At age 61, Dean Bradley is still on his second job.
Bradley is an architect at Platt, Adams, Bradley and Associates, where he’s worked since 1980. These days he’s a sole proprietor, but he keeps the name out of respect for his former partners.
The Kansas State University graduate has done a range of work throughout his career, but his speciality is residential projects.
“As far as I can remember, I always thought about architecture,” Bradley said. “I always enjoyed the building process, and my dad … always had a project.”
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The two built what Bradley calls a “magical” greenhouse when he was about 7.
Bradley is disappointed and a little frustrated when he hears of others who wanted to go into architecture but were discouraged along the way when told they had to be good at math.
“I’ve always thought that that was unfair because math is important as far as geometry, but to have huge math skills is not so important for design,” Bradley said. “If you want to go into structural engineering, yes.”
For Bradley, the residential architecture he does is about “creating art that speaks and feels good for people.”
You’ve always liked working in teams. Why?
It’s still today what I strive for. … Having a team of players including the client, the contractor and the architect and if we have an interiors person or a landscape person.
(It’s) the energy you get from each other.
You also like being a problem solver, right?
I just enjoy being a facilitator to make things happen.
And some of your toughest challenges have been the most rewarding?
There was a site that was on a beautiful lake and golf course, but there was only a 50-foot opening on the back. It was very wide at the street, so it was pie shaped. … Most people didn’t know how to build on it. I took the idea of running an axis line down the center. … You could see the lake at one end and your entrance at the other end.
It helped organize this whole house up and down this spine. Out of limitations and suffering come some neat solutions.
You tend to neglect your own house when it comes to projects, though, don’t you?
It’s sort of, you know, you spend all day solving these problems. … It’s just thousands of questions about how do you resolve these things.
Plus, you want to do so many different things, it’s hard to limit yourself. When you focus on your client, you can limit your design.
You also enjoy some architectural sleuthing around town, right?
Well, I’ve always enjoyed … the fabric of spaces and places that tell the history and the story of a place. It’s sort of like the prairie. It’s not real obvious at first glance.
Even as a little kid, I remember the Russell Stover corner in downtown Wichita had blue mirrored glass on it. … You could see you in your car driving by. (It’s) little landmarks that make you realize where you are and that it’s a unique place.
What are some of your favorite features around Wichita?
Some of my favorite ones are the curb street signs made of marbles. Those are the ones – I think there are a few remaining on North Broadway – that they saved that were placed in the wet concrete on the curbs, and they would spell out the street.
I also like to see the wood … paving bricks behind the alley of the Eaton Hotel. … They paved the alleys with wooden bricks that were redwood or some great material, and they survived in spots up until the time they renovated the hotel and they moved them into a fountain area.
You also like ghost signs. What are those?
A ghost sign is a sign that’s either fading or recently exposed that had been done in the distant past. This one (on a building) at 18th and Broadway is a great example. Unfortunately, it’s fading before our eyes.
I found that the building was built in 1908. Must have been a few years that the entire south side was exposed and the sign was painted on it, and then a brick building was built next to it and covered the sign and remained covered for about 100 years until about a year ago. The one-story brick building was torn down, and it exposed the sign.
The sign said “North End Racket” store and (showed) a picture of Gold Medal crackers.
So you investigated further?
You do a little digging on that and find that (a racket store is) an early dime store before they were called dime stores.
Is it fair to say you’re at least an amateur historian?
I’d say so. I serve on (the) Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, and professionally I enjoy renovation and preservation projects.
What’s something few people know about you?
I think something that would surprise people (is) in high school one summer, I worked in a mattress factory, and it was a great source of bad puns and jokes. “Oh, cushy job.” “Chief mattress tester.” Oh, “You do a lot of sleeping on the job.”