James A. McClure Federal Building and Courthouse, Boise, ID
The City of Boise's downtown core extends northeast from the Boise River to the foothills with the Idaho State Capitol Building at its center. The James A. McClure Federal Building is sited just northeast of the State Capitol Campus at the base of the foothills. It is nestled in among residential neighborhoods, the fringe of downtown development, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) complex - originally the Fort Boise Reserve site. Fort Boise was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, excluding the portion of the site occupied by the federal building.
The federal building site is also directly bordered by two designated residential/commercial historic districts - the North End Historic District to the northwest and the Hays Street Historic District to the southwest. The following brief descriptions of these districts are excerpts from the City of Boise website.
North End Historic District:
The area known as Boise's North End was the City's first "suburban" development. Its first neighborhood, platted in 1878, was a small area covering only a few blocks between 9th and 13th Streets, from Fort Street north to Resseguie. But beginning in 1891, speculators began purchasing land in earnest, beginning a 25 year intensive building boom.
The North End was generally developed as a working and middle class neighborhood, hence the preponderance of modest bungalows; but the area is also unique for the mixture of housing stock that can be found there.
Hays Street Historic District:
The Hays Street Historic District comprises almost twenty-two blocks in the northern half of the Original Boise Townsite. The district was originally a residential neighborhood developed most intensely at the turn of the twentieth century. Fifty percent of the present buildings in the district were constructed prior to 1912.
Although originally primarily a residential neighborhood, the Hays Street District currently contains a mix of land uses, and the base zoning districts allow for multi-family and office uses. Large and modest single family homes, as well as apartments, earlier known as boarding homes, churches and schools were historically built in the district. Over the years, many of these homes were converted to new uses as offices or demolished to make room for surface parking lots. This mix of land uses and the predominately residential scale of the Hays district provide a transition from the more intensely commercial downtown and State Capitol Campus to the more single-family North End Historic District.
The district contains a wide range of architectural styles with a number of buildings designed by the architect J. E. Tourtellotte and the successor firm. The Queen Anne architectural style is the most common with twenty percent of the buildings. Also represented are Colonial Revival, Craftsman, and Minimal Traditional, among others.
Two other historic districts are nearby. The East End Historic District and the Warm Springs Avenue Historic District are located on the opposite (southeast) side of the VA complex - not visible from the Federal Building site.
Other notable features near the federal building include:
The Department Of Veterans Affairs Medical Center:
The VA Medical Center complex consists of both historic and contemporary buildings scattered across the Fort Boise Reserve site up to the base of the foothills. Across N 5th Street from the McClure Federal Building site is a contemporary VA Regional Office building and parking lot. Directly behind the Federal Building site, to the northeast, is a historic Fort Boise equestrian related building that has been repurposed by the VA for office use. Additional repurposed equestrian buildings extend north up the street. To the east of the federal building, the Fort Boise parade ground stretches toward the foothills until it meets a row of rehabilitated and contemporary buildings that make up the core of the Medical Center. Beyond the core, perched on the hillside, are Fort Boise's former officers' quarters that have been rehabilitated and repurposed. There is also an 1860s sandstone warehouse.
The stone guardhouse and three stone gate columns flanking N 5th Street as you enter the VA Medical Center date to c.1886. They were constructed roughly 20 years after the establishment of Fort Boise and manned until a shut down during WWII. The federal building property line abuts the back of the guardhouse and the Federal Building itself provides a starkly contrasting backdrop for the 130 year old structure.
The northwest corner of the original Fort Boise Reserve site is a City of Boise park - Memorial Park. The park runs the length of the northwest boundary of the federal building site and spans across N 6th Street. The park includes grassy open space, trees, a public restroom facility, playground, and seating area.
The John A. O'Farrell Cabin:
The single-room cottonwood cabin built by John and Mary O'Farrell as the first permanent home in Boise was built in 1863. It was relocated from its original site (to the south) to its current site on the north side of W Fort Street between 4th and 5th Streets in 1911. The cabin was restored at the time by the Pioneer Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Though relocated, the cabin is listed on the National Register of Historic Places with a period of significance of 1911-1949.
BOUNDARIES + SITE
The James A. McClure Federal Building site is 332,360 square feet bound by W Fort Street at a diagonal to the south, N 5th Street (entry to the VA complex) to the east, the VA Medical Center buildings and the foothills to the north, and Memorial Park to the west. The property line is set back from W Fort Street by a planter strip and sidewalk, and from N 5th Street by a sidewalk and landscape area. The north property line cuts in around the VA property creating a slender northward extension of parking behind the VA buildings. No alterations to the property line have occurred since its establishment.
Outside the site boundaries, park settings are maintained to the east and west of the site by the former parade grounds of the Fort Boise Reserve and Memorial Park. Originally, an irrigation ditch ran parallel to W Fort Street and turned north along the west property line. This ditch has since been filled. Immediately adjacent to the east property line is the Stone Guardhouse and entry gate columns that remain from the Fort Boise Reserve.
Within the boundary is the 271,369 gross square foot building, entry plaza, security guard station, parking lot, basement parking access, mechanical enclosure, walkways, and landscaping. The building is located toward the southeast quarter of the site with asphalt paved parking wrapping the remaining west and north portions and extending north behind the VA buildings. A secure vehicular entry point with a small guard station is located at the intersection of N 6th Street and W Fort Street. The mechanical enclosure is located north of the building along the east boundary surrounded by parking.
A landscape zone provides a small buffer between the building and parking areas and a greater buffer between the building, N 5th Street, W Fort Street, and Memorial Park. Landscaping includes lawn and established deciduous and coniferous trees. Unfinished chain link fencing on a concrete curb, low concrete walls, and a newly installed ha-ha wall provide security barriers for the north, east, and south perimeters. The west perimeter is open to the park. Building signage in the form of a low concrete monument sign is located east of the main vehicular entry drive.
McClure Federal Building, simplistically, is composed of a five story rectangular mass cantilevering over a two story pedestal sitting on a flat podium that spreads over the below- grade basement and terminates into landscaping. The building is 101 feet high to the top of the elevator penthouse and 271,369 gross square feet. The structure is reinforced concrete through the third floor and structural steel with lightweight concrete fill on cellular steel decking above. Due to the soil conditions left by Cottonwood Creek, which once crossed the site, the foundation system is established on point-bearing piles driven down to the stable surface below the creek runoff soil. The flat roof is clad in a membrane system with rock ballast and a metal clad penthouse contains a window washing machine on rails.
The design of the exterior is simple and clean relying on a limited palette of materials and colors. The upper mass is entirely composed of light-weight window modules built of expanded shale aggregate concrete and white Portland cement with gray tinted glass. The pedestal level features exposed massive post-tensioned concrete beams with 16 foot cantilever extensions supported by equally massive concrete pilotis. The interior spaces of the pedestal level are enclosed by a glass curtain wall system independent of the pilotis. The ground floor extends out into the site with a low granite podium. The podium features a low horizontal perimeter guardrail. The podium is accessed by stair at the west side and by original ramp at the north side.
Mechanical equipment located north of the building in the parking lot is screened by a mechanical enclosure of white concrete units copying the rhythm of the main building's window modules. The enclosure is surrounded and softened by shrubbery.
The primary entry is on the west elevation with secondary exits on the other three elevations. Originally the entry designations were minimalist - three pairs of glass doors with a strip of signage over the door head. A new entry was constructed in front of the original west entry in 2004 expanding the interior lobby and security space. The addition is about a third the length of the original building roughly centered on the west elevation. It is comprised of a central solid fin with flat roofs extending north and south at two different levels - lower over the entry doors to the north of the fin and higher over the lobby volume to the south. The entry side is fairly transparent - glass walls with two pairs of metal doors. The lobby volume is enclosed by a highly visible gridded curtain wall with its south wall angled out from the ground to the roof in contrast to the plumb verticals of the original building grid.
The west entry plaza has also evolved over time from a simple set of stairs with an intermediate floating platform landing to the current enlarged podium and arced plaza and stairs radiating from the entry addition.
McClure Federal Building offers 173,858 square feet of office space - typically 39,425 square feet per floor. The organizing concept for the typical floor plan is a central core - with lobby, elevators, stairs, mechanical spaces and restrooms - with a double-loaded corridor loop. The lower two floors are pulled in to form the pedestal with the corridor at the perimeter circling the core and office or public space. Though tenant spaces have been reorganized the original spatial concept remains intact on most floors. The basement houses mechanical systems, janitorial, storage, and maintenance spaces, and a limited amount of secure parking.
In addition to office space, two original two-story high courtroom spaces are located on the 6th floor inside the corridor on either side of the core. An additional single-story high courtroom was later added to the north end of the 6th floor, as well as two additional single-story high courtrooms on the 5th floor.
Original interior finishes included: sand-honed black granite flooring at the first floor, two tones of terrazzo flooring, aluminum, and Colorado walnut travertine at first and sixth floor elevator lobbies and corridors; and composite tile flooring, aluminum-framed glass partitions and doors, and oak woodwork throughout. The suspended ceiling system - cutting edge in the 1960s - features an expressed channel-grid that integrates mechanical diffusers and smooth white ceiling tiles with integral lighting. A moveable office partition system coordinated with the ceiling system and 5'x5' building module. The first and second floor corridors have a wood strip ceiling with integrated square lights. The selected materials created a modern, but warm-toned interior.
Many of the original finishes have been replaced or covered up over time including complete remodeling of the district courtrooms, remodeling of the fifth floor elevator lobby, and carpet installation throughout. However, excellent examples of the original finishes include the main elevator lobby and corridor (though the granite floor has been carpeted), the sixth floor courtroom waiting areas - complete with two tones of terrazzo and phone alcoves, and the sixth floor elevator lobby and corridor. Restrooms and janitorial spaces that retain a combination of square and rectangular ceramic tile surfaces and metal toilet partitions in a pastel color palette, such as pink or peach tile and blue partitions, are also representative of original finishes.
The James A. McClure Federal Building reflects the goals of the "Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture" - a significant federal initiative set forth by the Kennedy Administration in 1962. It meets the high standard of design and quality required by the Federal Government and is indicative of designers who understood how to interpret the principals in the public realm. The project also reflected GSA's architect/engineer selection process of the time - partnering a local architect with a national architect.
The McClure Federal Building was the first and most successful representation of the Modern style, specifically the sub-style Formalism, in Boise and the State of Idaho. It is an exceptional expression of the Modernist philosophy, materials, engineering, plaza and landscape design - cutting edge at the local and state level. Its character-defining modern features include: massing/monumentality; symmetry of facades; piloti colonnade and beam entablature; use of the entry plaza/podium as an exterior gateway with a minimized lobby (prior to addition and alteration); transparent materials such as glass curtain walls bridging between exterior and interior spaces at the pedestal level; open offices/flexible plans accessed by a double-loaded corridor and central core circulation; moveable room dividers for maximum flexibility and functionality; electrical and mechanical innovations; systems integrated into the gridded ceiling design; and components pre-fabricated or constructed on site such as the pre-cast concrete window modules fabricated by a notable leader in the pre-cast concrete industry, Otto Buehner & Company.
In addition to embodying modern design values, the federal building is considered a formative work in the portfolio of prominent Idaho architect Charles F. Hummel - named Idaho's first Modern Master in 2012. It is also a notable work, though not recognized nationally, within the body of modern design work produced by Luckman Associates at the time.
Construction of the federal building, bringing federal agencies scattered throughout Boise into one significant, iconic structure, provided a unified federal presence in Boise - "Boise finally achieved the prestige and population needed to obtain a federal courthouse," Boise Architecture Project - and an architectural focal point north of the State Capitol. It was the largest square footage of any structure in Idaho at the time. The building was renamed in 2001 in commemoration of Idaho Senator James A. McClure. The James A. McClure Federal Building was and is still the only mark of 1960s modernism of this scale, style, and quality in the City of Boise and the only federally owned building of its type in the State of Idaho.
The James A. McClure Federal Building retains a high level of integrity having been minimally altered over the past fifty years. Significant alterations have been limited to the entry addition, plaza/landscape changes, and interior courtroom and lobby renovations. The entry addition, while of quality design and construction, interrupts the clarity of the original design and affects the successful execution of the modern tenets and original design intent such as minimizing the lobby, transparency creating a connection between the east and west park settings, a concise material palette, and extension of the podium seamlessly from the interior to the exterior and into the landscape. That being said, the entry addition is a reversible alteration.
FORT BOISE RESERVE SITE + DEVELOPMENT OF BOISE, IDAHO
Fort Boise was established by the U.S. Army Cavalry in 1863 at the base of the foothills in close proximity to the Oregon Trail. The fort was built to protect the gold that had been discovered in the Boise Basin around Idaho City. Boise City soon sprung up between the fort and the Boise River and became a prime transportation hub in Southern Idaho. The town was flooded by settlers, stagecoach travelers, and gold miners. Early settlers built log cabins extending south of Fort Boise. These were later replaced by grander homes as the town and prosperity grew. By the early 1900s Boise boasted a large downtown infrastructure with multi-story commercial and municipal buildings.
The fort site began with a modest cavalry camp at the township's northern edge specializing in training horses for cavalry troops. It soon grew to include officer's houses along the hills, barracks and other buildings to service the fort population, and an expansive cavalry parade ground extended south of the officer's row. In 1919 the U.S. Public Health Service took over the site - locally known as Camp Boise or the Boise Barracks - for a tuberculosis hospital. By 1938, a Veterans hospital had opened and the buildings on the site began to be repurposed for veteran's services. The western edge of the site was transferred to Boise City Parks in 1950 to form Memorial Park. The remaining fort buildings - the stone guardhouse, the Officers Row houses, a sandstone warehouse, and several other warehouses and equestrian related buildings - have been adaptively reused and supplemented with contemporary buildings to continue to serve veterans today.
The portion of the site eventually allocated to GSA for construction of a new U.S. courthouse and federal building was graded by the 1950s but the land had not been used. The Department of Veterans Affairs agreed to transfer the land at the southwest corner of the site to GSA since it was vacant and they had no future plans for its use.
Inclusive of Boise's first residential cabin, an 1860 sandstone warehouse, early 1900 brick military and hospital buildings, public open space, a monumental modern structure, and contemporary infill buildings, the Fort Boise Reserve site collectively provides an uncommon continuum of architectural history from pioneer-era to monumental modernism and beyond.
DESIGN + CONSTRUCTION HISTORY
The design of the James A. McClure Federal Building in Boise was directly influenced by two key factors - the modern movement in architecture (post-WWII) and The Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture published in 1962. These two ideologies reflected the modern concerns of economy, efficiency, equity and innovation, and are evident in the federal building's siting, form, organization, materials, engineering, and overall aesthetic.
The Modern Movement:
Modernism began in the 1920s and stretched through the 1970s overlapping lingering styles of the past and Post-Modern ideologies of the future. The early wave of Modernism was mainly focused around the International Style and began to decline toward the 1950s. The Late-Modern period covers roughly the 1950s through the 1970s and includes many sub-styles, the most commonly accepted included Formalism, Brutalism, and Expressionism.
In general, Modernism expressed advancements in technology, materials, and building methods. Common differences from ideologies of the past included tenets such as: plazas used as exterior gateways with minimized lobbies; transparent materials bridging between exterior and interior spaces; open offices/flexible plans; moveable room dividers for maximum flexibility and functionality; electrical and mechanical innovations; social equity and democratic values; and components pre-fabricated or constructed on site.
Of the sub-styles, the McClure Federal Building can best be described as New Formalism. While embracing the broad ideas of Modernism, New Formalism rejected the strict confines, reintroducing classical themes such as scale and proportion, symmetry, and columns, entablatures, and colonnades, while continuing to employ new innovations in concrete technology. In the west, New Formalism was applied predominantly to institutions and public buildings.
The Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture:
More than 700 construction projects were undertaken by GSA between 1960 and 1976 attempting to exemplify the primary tenets of the "Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture" as set forth by President John F. Kennedy's administration in 1962. These guidelines encouraged modern design that would both "provide efficient and economical facilities" and "provide visual testimony to the dignity, enterprise, vigor and stability of the American Government." They called for the Federal Government not to imitate, but to serve as a model to others, embracing contemporary innovations and taking advantage of the "increasingly fruitful collaboration between architecture and the fine arts."
The three-point architectural policy set forth by the Guiding Principles is:
1. The policy shall be to provide requisite and adequate facilities in an architectural style and form which is distinguished and which will reflect the dignity, enterprise, vigor, and stability of the American National Government. Major emphasis should be placed on the choice of designs that embody the finest contemporary American architectural thought. Specific attention should be paid to the possibilities of incorporating into such designs qualities which reflect the regional architectural traditions of that part of the Nation in which buildings are located. Where appropriate, fine art should be incorporated in the designs, with emphasis on the work of living American artists. Designs shall adhere to sound construction practice and utilize materials, methods and equipment of proven dependability. Buildings shall be economical to build, operate and maintain, and should be accessible to the handicapped.
2. The development of an official style must be avoided. Design must flow from the architectural profession to the Government, and not vice versa. The Government should be willing to pay some additional cost to avoid excessive uniformity in design of Federal buildings. Competitions for the design of Federal buildings may be held where appropriate. The advice of distinguished architects ought to, as a rule, be sought prior to the award of important design contracts.
3. The choice and development of the building site should be considered the first step of the design process. This choice should be made in cooperation with local agencies. Special attention should be paid to the general ensemble of streets and public places of which Federal buildings will form a part. Where possible, buildings should be located so as to permit a generous development of landscape.
During the summer of 1961, the General Services Administration awarded a professional services contract to the Boise firm of Hummel, Hummel & Jones (shortly after Hummel, Hummel, Jones & Sawver) for the design of the Federal Office Building and U.S. Courthouse to be located in downtown Boise. As was GSA's practice of the time, the local firm was to serve as the Architect of Record, but an architect of national notoriety was also named as Consulting Architect - in this case, the office of Charles Luckman Associates based in Los Angeles, California. Charles F. Hummel was Partner-in-Charge locally and Richard Niblock represented Luckman's office.
Much public debate was had over the site selection for the new federal facility. Decentralization of the downtown core was of great concern. Arguments were raised for siting close to the city center and the Idaho State Capitol building, but the first site selected on Main Street between 2nd and 3rd was the site of the historic Federal Assay Office. This proved highly controversial and ultimately the available land at the old Fort Boise site won out.
Based on the GSA Space Directive, design development at a diagrammatic level proceeded at the Boise and Los Angeles offices from November 1961 through March 1962. The diagrammatic design was approved and the designers proceeded to the next stage of development. Design development continued through three rounds with submittals in July 1962, March 1963 and October 1964, before finally achieving a full set of construction documents submitted on December 28, 1964.
Contractor bids were sought in March of 1965 and the construction contract was awarded to Jacobsen Construction Company of Salt Lake City, Utah. Construction on the shell began in July of 1965. The interior partitioning was awarded as a separate contract to Jacobsen in the fall of 1966. Construction of the building was completed, after some considerable extensions, in January of 1968 at a final cost of $6,586,290.
Though the building was complete and federal agencies began moving in at the end of 1967, the parking and site landscaping remained unresolved and lacked funding. The parking design included the current paved areas west and north of the building, but the site did not allow for the full extent of parking required. Designers initially also proposed parking across N 5th Street that required the removal of the Fort Boise Stone Guardhouse, entry columns, and mature trees. After much public outcry this scheme was abandoned, the additional parking redesigned and the desired amount of parking for the federal building to this day has never been fully realized. The parking lots were completed by late 1968. Landscaping of the grounds was not completed until 1969.
DESIGN INTENT + PHILOSOPHY
The following details related to design development and design intent were provided by the original architect Charles F. Hummel as part of a narrative prepared for GSA's Image Master Plan (c.2000) and via phone interview (2015).
Partner-in-Charge Charles Hummel summarized the design teams' influences and inspirations as follows:
"From the inception of the project there was a clear understanding that this building was to be an exemplary demonstration of modern architecture and construction technique. GSA's intention was emphasized by the fact that it was a GSA Washington, D.C. office project. It was noted to the design team that a high degree of design excellence was expected by the new Kennedy administration for all Federal buildings and that Mrs. Kennedy, in particular, had taken a personal interest in the new Federal buildings.
Obviously, that made an impression on the Hummel/Luckman design team and reinforced their already established convictions regarding the importance of design excellence. The Hummel firm, then in its 65th year of practice in Idaho, had a solid reputation for outstanding design and professional service and the more recently established Luckman firm was famous because of Charles Luckman's reputation as a leader in America's modern architecture when, as a President of Lever Brothers, he directed the construction of Lever House on New York's 5th Avenue - a building which got instant favorable notice from the architectural and critical community.
Lever House was one of the first true aluminum and glass curtain wall buildings in the post-World War II International Style. The design team, however, came to an early decision that this building's location and function required a different architectural expression - something more muscular and bold. Both Charles Hummel and the Luckman staff at that time were impressed with the work of three great contemporary designers - Le Corbusier, Marcel Breuer, and Paul Rudolph. Common elements in their work include the use of exposed form-finished concrete, elevations of the building mass on pilotis, strong fenestration, the exposure of massive structural features and their integration as primary design elements.
In various ways, all of these aspects of structural expressionism were incorporated in the design development of the project and readily approved by GSA's Public Buildings Service."
With regard to design philosophy and intent, Charles Hummel provided the following insights:
"On the west the site is adjacent to a public park with beautiful trees. On the east the VA grounds are open, and park-like and with views to the Boise foothills beyond. The design team's first response to this setting was to think of a structure on pilotis to maintain visual continuity between the park and the VA grounds. Since that was impractical the first siting design oriented the long direction of the building east and west to minimize interruption of the visual continuity between the two adjacent areas and to present the main building facade to Fort - the frontage street.
That siting was impractical because of the awkward parking and vehicular access which resulted from the relatively narrow east-west site distance. Thus, the long dimension of the building had to be aligned with the long north-south direction of the available site and to position the entrance of the building in a convenient relation to the parking area.
The design objective of maintaining the visual flow of the park setting still remained and was addressed by decreasing the two lower floor areas and extending the five upper floors out on 16 foot cantilevered beams resting on massive columns. The two lower floors were enclosed in glass curtain walls and the main floor areas were designed to be as open as possible to further promote the feeling that the mass of the building somehow "floats" over its base. The lower floor surface is further extended out into the site on a low granite podium which, in fact is a cover over the larger basement floor below.
The site landscaping is modest and consists mainly of small trees in the parking area planters. It was a design intention to have the building podium simply terminate at the line of the surrounding lawn and not to have its vertical and horizontal planes interrupted by shrubbery...
...Both the beauty of the site's setting and its physical limitations have had a positive influence on the building's design."
MATERIALS + SYSTEMS
The McClure Federal Building is very clean and clear in its materials, and systems were thoughtful and integrated to achieve this clarity. Architect Charles Hummel summarized the concept behind the material palette:
"It was a design objective to use the least number of major exterior and interior materials which accounts for the fact that the exterior is basically white and natural concrete, gray glass and black granite, sand honed on its floor surface and carried from the podium into the main entrance lobby and hallways. Colorado walnut travertine and oak woodwork comprise the rest of the major interior finish materials palette."
Charles Hummel also emphasized the influence the engineers had on the design of the building. They played a key role in shaping the design through their willingness to be innovative and seek solutions to support the overall design intent.
The system having the greatest impact on the design of the federal building is the structural system. Designed by Harry Mejdell, P.E., who later became Chief for Structural Design of CH2M-Hill, creative solutions were required to cantilever the upper five floors on post-tensioned concrete beams and massive columns. Two-way cantilever extensions were engineered to solve problems at the building's corners. Since the innovative design of the cantilever system was sensitive to differential settlement, much analysis went into the design of the foundation system. It was discovered that suitable bearing soils were thirty feet down and the most successful foundation system was determined to be steel point-bearing piles driven down to that soil.
To lighten the load on the foundation and beam systems, above the third floor floors were constructed of cellular steel decking and lightweight concrete fill, walls framed in steel, and the exterior envelop composed of an assembly of window modules cast out of light weight concrete. The Otto Buehner Company of Utah, touted as the "Nation's Best Known Pre-caster" by Concrete Products magazine in 1964, designed and built the unique window units using expanded shale aggregate concrete and white Portland cement.
Extensive consideration was also given to the placement of mechanical and electrical systems throughout the building. An innovative suspended ceiling based on the 5'x5' building module was designed to integrate the systems including continuous light troffers and linear air diffusers and returns concealed in the grid bars. The system also coordinated with the movable office partition system allowing for maximum flexibility of floor plan layout.
The mechanical plant design was originally for an innovative energy-conserving system based on an electrically-driven water-to-water-to air heat pump system. However, the system was changed to a more conventional natural gas heat and gas-absorption chiller prior to bid. In 1999-2000 the system underwent a geothermal retrofit.
As Modernism was embraced from the 1950s through 1970s, GSA tended to award commissions to internationally and nationally acclaimed architects - such as Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Philip Johnson, I.M. Pei, Henry Cobb, and Eero Saarinen - in larger cities, but locally recognized architects in smaller cities and towns. Often local architects were paired with wider known architects on a given project as well.
In 1961, GSA awarded a professional services contract for the U.S. Courthouse and Federal Office Building, Boise, Idaho, to the firm of Hummel, Hummel & Jones of Boise (shortly thereafter Hummel, Hummel Jones & Shawver). Charles Luckman Associates of Los Angeles, California was named as consulting architect on the project. Charles F. Hummel, grandson of firm founder Charles Hummel, was the Partner-in-Charge of the project from Boise and Richard Niblock represented the Luckman office. It is clear how the federal building fit into the body of work coming out of Luckman's office at the time. For Charles Hummel, an Idaho Modern Master, the James A. McClure Federal Building is considered an exemplary work.
Hummel Hummel Jones & Shawver:
The contemporary Boise-based firm, Hummel Architects, is the descendent of the firm formed by Idaho Master Architects John E. Tourtellotte and Charles F. Hummel - Tourtellotte & Hummel - in 1910. Charles F. Hummel's sons, Frederick (Fritz) and Frank, joined the firm in 1909 and 1913 and continued through WWI, Tourtellotte's retirement in 1929, and the death of their father in 1939. The Hummel brothers kept the firm alive through WWII until a full work schedule resumed in 1945 and the partnership was enlarged to include Jedd Jones, III, who had been with the firm before the war. With this addition the firm name changed to Hummel, Hummel and Jones in 1946. Fritz, Frank and Jedd maintained a successful partnership for 31 years moving into the mid-century with local, state, and federal agencies as major clients and a diverse portfolio of project types ranging from offices, university facilities, and Air Force bases to private banks, churches, and stores.
The 1940s also saw the introduction of Chester Shawver and Fritz's son Charles F. Hummel to the firm. After Frank Hummel's unexpected death in 1962, Chester and Charles became partners with Fritz and Jedd. It was at this juncture in the firm's history that the Boise Federal Building was awarded and Charles named Partner-in-Charge of the project.
Charles remained a partner with the firm after his father's death in 1978, through many subsequent changes in partnership and firm name, until his retirement in 1999. After several partnership and name changes, as well as a merger with Boise firm Dropping, Kelly and LaMarche in 1984, the decision was made in 1997 to permanently change the firm name to Hummel Architects, recognizing over a century of continuous name association with the Hummel family. Charles F. Hummel was named the first Idaho Modern Master by Preservation Idaho in 2012.
Charles Luckman Associates:
Charles Luckman was a successful businessman turned modern master of architecture. Though trained as an architect, graduating during the Great Depression he found himself employed as a draftsman in the advertising department of the Colgate-Palmolive-Peet Company. Success in this position led to an offer to become sales manager of the Pepsodent Company in 1935. In 1937 Luckman was featured on the cover of Time Magazine as the "Boy Wonder" of American industry. At the young age of 30 Luckman became president of Lever Brothers. While in this position Luckman heavily influenced the plans for Lever Brothers' innovative New York skyscraper, Lever House, designed by prominent firm Skidmore Owings & Merrill in 1952. Before completion of Lever House, Luckman resigned from Lever Brothers and relocated to Los Angeles to start his own architecture practice - Luckman Partnership. Luckman quickly founded a partnership with Los Angeles architect William Pereira, establishing their firm - Pereira & Luckman. The firm specialized in office buildings, airports, and Air Force bases. Luckman was embraced by corporate executives, government officials, and civic leaders for his pragmatic views of architecture. Luckman was quoted saying "I am firm in my belief that architecture is a business and not an art," as well as commenting "We might recommend a building with three medium-size wings, instead of one big one, so that three people could give the wings and have them named after them." Pereira and Luckman parted ways in 1959 and Charles Luckman Associates was formed. The firm is best known for the Prudential Tower (1960-63) in Boston, the Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport (1961), the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center (1962-63) in Houston, the new Madison Square Garden (1968) in New York City, and Aon Center (1972) in Los Angeles. Luckman was unfortunately linked to the demolition of Penn Station, the site of his new Madison Square Garden design and one of the catalysts for the national historic preservation movement. Luckman sold his firm in 1968 to the Ogden Corporation, a major real estate developer for whom he subsequently became president of its subsidiary, Ogden Development. Charles Luckman died in 1999 in Los Angeles at the age of 89.
Research yielded no information about Richard Niblock, identified as the project representative for Charles Luckman Associates for the James A. McClure Federal Building.