Architect of Epic Center had grand vision for Wichita skyline

02/16/2012 8:00 AM

08/06/2014 8:36 AM

It’s almost impossible to go anywhere in Wichita and not see the impact Sidney “Sid” Smith Platt had on the city.

He is the man who changed Wichita’s skyline — forever.

Designer of the Epic Center, Garvey Center, Parklane Shopping Center and homes throughout Wichita, Platt’s buildings were functional, yet creative.

“When you are doing a skyline, you’re doing space sculpture. It ought to say something,” the Wichita architect told the Wichita Eagle in 1986 as the Epic Center was being constructed.

Mr. Platt, architect and founder of Platt, Adams, Bradley Architects, died Saturday. He was 95.

Funeral services are pending.

Mr. Platt was born Dec. 26, 1916 in Junction City. After attending schools in Junction City, he attended Washburn University for a year before transferring to Kansas State University where he received his bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering. He also attended Ohio State University before joining the war effort and becoming a P-38 fighter pilot in World War II, serving primarily in the European theater. He was a major in the U.S. Army Corps.

Following the war, he worked briefly for Libby-Owens-Ford, a company that made flat glass products for automobiles and buildings before moving to Kansas City. He worked for the William Randall Architectural Firm until the 1950s when he joined Randall Womer architectural firm in Wichita. Mr. Platt was instrumental in a major remodeling project at the Wichita Country Club.

Shortly after his move to Wichita, he became acquainted with Willard Garvey, a Wichita entrepreneur who created an empire that once ranked the Garveys among America’s richest families.

“He was the most kind person,” said Jean Garvey, matriarch of the Garvey family. “He did such a good job. He did what Willard liked. He and Willard thought alike. And, I think, he was always glad to renew Willard’s confidence in him by building more buildings.”

Mr. Platt worked with Womer for several years on housing developments and other projects in west Wichita. Finally, he started his own firm. Through the years, it would eventually evolve into Platt, Adams, Bradley Architects now located at 220 W. Douglas.

“He would say we’ve done work in 48 states,” said Mr. Platt’s son, Roc, of Wichita. “He did a lot of neat houses around Wichita.”

He designed the Garveys’ house in the traditional prairie style and suggested the right place to put it — along a creek, “So we have the feel of the prairie,” Jean Garvey said.

At the height of his career, he designed the Epic Center in downtown Wichita. It was Willard Garvey’s idea to build something epic.

So, he built a 325 foot tall building, made of concrete, ribbed and strengthened with 1,900 tons of steel reinforcing bar. Originally, his plan called for two 24-story towers with a shopping center between them and a parking garage. The second tower and the shopping center were never built.

The Epic Center is the tallest building in Kansas — 60 feet taller than the downtown Holiday Inn, and 21 feet taller than the state capitol dome.

It was built to represent the Air Capitol, Platt told the Eagle in 1986. Its slanted, copper roof was built to represent a kite.

With his characteristic white hair and blue eyes, Mr Platt charmed people. He was gregarious and fun loving.

“He was so kind,” Jean Garvey said. “He loved people and they appreciated that. He was a close friend to our family. His children and our children are all friends.

Mr. Platt was a past state president of the American Institute of Architects, and past president of the Wichita Country Club.

He is survived by his daughter, Riska Wanago and her sons, Dana and Kevin all of New York City; son, Roc Platt of Wichita. He is preceded in death by his wives, Barbara Brown Platt and Nancy Lawson Platt. In lieu of flowers, a memorial has been established with St. James Episcopal Church, 3750 E. Douglas, Wichita, 67208.

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