames gave the group breakfast at his home on a bluff overlooking the Pacific.
Welch’s postgraduate years on the Continent and his professional career in Texas are beautifully rendered in a volume richly illustrated with sketches, photographs, and floor plans of some of the most intriguing architectural gems in the region.
In 1959, FRANK D. WELCH opened his first office: the origins of Frank Welch & Associates, a firm which has been recognized with over fifty design excellence awards. He has served as lecturer, visiting critic, and interim professor at many institutions, and is the author of Philip Johnson & Texas.
CD: Frank, tell us about life in Midland.
FW: Midland was a great place to live and prosper and for children to grow up in…
FW: Because it provided work and employment (smiles)
CD: Do you like the terrain?
FW: The terrain is almost like a desert but it has its own beauty particularly when there’s no structure nearby or in view.
CD: How many homes did you design in Midland
FW: At least 20 homes. Midland has some great architectural buildings, too.
CD: Did you influence the growth?
FW: It didn’t grow much when we were there, but after we left, it boomed!
CD: Who are your best friends there?
FW: John and BLee Dorn
CD: Where did you live in Midland?
FW: Two places, D Street and I Street. I have lots of imagination in naming streets!
CD: What buildings did you design there?
FW: I designed both commercial and residential, a church and Trinity Episcopal Day school. The buildings there are better architecturally.
FW: The old concrete office building on Illinois Street and the Forest Oil Corporation building.
There is a peacefulness I find in Midland, you can wear casual, short sleeves and khaki pants. The only suits are worn by bankers and lawyers
CD: Tell us about the people.
FW: You accept certain things in a town like this. The women all go to Dallas to buy clothes. It’s a very agreeable place to live… if something bad happens people are right there to help. It harkens back to the frontier days even tho most of those people are not even from the frontier. A lot of them come from the Ivy League… a lot from Princeton. They come and they are making money there. Like the senior Bush said, we are out here to make money. There’s a great quality of life, lots of sports, tennis and golf, and the schools are good.
FW: My favorite was an Italian place run by a Yiddish couple and a lot of little Mexican restaurants, all good.
CD: What were the best events?
FW: Sunsets… bird hunting is a big event, quite beautiful and social.
CD: I’m told few people here have swimming pools.
FW: Everyone has a swimming pool. I’m very glad I lived here with my family, it was very nourishing and I had a lot of great social friends. Midland is a great place to place
CD: Would you come back to Midland?
FW: Only to be buried — my son and wife are both buried here, it’s a great place!